Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law

Two Courts, Two Interpretations

Igor De Lazari, Antonio Sepulveda, and Carlos Bolonha discuss a recent decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court affecting presidential impeachment procedures. The authors point out that the United States and Brazil have similar constitutional origins of impeachment proceedings but that the two countries diverge in interpreting and applying those provisions.

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?

Chilling Scientific Inquiry

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda comments on several instances in which the government is chilling scientific inquiry into the question of global warming. Rotunda argues that the marketplace of ideas, rather than the subpoena power of government, should decide what is true or false.

Game’s On: Big Leaguers Zimmerman & Howard Versus Al Jazeera

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean continues his discussion of the defamation lawsuits filed by Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and by Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman against Al Jazeera America (AJAM). Dean assesses defendant AJAM’s motions to dismiss both cases for failure to describe facts that give rise to a plausible entitlement to relief, a requirement under federal law.

A Safe Haven for Kody? Sister Wives Star Loses on Appeal, but Protected From Bigamy Prosecution in Utah

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reinstating Utah’s criminal law banning bigamy. Grossman explains the facts leading up to the lawsuit, the holding of the district, and the reasoning behind the Tenth Circuit’s reversal.

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.

North Carolina’s HB 2: Does Passing an Obviously Unconstitutional Law Make the Law Even More Unconstitutional?

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses North Carolina’s recent passage of House Bill 2 (HB 2), which purports to take away existing anti-discrimination rights from LGBT people. Grossman explains why the law is unconstitutional and considers whether, in light of the law’s patent unconstitutionality, the law reflects even greater animus by those who passed it.

How Should Courts Evaluate a Treatment Decision by a Government Doctor That Takes into Account the Patient’s Race? The Ninth Circuit Doesn’t Quite Get Things Right

Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, and Michael Schaps, a California civil litigation attorney, critique a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considering whether and when a government physician can take into account a patient’s race. Amar and Schaps argue that the court’s analysis is internally consistent and legally flawed, as well.

Alabama: The U.S. Constitution Applies to You, Too

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent per curiam opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court in which it instructed the Alabama Supreme Court to obey the U.S. Constitution and give full effect to a lesbian couple’s adoption decree from Georgia. Grossman describes the facts leading up to the case and explains why the High Court ruled firmly as it did, and why the Alabama court was incorrect.

The Obama Administration Draws Back From the Precipice of Theocracy

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton describes two recent events that indicate that the United States remains dedicated to a culture of freedom and tolerance, rather than moving toward theocracy. As Hamilton explains, the federal government has taken action against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for establishing a theocracy on the border of Utah and Arizona, and also for money laundering and food stamp fraud.

A Specific Proposal That Helps Give Us a Sense of What Getting Rid of Citizens United Might Entail

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar examines California’s Proposition 49—which seeks the voters’ approval for the California legislature to ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC—in order to shine light on what might be required to overturn the decision on a federal level. Amar argues that Proposition 49 highlights just how difficult it would be to craft a workable constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Differing Perspectives on California Law Requiring Pregnancy Clinics to Post Abortion Information

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the perspectives of both sides of the controversy over a relatively new California law requiring licensed pregnancy centers to prominently post a notice about the availability of free or low-cost abortion, contraception, and prenatal care. Colb offers a compelling narrative to illustrate each perspective, ultimately concluding that while she personally agrees with one side neither is “right” in a moral sense.

Protection Against Sexual Harassment Is Alive and Well in the Sixth Circuit

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in which the court affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a sexual harassment plaintiff. Grossman describes the facts leading up to the case and explains why the jury and the appellate court came to the correct conclusion as a matter of fact and law.

What Does Ancient Athens Have to Do With University Protesters?

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda describes how freedom—specifically freedom of speech—was recognized as important as far back as ancient Athens, and how it remains important in the United States today, not only for its inherent value but also in setting an example for the rest of the world to use. Rotunda argues that when the United States restricts speech, other countries will use our example to justify their own repression.

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.

In Defense of Justice Scalia on Religious Liberty and Smith

In honor of the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the Court’s decision in Employment Div. v. Smith, in which Justice Scalia wrote for the majority holding that a law is constitutional under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if it is facially neutral and generally applied. Hamilton lauds the decision as striking the right balance between liberty and harm, and between religious diversity and religious tyranny.

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 Col... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar, a Professor of Law at The George Washington Univ... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teac... more

John Dean
John Dean

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

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

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

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law at the Mauri... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States and the Paul R. V... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more