Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that the Supreme Court’s new Code of Conduct, despite being a step towards addressing ethical concerns, is insufficient due to its lack of enforcement mechanisms and the Court’s history of questionable conduct. Professor Dorf suggests that, despite Justice Alito’s assertion to the contrary, Congress has the authority to impose stricter ethical rules on the Supreme Court and could even explore innovative solutions like a “pinch-hitter” system using retired Justices or federal appeals court judges to address recusal challenges.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on last week’s conviction of Sam Bankman-Fried on fraud charges related to the operations of his cryptocurrency platform, FTX. Professor Dorf notes that while some view him as a contemporary Robin Hood, given his donations to effective altruistic causes, his actions raise questions about the line between altruism and criminality.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the effect and implications of Texas’s SB8 law and Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) on federal law and the judiciary. Professor Dorf argues that both laws employ a strategy to circumvent federal court review, but suggests there may be growing recognition among Supreme Court Justices of the dangers posed by such laws, which seek to undermine federal authority and judicial review.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf analyzes whether the U.S. House of Representatives can choose a Speaker who is not a current member of Congress. While conventional wisdom suggests that a non-member could serve as Speaker due to the lack of explicit qualifications in the Constitution, Professor Dorf argues that this interpretation may be faulty, citing original understanding, historical practice, and functional considerations. Professor Dorf concludes that while the Constitution is unclear on this issue, the absence of explicit language should not be taken as carte blanche to make any choice, and that both liberals and conservatives should be cautious in their assumptions about what the Constitution does or does not allow.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the indictment against New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who is accused of accepting bribes to influence foreign relations and other matters. Professor Dorf acknowledges the legal presumption of innocence in a criminal trial setting but argues that due to the ethical responsibility Senators have towards their constituents and the country, they are not entitled to the same presumption in their role, and the weight of the allegations and evidence against Menendez should prompt his resignation or expulsion from the Senate.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses a recent legal battle over Texas’s placement of buoys and barriers in the Rio Grande River to deter migrants, a move ruled likely unlawful by Federal District Judge David Ezra. Professor Dorf criticizes Texas’s subsequent emergency stay appeal, argues that the state’s legal justifications are implausible and undermine federal supremacy, and suggests that the state is improperly attempting to sidestep federal authority on issues of national security and immigration.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that while the recent departure of Stanford’s associate dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is noteworthy, the broader issue is the legal status of diversity initiatives following the recent Supreme Court ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. Professor Dorf contends that despite the Court’s skepticism towards race-based affirmative action, DEI offices still have a legitimate role, albeit one that may need to adjust its approaches to promoting diversity and inclusion.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf responds to a recent Wall Street Journal “puff piece” on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, arguing that, contrary to the op-ed authors’ assertion, Justice Alito’s purported commitment to textualism is disingenuous and that he finds ways (atextually, if needed) to vote consistently for ideologically conservative outcomes. Professor Dorf refutes Justice Alito’s claim that Congress lacks the authority to impose ethical standards on the Supreme Court, pointing out Congress’s historical role in shaping the Court and the existing ethics regulations that apply to the Justices.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf criticizes Florida’s new middle school social studies education standards, which suggest that enslaved people benefited from slavery in some instances by learning skills such as carpentry or blacksmithing that they could later use for personal benefit. Professor Dorf argues that this perspective dangerously minimizes the horrors of slavery, and could be a calculated move by political figures like Governor Ron DeSantis to leverage culture war issues, distort historical truths, and consolidate power.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the implications of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools in law schools. Professor Dorf observes that for now, smart, well-motivated students will outperform AI in most tasks required of law students, but legal educators will soon have to grapple with the reality that banning AI-based tools will make less and less sense as they become more mainstream various ways in legal practice.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf contrasts the present Supreme Court with the one Yale Law Professor Alexander Bickel praised in a Harvard Law Review article in 1961. Unlike the Court Bickel described, which manipulated its docket to strategically avoid difficult and divisive issues, Professor Dorf argues that the present Court manipulates its docket to decide those issues—and often without full briefing or oral argument.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the so-called “unitary executive theory” and explains why it seems to form the basis for the extreme positions of conservative Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Professor Dorf argues that the conservative Justices may prefer to pursue their ideological goal of undercutting regulation via the dubious unitary executive theory rather than originalism, further undercutting the administrative state.
In this second of a series of columns conducting a postmortem on the debt ceiling crisis, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explain why the temporary resolution of the debt ceiling crisis may result in an even higher cost when the issue arises again on January 2, 2025. Professors Buchanan and Dorf argue that the debt ceiling statute can only ever operate as a source of leverage for extortionists or, if neither side blinks, as the means of inflicting terrible damage to the country.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the Supreme Court’s decision in Allen v. Milligan, in which Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a 5-4 majority of the Court, reaffirming a key precedent that allows Voting Rights Act (VRA) plaintiffs to sue to block legislative redistricting maps that have the effect of diluting minority voting strength. Professor Dorf expresses optimism that this decision might signal that the Chief Justice and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the only Republican-appointed Justice who joined the majority, are not moving ideologically to the right as radically as their other colleagues on the Court.
In this first of a series of columns conducting a postmortem on the debt ceiling crisis, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf point out that President Biden’s debt ceiling resolution appears to have won the politics of 2023 and 2024 and sidestepped another huge crisis. However, Professors Buchanan and Dorf consider whether these short-term victories will have longer-term costs that prove even more extreme.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explain the options currently available to President Biden for handling the impending debt ceiling crisis. Professors Buchanan and Dorf argue that while the best option would have been to announce from the outset that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional, the President’s current least bad option is, if the drop-dead date arrives, to continue to pay the nation’s debts notwithstanding the debt ceiling.
Cornell Law Professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week in National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) v. Ross, in which the Court rejected a challenge by a pork industry trade group to a California law that bans in-state sale of pork unless the pigs were raised in accordance with certain minimum standards for “humane” treatment. Professor Dorf points out that it is unusual for the Supreme Court to acknowledge, as Justice Neil Gorsuch’s lead opinion does, animal welfare as a legitimate moral interest and expresses hope that the decision might pave the way to more substantial reforms of animal cruelty laws and changes in personal consumption choices.
UF Levin College of Law Professor Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law Professor Michael C. Dorf point out that if Republicans insist on using the debt ceiling to hold the economy hostage, President Joe Biden will be the one to decide which debts to prioritize. Professors Buchanan and Dorf argue that although the decision of which debts to prioritize should not belong to the President, Republicans give President Biden—or his less virtuous alter-ego “Dark Brandon”—no choice but to decide which debts to pay first, at their own risk.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf respond to two types of pushback from proponents of schemes to circumvent the debt ceiling. Though dubious about any such proposal, Professors Buchanan and Dorf express hope that a court would disagree and find an option—such as fallback bonds—permissible, allowing the country to avoid financial catastrophe and a constitutional crisis.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf continue their discussion of the assortment of illegal options President Joe Biden has available to him if Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Professors Buchanan and Dorf argue that because there are no loopholes or escape hatches in the debt ceiling statute, if put into that untenable position, President Biden should minimize the damage and simply issue normal Treasury securities—the “least unconstitutional” option.