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 six books on constitutional law and related subjects. Professor Dorf blogs at Dorf on Law.

Columns by Michael C. Dorf
Nebraska and Oklahoma Take Colorado to the Supreme Court Over Legalized Marijuana

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado, alleging that the latter state’s legalization of marijuana undermines their ability to maintain their own prohibitions of the substance.

Ebola and Civil Liberties: Lessons From Gitmo

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf analogizes the authority of the government to enact quarantine measures to its authority (as established under Supreme Court precedents) to detain unlawful enemy combatants. Dorf argues that while courts are likely to reject the most outrageous detention policies, they are unlikely to reject policies simply for being misguided or unwise.

Scotland’s Vote to Stay in the UK Raises the Question of When Other Groups Should Have the Chance to Secede

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses Scotland’s recent vote to stay in the UK and considers the broader question of when secession votes should be held, as a matter of international and domestic law.

Two New Rulings Unmask the Weakness of the Case Against Marriage Equality

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on two recent rulings on state bans on same-sex marriage—one by the U.S. District Court for the District of Louisiana upholding that state’s ban and the other by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit striking down bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. Dorf explains how a comparison of these two rulings reveals weaknesses in the case against marriage equality.

Video-Recording Police–Citizen Encounters Is Necessary but Not Enough

In light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf weighs the benefits and costs of equipping police officers with wearable cameras to record encounters with citizens. Dorf concludes that while there are some risks inherent in the practice, it would be a good first step toward reducing the frequency of tragedies resulting from police–citizen confrontations.

Academic Freedom in the Salaita Case

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses a recent decision by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to revoke an offer to Steven G. Salaita of a tenured faculty appointment after Salaita tweeted strong criticism of Israel’s conduct in Gaza. Dorf explains why the University’s decision presents serious issues of academic freedom and free speech, and even contract law.

Federal Appeals Courts Divide Over Obamacare Subsidies—and Over “Textualism”

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses two federal appeals courts’ recent diverging decisions over Obamacare subsidies. Dorf contrasts the method of statutory interpretation used by the majority of a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which struck down the subsidies, with that of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which upheld them.

How to Fix the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf proposes eight different options for fixing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Dorf suggests that open discussion of what was wrong with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. can inform the public and opinion leaders about how to fix RFRA when the opportunity arises.

Did the Supreme Court Err by Rejecting Political Deadlock as a Basis for Recess Appointments?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning, in which the Court unanimously invalidated President Obama’s 2012 appointment of three members of the National Labor Relations Board. Dorf discusses the differences between rationales and implications of the five-Justice majority opinion authored by Justice Breyer and those of the four-Justice concurrence authored by Justice Scalia. Dorf argues that the Court’s rejection of political deadlock as a basis for recess appointments could prove to be an important weapon anytime the majority in the Senate is actively hostile to the President.

How Secular Liberals Should Talk to Religious Conservatives

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf suggests how secular liberals might constructively communicate with religious conservatives. Dorf notes that respectful engagement with others whose religious views differ from one’s own tends to lead to more productive conversations than do humiliation or ridicule.

The Supreme Court Ducks a Treaty Power Question but Raises Broader Questions

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bond v. United States, handed down earlier this week. In that case, the Court considered whether the federal Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act applies to a Pennsylvania woman’s attempted use of mild toxins to cause a skin rash on a romantic rival. Dorf argues that the Court’s ruling sidesteps an important question about the scope of congressional power to implement treaties but that it also announces a presumption of statutory construction that could have far-reaching implications.

Will the Lower Court Consensus on Same-Sex Marriage Influence the Supreme Court?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses how the lower courts’ consistent rulings in favor of same-sex marriage might influence a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Dorf observes that every single judge to rule on the question has relied on the Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor for the conclusion that SSM bans are unconstitutional. He concludes that while the lower courts’ decisions have no binding effect on the Supreme Court, they might serve as a legal barometer of what is legally plausible and as conduits of public opinion.