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

Ensuring Consent with Sexual Advance Directives

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the idea of a sexual advance directive—a proposed legal device that could provide consent or designate an agent to provide consent in advance of an anticipated persistent period of legal incompetence. Colb explains how a sexual advance directive purports to work, describes some limitations of it, and proposes an alternative solution that addresses those limitations.

The Supreme Court Considers Whether to Pierce Jury Secrecy for Evidence of Racial Bias

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the arguments on both sides of a difficult question currently before the Supreme Court—whether a defendant is entitled to use juror testimony to impeach a verdict based on racial bias, notwithstanding a contrary rule of evidence. Colb describes the facts leading up to the case and discusses the jurisprudence that will most likely affect the justices’ ultimate decision.

Allocating Burdens of Proof in a Criminal Case: An Arizona Decision Raises Questions

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a recent decision by the Arizona Supreme Court holding that a state statute properly created an affirmative defense to sexual abuse or child molestation when it placed the burden of proving no sexual motive on the defendant. Colb describes the court’s reasoning and explains why the U.S. Supreme Court should revisit its jurisprudence affirmative defenses to crimes and hold that some conduct may simply not be classified as an affirmative defense to be proved by the defendant in a criminal case.

Indiana Court Rules in Favor of Cell Phone History Privacy

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on a recent decision by the Court of Appeals of Indiana, holding that police violated their suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights by acquiring, without a warrant, the suspect’s cell site information from his cell phone provider. Colb explains the Indiana court’s reasoning and discusses the evolving law regarding people’s privacy expectations in information their cell phones store and transmit.

The New York Court of Appeals Confers Parental Status on Same-Sex Partners Intending to Parent

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a recent decision by New York’s highest court expanding the definition of parental status to include same-sex partners intending to parent. Colb explains the court’s ruling and discusses a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the rights of non-parents that might stand in the New York court’s way.

How Zika May Affect Our Thinking About Abortion

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers whether the termination of Zika pregnancies might affect our thinking about abortion. Specifically, Colb asks (1) whether it is right to end a pregnancy because the baby would be severely disabled if brought to term, and (2) whether it is right at all to take the life of a fetus late in pregnancy, given that birth defects caused by Zika are not detectable by ultrasound until late in pregnancy.

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.