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

Supreme Court Requires “Concrete” Injury for Standing

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, in which the Court unremarkably affirmed its position that a plaintiff in federal court must have suffered (or be in danger of imminently suffering) a “concrete and particularized injury.” Dorf explains why, in cases such as Spokeo that involve one private party suing another, the Court should abandon the concreteness requirement of judicial standing.

Are Long Death Penalty Delays Unconstitutional?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether long delays in carrying out capital punishment render the practice unconstitutional. Dorf responds specifically to an argument put forth by the late Justice Scalia that execution delays are chiefly the result of the extensive procedures that the Court’s liberals have required for carrying out an execution.

Prosecutorial Discretion: The Dog That Didn’t Bark in the Immigration Oral Argument—Yet

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, a case involving a challenge to the Obama Administration’s deferred action immigration policy. Dorf points out that underneath the procedural questions actually before the Court in that case is a crucial unasked question: What is the scope of the president’s prosecutorial discretion not to enforce laws duly enacted by Congress?

Supreme Court Convenes a Settlement Conference

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on a recent unusual order by the U.S. Supreme Court asking for supplemental briefing from the parties to the latest religious challenge to Obamacare. In contrast with other commentators who have described the order as “puzzling” or “baffling,” Dorf explains how the Court’s order resembles something federal district courts do on a routine basis: facilitate settlement of the dispute.

Does Boredom Explain Some of Trump’s Appeal?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the American public's enduring fascination with Donald Trump, and explains how the social science of boredom may be at play in it. Dorf highlights studies that explain this phenomenon from distinct angles, and applies the findings to the general voting populace as a means of explaining why people just cannot seem to get enough of Trump, regardless of whether they agree with his politics.

Trump’s Anatomy Is More Relevant Than You Think

In light of Donald Trump’s recent comments about his anatomical endowment, Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the role of virility—and perceived virility—among prior American presidents and other world leaders of history. Dorf points out that while some studies suggest popular perception of one male candidate as “more manly” than another might give him an edge up, analysis shows that result cannot necessarily be extrapolated to predict male versus female elections.

Senate Republicans Offer Laughable Reasons for Refusing to Confirm an Obama Supreme Court Nominee

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf explains why Republicans’ claims that President Obama lacks democratic legitimacy in appointing a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Dorf points out that the reasons offered thus far for refusing to confirm an Obama nominee seem to imply that originalism/formalism can be validated or invalidated by popular approval, even absent a constitutional amendment.

What War Is Good For

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf reviews Sidney Tarrow’s new book, War, States, and Contention. Dorf considers how Tarrow’s view of the role of contentious politics applies in the current political campaign and examines the relation between national security and domestic social movements.

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.