Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law
Where, If Anywhere, Should People Protest Judicial Decisions?

In light of the leaked Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. and the resulting protests in front of the homes of some of the Justices, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers where, if anywhere, protests against judicial decisions are appropriate. Professor Dorf notes that under current law, the First Amendment as currently construed by the Supreme Court seems to protect a right to peaceable protest near the home of a judge or Justice so long as: (a) the protesters merely pass by but do not linger at the home; and (b) they do so without the intent to intimidate. However, Professor Dorf also points out that such protest might not always be tactically prudent.

Time, the Execution Process, and the Botched Lethal Injection of Clarence Dixon

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the recent botched execution of Clarence Dixon in Arizona, pointing out that the repeated efforts to place the IVs demonstrate that lethal injection is not a humane process. Professor Sarat describes the importance of time in the execution process and argues that courts assessing the start time of an execution (for purposes of Eighth Amendment challenges and Double Jeopardy challenges) should start the clock from the moment of the first physical invasion of the inmate’s body, contrary to the Ohio Supreme Court’s determination that the insertion of IV lines is “merely a ‘preparatory’ step to the execution.”

Can Illinois Require Gas Stations to Advertise on Its Behalf?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on a new Illinois law that would require gas stations to advertise that the state has deferred an increase in the state gas tax. Dean Amar explains why the chances of gas stations prevailing in a federal constitutional challenge to the law are unlikely but not impossible.

Wake Up Good People: Overruling Roe v. Wade Is Just One of the Three Fronts in the Religious War Against America

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton describes three fronts in the war by religious conservatives against America: (1) the fight against abortion and contraception, supported by a minority of Americans, (2) a demand that those who share the same religious beliefs should be above the law, and (3) a demand that religious entities be treated “equally” with any others receiving government dollars. Professor Hamilton calls upon the majority of Americans—including congresspeople—who don’t share these beliefs to act and vote, and to stop deferring to religious actors before they turn our country into a theocracy.

Why the North Carolina Berger Voter ID Case Pending in the U.S. Supreme Court Would Benefit from Certification to the State High Court: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the facts and law giving rise to Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a North Carolina voter ID case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that the case highlights the importance of the legal procedure of certification and suggest that if the Court’s decision falls back on the traditional model of singular executive-branch representation embraced by the federal system and that of other states, the North Carolina legislature will have only itself to blame.

Fifth Anniversary of Arkansas’s 2017 Execution Spree Is a Good Time to Confront Capital Punishment’s Troubling Flaws

In light of the fifth anniversary of Arkansas’s capital punishment spree, Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes some of the major flaws of the death penalty. Professor Sarat points out that although lethal injection was once touted as a technological miracle that would ensure executions would be safe, reliable, and humane, the practice has had a history marked by problems, mishaps, and mayhem.

Musings on Last Week’s New York High Court Ruling Invalidating Partisan Gerrymandering, With Special Attention to the So-Called Independent-State-Legislature Theory

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on last week’s ruling by the highest state court in New York invalidating partisan gerrymandering. Professor Amar discusses partisan gerrymandering in this country and particularly criticizes the reasoning employed by those who are pushing the constitutionally bogus Independent-State-Legislature theory.

Is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ a Pre-Documentary? What an Autocracy—Theocratic or Otherwise—Looks Like: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a pre-documentary—not in that it predicts what literally will happen in the United States, but in that it accurately describes America’s shift toward becoming a dystopia. Professor Buchanan points out that the mechanisms are already in place for an autocratic government to dispossess citizens of their property, and the rest can be changed at will.

New Homeland Security Report Reminds Us Of Trump and Putin’s Disinformation Alliance

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General that in mid-2020, Trump administration officials in that department delayed and altered an intelligence study reporting on Russian interference in America’s 2020 presidential election. Mr. Aftergut describes three reasons the DHS inspector general’s report is important and calls on all Americans to ensure the next Congress has a majority of representatives committed to preserving our constitutional republic.

