Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and four books on constitutional law and related subjects, including, most recently, The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Constitutional Law. Professor Dorf blogs at Dorf on Law.

Columns by Michael C. Dorf

How Un-rule-y is the First Amendment?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers an issue on which the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral argument: whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from adverse action based on the government’s mistaken belief that the employee was engaged in speech or association. Dorf highlights the nuances of the case and whether there is a meaningful difference between rule-guided conduct and reason-guided conduct.

The Supreme Court Could Hear a Third License Plate Case

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on a case involving free speech on license plates that may reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. As Dorf points out, if the Court agrees to hear the case, it will be the third major license plate case it has decided. Dorf argues that the appeals court in the present case most likely erred in failing to protect the plaintiff’s right against compelled speech, but a broadly written Supreme Court opinion reversing the lower court could potentially undermine anti-discrimination law.

Do Androids Dream of Animal Rights?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf explores the relationship between renewed discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) and the rights of non-human animals. Dorf argues that our current portrayals of AI reflect guilt over our disregard for the interests of the billions of sentient animals we exploit, torture, and kill in the here and now.

Is the Texas Ten Percent Plan “Race Neutral”?

In light of the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether the school’s Ten Percent Plan is “race neutral.” Dorf distinguishes race consciousness from racial classifications, and he points out that Justice Kennedy—the Court’s usual swing vote on such issues—has historically found that distinction to be significant.

Lessons From Princeton’s Struggles With Woodrow Wilson’s Racism

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether Princeton should remove Woodrow Wilson’s name and likeness from the campus due to Wilson’s racist views and actions. Dorf points out that the question is complex for a number of reasons, and rather than offering an outright answer, he provides a framework for evaluating this and similar issues.

Are the “bin Laden” Memos the New Torture Memos?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on the memoranda that supported the legality of the 2011 Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Dorf argues that these “bin Laden” memos are, in at least one respect, as bad as the infamous “torture memos” that authorized the Bush Administration to use “enhanced interrogation” techniques on prisoners suspected of terrorism.

“Shout Your Abortion” Movement Raises Questions About the “Coming Out” Analogy

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses the #ShoutYourAbortion movement intended to destigmatize abortion. Dorf describes how people “coming out” as being gay or lesbian helped destigmatize sexual orientation, and how coming out as having a disability or disease has helped destigmatize those statuses, as well. Dorf cautions that while the #ShoutYourAbortion movement could resemble these other movements, it may also be different in some important ways.

Federal District Court Invalidates Idaho “Ag-Gag” Law

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses the implications of a recent decision by a federal district court invalidating an Idaho law that criminalizes entering a “agricultural production facility” under false pretenses and also criminalizes creating an audio or video recording of what takes place there without authorization from the owners—known as an Ag-Gag law.

Why Can Clergy Opt Out of Same-Sex Marriage?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers the intricacies of a question Justice Antonin Scalia posed during last week’s oral argument in the same-sex marriage cases—whether, if the Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, clergy who will not officiate at same-sex weddings must thereby forfeit the power to officiate at opposite-sex weddings.