Sherry F. Colb

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 articles in a variety of law reviews, including Stanford, Columbia, N.Y.U., and G.W., on such topics as privacy from police searches, incarceration, reproductive rights, and why courts are more offended by wrongdoing that results in concrete rather than abstract harm. Colb has also published a book about sex equality in the Twenty-First Century, entitled When Sex Counts, and a book about veganism entitled Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger?. Before beginning her career in law teaching, Colb clerked for Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court. She received her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and her A.B. summa cum laude and valedictorian from Columbia College.

Columns by Sherry F. Colb

What Might a Mediator Do for the Parties to the Contraceptive Case in the Supreme Court?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers how the U.S. Supreme Court, acting as a mediator, might approach the parties in Zubik v. Burwell, a case currently before the Court in which the Court made the unusual request of supplemental briefing from the parties. Colb explains both the capabilities and limitations of transformative mediation as a method of resolving disputes.

The Logic of Trump’s Comment Endorsing Punishment for Abortion

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb analyzes Donald Trump’s recent statement—which he subsequently changed—that women who have abortions should be punished for doing so. Colb points out that this position is actually more logically coherent than the more conventional position taken by anti-abortion advocates that the provider be punished for performing an abortion.

The Hidden Atrocities Behind Medical Progress

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the moral question whether we have the right to benefit from discoveries made by outrageous rights violations. Colb considers the example of James Marion Sims—known as the father of modern gynecology—whose research on female slaves, without providing them the available anesthesia, led to his development of a technique to repair obstetric fistulas. Further, Colb calls into question the presumed rightfulness of experimenting on nonhuman animals.

Does a Shoe Salesman With a Foot Fetish Have a Moral Duty to Disclose?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb examines the boundaries of moral permission to be the object of someone’s fantasies. Colb considers several different situations that are similar but likely elicit various degrees of responses from readers before concluding that fantasy should be the private prerogative of the fantasizer that should not be subject to either legal or moral regulation.

Differing Perspectives on California Law Requiring Pregnancy Clinics to Post Abortion Information

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the perspectives of both sides of the controversy over a relatively new California law requiring licensed pregnancy centers to prominently post a notice about the availability of free or low-cost abortion, contraception, and prenatal care. Colb offers a compelling narrative to illustrate each perspective, ultimately concluding that while she personally agrees with one side neither is “right” in a moral sense.

The Second Circuit Honors the Threshold of the Home in a Fourth Amendment Opinion

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that when police are outside the threshold of a home arresting a suspect who is inside the threshold, it is a “home arrest” requiring a warrant. Colb explains why the decision is significant in protecting the home as a space where a person can feel the highest degree of privacy and comfort, free from unreasonable government intrusions.

The Moral Clarity of the Pro-Life Position in Frozen Embryo Disputes

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the recent trend of anti-abortion groups joining custody battles over frozen embryos on the side of the parent that seeks implantation. Colb argues that this position is consistent with their deeply held view that life begins at conception—much more so than their more usual stance in battles over abortion regulation.

Bill Cosby and the Rule Against Character Evidence

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the role of Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 404 in the criminal trial against Bill Cosby. Colb argues that the rule against character evidence serves a specific purpose in “whodunit” cases (where the perpetrator is unknown) but that it may serve a different purpose in “what was done” cases, such as the present case against Cosby.

Frozen Embryo Disputes

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb uses a recent court dispute over a contract governing a divorced couple’s frozen embryos as the basis for considering some important issues that would arise in a frozen embryo dispute with no contract. Colb points out that resolving such a dispute would require careful balancing of the right of one party to procreate, on the one hand, and the right of the other party not to procreate, on the other.

Education Department Faults Illinois School District for Excluding Transgender Girl from Locker Room Changing Area

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a finding by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights that an Illinois school district had violated anti-discrimination laws by barring a transgender girl from showering and changing in the girls’ locker room without restrictions. Colb argues that perhaps the best solution for everyone may be to have individual showers for everyone, rather than singling out a single person or disregarding the privacy concerns of everyone.

Adjusting IQ Scores so More Minorities Are Eligible for the Death Penalty

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the claim that IQ scores of minorities should be upwardly adjusted for the purpose of eligibility for the death penalty. Drawing upon an article on the issue by Robert Sanger, Colb argues that even if the practice of adjusting IQ scores were scientifically supported (which it is not), doing so for death penalty purposes constitutes invidious race discrimination in violation of the federal Constitution.

Donald Trump’s Woman Problem

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the sexism Donald Trump displayed during the night of the second Republican presidential debate. Colb points out that Trump’s words reveal his hateful and exploitative attitude toward women and is hopeful that people are prepared to vote accordingly.

What Reactions to the Undercover Planned Parenthood Video Tell Us About Our Values

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb draws upon the outrage many people felt in response to a video allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal body parts and tissue from abortions (video that was subsequently revealed to be edited so as to be intentionally misleading) in order to discuss a different area in which tissue and parts are bought and sold without evoking such broad outrage.