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 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.

Minnesota Court Rules That First Amendment Protects Encouraging a Suicide

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on a recent Minnesota ruling that held that the First Amendment protects encouraging or advising another to commit suicide, and also protects assisting a suicide as long as the assistance consists only of speech alone.

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.

A Murder Case Highlights an Odd Exception to the Sixth Amendment

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the logic of the “forfeiture by wrongdoing” exception to the Confrontation Clause and considers whether the distinction between its proper application and its application in the case on which Colb focuses holds up to critical analysis.

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.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers When Heroin Dealing “Results” in Death

In Part One of a two-part series of columns by Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on a Supreme Court case that considers when heroin dealing “results” in death. Her column addresses complex issues of causation and legal responsibility. Part Two of the series will appear on Wednesday, December 11.

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.

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

In Part One in a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb considers the Supreme Court case of Navarette v. California, which asks whether police may lawfully stop a vehicle for reckless driving on the basis of an anonymous tip. Colb explains why that question is difficult, for two key reasons.

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.