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

The Fifth Circuit Blocks Mississippi Law From Closing the Last Abortion Clinic

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a recent decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sustaining an as-applied constitutional challenge to a Mississippi law requiring “admitting privileges” for physicians who provide abortions. Colb explains the panel majority’s creative, albeit convincing, reasoning and critically analyzes the dissenting opinion.

The Supreme Court’s Approach to Restitution For Victims of Child Pornography Possession

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Paroline v. United States, in which the Court considered how much restitution a victim of sexual abuse should be able to recover from a single perpetrator. Colb explains the reasoning used by the majority and the two diametrically opposed dissenting opinions, and she extends the discussion to an important narrative the Court’s opinions fail to consider.

What Counts as an Abortion, and Does It Matter?

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 Supreme Court Decides Riley v. California and Updates the Fourth Amendment

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a recent case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Riley v. California, in which the Court nearly unanimously held that police may not examine the digital contents of an arrestee’s cell phone as part of a search incident to arrest. Colb describes the facts behind the two cases consolidated for the Court’s review, explains the precedents the Court relied upon in reaching its decision, and praises the Court for decisively embracing Fourth Amendment protection for digital privacy.

The U.S. Supreme Court Narrows States’ Discretion to Execute the Intellectually Disabled

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court invalidating Florida’s approach to identifying criminal convicts who are intellectually disabled and therefore constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty. Colb describes the facts and issues that brought the case before the Court and infers from the opinion that the Court may have a growing consciousness about those sentenced to death. Acknowledging also the strong arguments presented by the dissent, Colb concludes that essential difference between the majority and the dissent is a disagreement as to what is worse: to execute the wrong person to spare the wrong person from execution.

The Dilemma of Humane Execution and Humane Slaughter

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.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether the Fourth Amendment Allows Reasonable Mistakes of Substantive Law: Part Two of a Two-Part Series of Columns

In the second of a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb continues her discussion of a Fourth Amendment case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Heien v. North Carolina. She explains the history and trajectory of the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule and predicts that the Court will apply that exception in this case. However, Colb suggests that even doing so might still narrow the scope of the Fourth Amendment’s protections as effectively as would deciding the case directly on the substance of the Fourth Amendment.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether the Fourth Amendment Allows Reasonable Mistakes of Substantive Law Part One of a Two-Part Series of Columns

In the first of a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses a Fourth Amendment case in which the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split. In that case, Heien v. North Carolina, the Court is considering whether the Fourth Amendment protects against stops by a police officer who acts on the basis of a reasonable but erroneous interpretation of state law. Colb reviews the facts of Heien, explains what “reasonable seizures” are under the Fourth Amendment, and describes the differences between legal and factual errors. The second column, which will appear on Verdict on May 5, will address the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule and the impact of a ruling on the basis of good faith.

The “Agunah” Dilemma in Orthodox Jewish Circles

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on one manifestation of gender inequity inherent in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism—the “get” requirement for a religiously recognized divorce. Colb explains how this requirement gives the husband the unilateral power to decide whether and for how long the marriage lasts. She suggests that traditional communities should reinterpret divorce in a manner that allows any unhappy partner to successfully exit a marriage.

Burrage v. United States and the Role of Harm Causation in Culpability

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb continues her analysis, in the third of three columns on the topic, of the Supreme Court's decision in Burrage v. United States. There, the Court interpreted the eligibility of a heroin-distributing defendant for a sentencing enhancement under the penalty-enhancement provision of the Controlled Substances Act for selling drugs from the use of which death resulted. Colb explains how a defendant would qualify for the enhancement.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s View of Consent in Fernandez v. California

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the United States Supreme Court decision in Fernandez v. California, upholding the search of a co-occupied apartment upon the consent of just one of the residents. Colb notes that the case offers a refinement on an earlier decision that had invalidated a search to which one occupant consented, while the second occupant simultaneously objected.

A Giraffe’s Death and the Meaning of Our Outrage

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

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.

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

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.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers When Heroin Dealing “Results” In Death Part Two of a Two-Part Series of Columns

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb continues her two-part series regarding the Supreme Court’s Burrage case, which involves dealers’ responsibility for heroin overdoses. Here, in Part Two of the series, Colb comments on how the components of causation might apply to the particular facts of the case before the Court.