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

Is Taking Blood from a Dog a “Search” of the Dog’s Owner?

In light of a recent decision by the Oregon Supreme Court, Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers whether taking blood from a dog constitutes a search of the dog’s owner for Fourth Amendment purposes. Colb identifies good and bad features of the court’s opinion and expresses what, in her view, would have been the ideal resolution of the case.

Mike Pence’s Abortion Law

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on the Indiana abortion law that Donald Trump’s chosen running mate, Mike Pence, signed into law as governor of that state. Colb explains the different reasons that women have for terminating their pregnancies and argues that while some of the reasons women actually choose abortion might be repugnant to some of us, that should not undermine their right to make that choice.

Should We Lift the Stigma on “Virtuous Pedophiles”?

Inspired by a Dan Savage podcast on the topic, Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers both the concept of “virtuous pedophiles” and some of its potential implications. Colb explains what this term means and draws several comparisons to other individuals who may be oriented toward a certain action that is either illegal or prohibited to them, ultimately expressing ambivalence toward the notion of the virtuous pedophile.

Birchfield v. North Dakota: An Acceptable Compromise

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota, in which the Court held that states may criminalize the refusal to take a breathalyzer test but may not criminalize the refusal to take a blood test, absent a warrant, as an ordinary incident of an arrest for driving while impaired. Colb explains why the Court distinguished the two types of tests and argues that the decision effectively balances competing interests in public safety and individual privacy.

A Potential Landmine in Waiting in Utah v. Strieff

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Utah v. Strieff, holding that evidence found in that case as a result of a Fourth Amendment violation was not the direct consequence of the violation and was therefore properly admitted into evidence against the defendant under the attenuation doctrine. Colb explains how one throwaway line in the opinion, if taken to its logical conclusion, could potentially spell the death of the exclusionary rule.

What Montgomery v. Louisiana Portends for Future Juvenile Sentencing

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the changing meaning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. Colb discusses specifically the Court’s decision earlier this year in Montgomery v. Lousiana, which held that Miller must be applied retroactively on state collateral review.

An Oklahoma Law That Would Prohibit All Abortion

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on an Oklahoma abortion restriction law that the governor vetoed last month. Colb argues that this law more authentically reflects the pro-life perspective on abortion than other laws that have passed in other states but explains why it makes more sense to pass legislation that stands a chance of surviving judicial scrutiny, even if it does not authentically capture a proponent’s genuine view of the issue at stake.

When Illegal Stops Lead to the Discovery of Outstanding Warrants: Utah v. Strieff

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court will decide whether evidence located during a search incident to arrest after an unlawful stop will be admissible in evidence against the arrestee. Colb discusses this and also the broader question of the future role of the exclusionary rule in the law of the Fourth Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court Evaluates Criminal Penalties for Refusing Blood/Breath Alcohol Content Tests

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on a case on which the the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral argument that presents the question whether a state law may, absent a search warrant, attach criminal penalties to a DUI suspect’s refusal to undergo a chemical test of the suspect’s blood, urine, or breath to determine alcohol concentration. Colb predicts that the Court will decide that any test of a person’s internal state—whether through a blood draw, a breathalyzer, or a urine sample—requires a search warrant in the absence of exigent circumstances.

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.