Articles Posted in Philosophy and Ethics

Singling Out Jewish Kaporos For Criticism

Updated:

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb explains why an animal rights advocate might choose to protest the Jewish Kaporos ritual and the relative merits of such a position. Colb argues that despite the potential for facilitating hypocrisy or anti-semitism, there are a few potential saving graces for campaigns against the ritual.

Using Facebook as a Discovery Device

Updated:

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda discusses how various courts and bar associations treat attorneys’ uses of Facebook and other social networking sites. Rotunda describes some different rules that affect how lawyers may and may not use social networking sites to interact with witnesses, opposing parties, jurors, and clients.

What Counts as an Abortion, and Does It Matter?

Updated:

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the nature of the respondents’ claim that IUDs and morning-after pills are abortifacients. Colb analogizes to the distinction between the culpability of direct violence and failure to rescue in order to illustrate that the respondents’ claims are moral rather than factual in basis.

The Dilemma of Humane Execution and Humane Slaughter

Updated:

Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses the notion of humane killing in the context of the death penalty and the slaughter of animals. She explores the apparent paradoxes of humane executions of criminals and the humane slaughter of animals. Colb concludes that the only way to truly eliminate the suffering of humans and animals during any intentional killing process is to abolish both executions and slaughters.

A Giraffe’s Death and the Meaning of Our Outrage

Updated:

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the reasons why the killing of Marius the giraffe, who had lived at the Copenhagen Zoo, has angered so many people around the world. Why did Marius supposedly have to die? According to the zoo, Marius’s genes were too common to be useful for the breeding program there, and thus, in the zookeepers' eyes, there was no alternative. Colb takes up the question of why people were outraged at Marius's killing, and what this outrage could mean for our conduct toward animals more generally.

Excluding Pregnant Women from the Right to Terminate Life Support

Updated:

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the situation of a pregnant 33-year-old woman in Texas whose family has been unable to have her removed from life support, notwithstanding her wishes and those of her family. The obstacle is a Texas law that prohibits the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient. Colb contends that while political groups have weighed in—in predictable ways, corresponding to their views regarding abortion—in fact we should analyze the dilemma as in some respects, legally and morally distinct from the situation that confronts us in the abortion context, as she explains.

Coming Out of the Turn: Charting a New Course in Criminal Justice

Updated:

Justia guest columnist and Northwestern law professor Joseph Margulies explains why American criminal justice appears to be coming out of its prior, punitive turn in criminal justice. With even the Attorney General acknowledging that our criminal justice system is, in many ways, broken, Margulies suggests strong evidence that the punitive turn is waning, and may well be superseded with new and better approaches to criminal justice.

The Fortieth Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Updated:

Reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act last month, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb contends that whether one considers this legislation from the political right or left, its anniversary should be a cause for reflection on its deep messages about the relationship between humans and other animals, and about relationships between and among humans as well.

On Brain Death and Civil Rights

Updated:

Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp discusses the tragic situation of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl who was pronounced brain dead after surgery, and whose family sought to keep her on a ventilator despite that diagnosis. Kemp focuses on the federal civil rights lawsuit recently filed by the family. He argues that it is unlikely to succeed on the merits and that the family would be better advised to seek alternative means of answers and justice for their loss.

Teaching Lawyers, And Others, To Be Leaders

Updated:

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean draws upon Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode’s book Lawyers as Leaders to comment upon, among other leadership topics, the remarkable failure that he argues that we are seeing in both contemporary Washington lawyers and also in our political leaders. Dean praises Rhode’s strongly documented book as far transcending the typical banal business book, and having a great deal to offer the reader.

The Weight of Capital Punishment on Jurors, Justices, Governors, & Executioners

Updated:

Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell continues her series of columns on the death penalty, describing the punishment’s effect on jurors, justices, governors, and executioners. She presents testimonies from various people involved in different parts of the process of capital sentencing and execution. She concludes that the public should consider the impact capital punishment has on those individuals who have to make the decisions of life and death.

The Legality of Government by Extortion: “As We Say, Or We Shut It Down”

Updated:

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean makes a forceful case against the Republicans’ decision to shut down the government, calling the move “government by extortion,” and explaining precisely why he believes that, for many reasons, the Republicans should have eschewed this gambit as completely out of bounds.

What’s Wrong With In Vitro Meat?

Updated:

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb argues that eating meat from a laboratory culture does not allow diners to evade the ethical problems that otherwise arise from eating meat. For one thing, Colb explains how animals still die from cultured meat, for contrary to popular belief, cultured meat, contrary to popular belief, involves the use and slaughter of animals, as Colb explains. Colb also notes that, unlike a person who needs an organ transplant and has no alternative, a person who buys In Vitro meat has numerous vegan alternatives.

What Does Opposition to War in Syria Tell Us About the State of International Law?

Updated:

Justia guest columnist and U.C. Berkeley School of Law professor Saira Mohamed critically discusses the possibility of military force by the United States against Syria. She first describes how unilateral military intervention would violate international law and explains why the United States should avoid it. She then draws alarming parallels to punitive actions taken by the U.S. against Libya in 1986, Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, and Iraq in 2003. Professor Mohamed concludes with the optimistic perspective that the American public supports the principle that military force should not substitute for diplomacy, and that war is not a legitimate tool of international relations.

The Significance of the New “Pain Capable Abortion” Laws

Updated:

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on recent laws enacted by several states banning abortion procedures at 20 weeks post-fertilization (or 22 weeks after a pregnant woman’s last menstrual period or “LMP”), and a similar federal measure passed by the House of Representatives, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (PCUCPA), which would—in the unlikely event that it passed—yield a national prohibition against abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization (with various exceptions). Some see such laws as a way to subtly advance a pro-life agenda, but Colb notes that an emphasis on the importance of pain, sentience, and suffering in morality surely should, especially, make us ask why we ignore the terrible suffering of the animals we use for food, when we should, instead, Colb contends—focusing on pain—choose to become vegan.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois i... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciar... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and six books on constitutional law... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvani... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law. Before that, he was University Profe... more

Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Wexler was a Professor of Law at Florida State University, whose... more