Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law

Indiana Court Rules in Favor of Cell Phone History Privacy

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on a recent decision by the Court of Appeals of Indiana, holding that police violated their suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights by acquiring, without a warrant, the suspect’s cell site information from his cell phone provider. Colb explains the Indiana court’s reasoning and discusses the evolving law regarding people’s privacy expectations in information their cell phones store and transmit.

In a Case with Blockbuster Potential, Detroit School Children Assert a Federal Constitutional Right to Literacy

University of Illinois dean and law professor Vikram David Amar takes an early look at Gary B. v. Snyder, a case recently filed in federal district court that addresses a child’s fundamental right to literacy. Amar explains how the timing may be ideal for a case of this nature, should it ultimately reach the Supreme Court, since the Court seems increasingly willing to recognize new liberties not mentioned in the Constitution, among other compelling reasons.

The Future of the Supreme Court, Regardless of Who Wins the Election

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains what can be deduced about the Supreme Court's future, even before the 2016 US presidential election. Dorf references the role that the Court plays in American public life while also offering notable examples of areas where the Court has little to no say. Additionally, Dorf reminds readers that many more cases are decided unanimously than by a single vote and that it is difficult to predict future ideological divisions among justices, regardless of whether they were nominated by a Republican or Democratic president.

The Problem With the Texas Federal Court’s Nationwide Order Regarding Bathroom Access for Transgender Students

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and U.C. Davis Law professor Courtney Joslin discuss a recent decision by a federal district court in Texas issuing a nationwide order regarding bathroom access for transgender students. Amar and Joslin explain why the order almost certainly oversteps that court’s authority without providing any reasons or analysis to justify its overbroad relief.

The Re-making of America’s Cities by Religious Organizations and the Department of Justice

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, denounces the involvement of the federal government in local land use issues through the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Hamilton argues that RLUIPA incorrectly treats neutral, generally applicable land use decisions identically with discriminatory land use decisions.

Seventh Circuit Criticizes but Affirms Title VII Precedent Excluding Sexual Orientation

Attorney and editor at Justia, Sarah Andropoulos comments on a recent decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit criticizing but affirming courts’ exclusion of sexual orientation discrimination from protection under Title VII. As Andropoulos explains, the panel’s reasoning is somewhat convoluted, and its conclusion does not seem to follow from its logic.

The Scandalous Religious Liberty Project of this Era: Rights to Discriminate, Harass, and Harm at Will

A Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, Marci Hamilton comments on disclosure requirement and the non-discrimination component of California SB-1146. Hamilton argues that religious entities continue to demand the freedom to discriminate and harass, while insisting on calling it “religious liberty.”

Is Taking Blood from a Dog a “Search” of the Dog’s Owner?

In light of a recent decision by the Oregon Supreme Court, Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers whether taking blood from a dog constitutes a search of the dog’s owner for Fourth Amendment purposes. Colb identifies good and bad features of the court’s opinion and expresses what, in her view, would have been the ideal resolution of the case.

The Vexing Nature of California’s Attempt to Protect Free Speech Through its Anti-SLAPP Statute

University of Illinois dean and law professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent case that highlights the challenging nature of California’s attempt to protect free speech through its anti-SLAPP statute. Amar describes the background of the case as well as the larger problems that arise when applying the Anti-SLAPP law to discrimination and harassment lawsuits.

What Do the Satanic Temple and Jehovah’s Witnesses Have in Common? They Are Champions Against Government Inculcation of Belief

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how the Satanic Temple is fighting the same fight Jehovah’s Witnesses started—to keep the government from imposing tenets of any specific religion on all citizens despite their faith. Hamilton describes the history of this issue in the United States and discusses the current lawsuit involving the Satanic Temple.

An Open Letter to the Change-Maker Hillary Rodham Clinton on Behalf of Sexual Abuse Victims in the United States

A Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, Marci Hamilton writes an open letter to Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton on behalf of sexual abuse victims around the country. Hamilton asks Clinton what she will do as President of the United States to address the problem of child sex abuse and to help improve victims’ access to justice.

Chevron Deference and the Proposed “Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016”: A Sign of the Times

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016, a bill that, if passed, would undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Amar points out that support for the doctrine of Chevron deference has fluctuated based on which political party occupies the White House, and there may even be a constitutional argument against Chevron’s preference for agencies over courts.

Balancing Teachers’ Liberty Against Students’ Right to Unbiased Education

Antonio G. Sepulveda, Carlos Bolonha, and Igor De Lazari comment on a law recently passed by the house of representatives of the Brazilian state of Alagoas—over the governor’s veto—that places certain restrictions on teachers’ autonomy in the classroom. Sepulveda, Bolonha, and De Lazari discuss the purpose of the law and the criticism leveled against it and draw upon United States federal case law as a basis for analysis.

Three Important Constitutional Lessons to Take From FBI Director Comey’s Statements About Hillary Clinton’s Email Management

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes three lessons we should take from FBI Director Comey’s statements about Hillary Clinton’s email management. First, Amar points out that the president is the ultimate decisionmaker when it comes to all criminal prosecutions. Second, he argues that there are other ways that Republican leaders could seek to punish Ms. Clinton for what they believe to be wrongdoing—such as the impeachment process. Finally, Amar suggests that to prevent Republicans (or others) from doggedly trying to prosecute Ms. Clinton for years to come, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, President Obama could pardon her just before he leaves office, as other presidents have done in numerous instances.

What’s the Matter With “Bomb Robots”?

In light of recent events in Dallas, Texas, Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the use by local police of a “bomb robot” to kill the man who shot twelve police officers and two civilians. In particular, Dorf addresses (1) whether the use of the bomb robot represents an important change in policing, (2) whether the robot is a military tool inappropriately used in a domestic policing situation, and (3) whether its use in this instance violated the Constitution.

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Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies reacts to the lack of response by many important people and organizations to recent shootings by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Margulies points out that when leadership is silent on an issue, people will take to the streets to try to rectify it, often perpetuating violence.

Mississippi, the First Amendment Defense Act, Accommodation, and Apartheid

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on Mississippi’s latest law stigmatizing and marginalizing the LGBTQ community, and compares it to the federal First Amendment Defense Act. Hamilton argues that these divisive and discriminatory laws resemble apartheid in South Africa in that they are purported to be accommodations but in fact are simply immoral and wrong.

Birchfield v. North Dakota: An Acceptable Compromise

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota, in which the Court held that states may criminalize the refusal to take a breathalyzer test but may not criminalize the refusal to take a blood test, absent a warrant, as an ordinary incident of an arrest for driving while impaired. Colb explains why the Court distinguished the two types of tests and argues that the decision effectively balances competing interests in public safety and individual privacy.

The TRAP Door Closes: The Supreme Court Invalidates Texas’s HB 2, Which Unduly Burdens Access to Abortion

SMU Dedman School of Law Professor Joanna Grossman comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which the Court struck down certain restrictions on abortion clinics that imposed an undue burden on women’s constitutional right of access to abortion. Grossman describes the history of abortion access in the United States and how the Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health fits within that history.

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 Co... 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 tea... 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 Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... 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... 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