Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law 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's most recent book, Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights (co-authored with Michael C. Dorf), addresses some of the common puzzles, themes, and challenges that animate and confront both the pro-life and animal rights movements. She 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?, which is also available on Audible. 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 “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.

The U.S. Supreme Court Considers Anonymous Tips Part Two of a Two-Part Series of Columns

In Part Two of this two-part series of columns, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb continues her examination of Navarette v. California, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether anonymous tips are sufficient to create reasonable suspicion to support a stop by officers. The case involves the relationship between probable cause and reasonable suspicion, as well as the role of known informants and anonymous informants in helping police meet each of these standards, in turn, to shed light on what is normally required to justify an arrest or stop.

What’s Wrong With In Vitro Meat?

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 To Expect From the Supreme Court’s Abortion Case This Term

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the United States Supreme Court’s June grant of certiorari in Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. The new case confronts the regulation of medically induced abortion and, Colb predicts, may prove to be important and surprising. Colb provides a particular focus here on Justice Kennedy’s possible views on abortion issues.

The New Mexico Supreme Court Applies Anti-Discrimination Law to Wedding Photographer Refusing to Photograph Same-Sex Commitment Ceremonies

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the New Mexico Supreme Court's decision to uphold the application of the state’s anti-discrimination law to a wedding photography business that had refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. The decision, as Colb explains, means that, in New Mexico, most businesses may not refuse service to gay and lesbian couples on the basis of either the First Amendment freedom of expression or the First Amendment freedom of religion, even if the business at issue involves an expressive component, and even though the people who own or operate the business might harbor religious objections to same-sex relationships. Colb focuses, among other points, on a concurring opinion that she contends shows a laudable sensitivity to the feelings of people who experience themselves as aggrieved by anti-discrimination laws.

A Federal Court Holds New York Stop-and-Frisk Policy Unconstitutional in Floyd v. City of New York

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses a recent federal court decision finding New York City liable for its stop-and-frisk policy. The court found that the City had violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee against discrimination. Colb notes that the ruling is significant in that it validates the sense of some New Yorkers, especially those who belong to minority groups, that there has been unsupportable and arbitrary police behavior in this respect. In addition, Colb raises a narrow disagreement with a portion of the court's analysis that may help clarify some of the obstacles we face in detecting discriminatory intent, in this and other contexts where the issue arises. Relatedly, Colb also comments on the use of baselines in decisionmaking.

The Significance of the New “Pain Capable Abortion” Laws

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.

Sexual Surrogacy: Better Than Prostitution?

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb compares and contrasts the use of a prostitute with that of a sexual surrogate. One impetus for Colb’s column was the recent determination of France’s National Ethics Committee that sexual surrogacy is unethical because it uses the human body for commercial purposes. In light of that determination, Colb considers the arguments for and against considering sexual surrogacy to be ethically distinct from and superior to, prostitution. In the course of her analysis, Colb also considers two novel ways of thinking about sexual surrogacy: as (1) sexual harassment of the therapist, and as (2) sexual harassment of the patient.

What Does the Sixth Amendment Right to Jury Trial Protect?: The Supreme Court Decides Alleyne v. United States

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alleyne v. United States, which concerns the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The Court ruled there that a jury, not a judge, must make factual findings that raise the mandatory minimum sentence for an offense. Colb analyzes both the majority opinion and Chief Justice Roberts’s dissent, and explains which she finds more persuasive, and why. She also draws on social psychology research in her analysis.

A Restroom of One’s Own: The Maine Supreme Court Considers A Transgender Student’s Exclusion From the Girls’ Bathroom

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on a Maine Supreme Court case regarding a child who was born male, but identified as a girl (“Susan Doe”). Susan’s school allowed her to use the girls’, rather than the boys’ bathroom, until a student’s grandfather complained, and Susan was required to use a separate, staff-only restroom that no other students used. Colb discusses the arguments—pro and con—for allowing Susan to use the girls’ bathroom at the school, just as other girls would.