Vega v. Tekoh and the Supreme Court’s Conceptual Confusion

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that presents the question whether a plaintiff may sue a police officer for an interrogation that violates the rules announced in Miranda v. Arizona and results in a statement that the prosecution introduces at the plaintiff’s trial, which ends in acquittal. Professor Colb argues that whether one views adherence to Miranda as a constitutional requirement or instead as a prophylactic sub-constitutional practice should have little bearing on the outcome of the case.

Overruling Roe is Just the Beginning

In response to the leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the likely ramifications of the Supreme Court’s overruling Roe v. Wade, the seminal case recognizing the constitutional right to seek an abortion. Professor Dorf argues that the language and reasoning of the draft suggest that this emboldened Court with a super-majority of Republican appointees is also preparing to overrule Lawrence v. Texas (recognizing the right of consenting adults to engage in same-sex sexual conduct) and Obergefell v. Hodges (recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry).

Aborted Tennessee Execution Highlights Lethal Injection’s Crippling Problems Part One in a Series

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on Tennessee’s recent last-minute cancellation of the execution of Oscar Franklin Smith for a “technical oversight.” Professor Sarat points out that such problems typically mean that state officials identified contamination in the compounded execution drugs or the “use by date” had passed, but the veil of secrecy surrounding executions prevents the public from discovering the true nature of the problem.

When Is Revising Admissions Criteria to Alter the Racial Makeup of a School’s Student Body Constitutionally Problematic? A Recent Case from Virginia on the Court’s “Shadow” Docket May Offer Some Hints

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a recent case from Virginia that suggests when revising admissions criteria to alter the racial makeup of a school’s student body is constitutional (and when it is not). Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that although some Supreme Court Justices have suggested in dicta and dissents some permissible options, they may very well decide that those options too are impermissible, despite the natural and reasonable reliance on those writings.

Lawyers’ Special Role in Preserving Democracy: More Important Today Than When First Described by a Great Chronicler of America

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes the special role that lawyers play in preserving democracy—a role even more important today than it was at the county’s founding. Mr. Aftergut calls lawyers to action particularly in light of the news of a forthcoming memoir by Geoffrey Berman, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York who resigned rather than carry out former President Trump’s efforts to bring weak cases against political opponents.

Could the Next Coup Attempt Hinge on the Meaning of the Twelfth Amendment? Why Risk it?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Democrats should expressly reject (rather than implicitly accept) Republicans’ erroneous interpretation of the Twelfth Amendment, on the off chance it matters in the next coup attempt. Professor Buchanan explains why the Twelfth Amendment’s fallback provision applies only when the Electoral College vote is a tie.

McCarthy Survives Having Told the Truth in an Upside Down House Republican Conference

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on Wednesday’s GOP conference meeting in which House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attempted to distance himself from recorded comments he made immediately after the January 6 insurrection. Mr. Aftergut argues that the only way to keep our republic from falling apart is for journalists, public officials, and citizens to keep fighting for public truth.

What Did the Justices Say About Football Prayer? The Oral Argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on Monday’s oral argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which presents a question about the intersection between the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, and government speech jurisprudence. Professor Griffin describes how various Justices approached the case and what we might learn about how they are inclined to vote.

The January 6 House Select Committee’s New Filing Shows Us Why Attorney General Garland Should Indict Mark Meadows

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that the January 6 House Select Committee’s new filing provides further support for the indictment of former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. Mr. Aftergut calls upon Attorney General Merrick Garland to fulfill his vow to uphold the Constitution by enforcing compliance with lawful congressional subpoenas.

Textualism Masks Ideological Opposition to the Administrative State

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle invalidating the federal mask mandate for travelers. Professor Dorf points out the flaws in Judge Mizelle’s reasoning and argues that her ruling reflects a right-wing ideology that is hostile to government agencies addressing even the most pressing social problems.

The Chief Justice’s Dissents Confirm He’s Not In Charge. Let’s Just Call It the “McConnell Court”

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on three recent Supreme Court decisions in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the dissent, demonstrating that he does not carry sway in decisions on central issues such as a woman’s right to choose, voting rights, or protecting the environment. Mr. Aftergut points out that how the Justices vote in the upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will reveal whether the Roberts Court can preserve the core principles of judicial restraint in constitutional adjudication and stare decisis—or whether it is more appropriately called the “McConnell Court.”

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more