Analysis and Commentary on Civil Rights

A Sharp Backward Turn: Department of Education Proposes to Protect Schools, Not Students, in Cases of Sexual Violence

In this second of a two-part series, SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah L. Brake revisit Title IX and the Department of Education’s proposal to rework how sexual assault and harassment claims are addressed by educational institutions that receive federal funds. Grossman and Brake argue that the Department’s proposed changes will ultimately result in a chilling effect on victims of sexual harassment coming forward and reporting their abuse.

The Department of Education’s Title IX Power Grab

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the Department of Education’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking rules requiring due process protections for those accused of sexual assault or harassment in Title IX cases. Dorf provides a history of Title IX, explaining how the Obama administration issued guidance and instituted reforms to how institutions should approach addressing allegations of such conduct. He acknowledges the Department of Education's shift in policy under the Trump administration that led to its proposed rulemaking issuance, and argues that the Department only has the authority to permit these additional due process protections in most instances, rather than outright require institutions to adhere to them.

A Sharp Backward Turn: Department of Education Proposes to Undermine Protections for Students Against Sexual Harassment and Assault

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah L. Brake discuss a proposal by the Department of Education that would roll back Obama-era guidance on how claims of sexual assault and harassment are handled by educational institutions that receive federal funding. In part one of this two-part series, Grossman and Brake provide historical background on Title IX, explain regulations implemented during the Obama administration, and touch on how the Trump administration’s rollback may affect student victims of sexual assault and harassment.

Beneath the Fray: Federal Courts Continue the Work of Enforcing Sexual Harassment Laws

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a federal court in Florida correctly denying an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a workplace rape case that deserves a full trial on the merits. Grossman points out that anti-discrimination law is not sufficient to eliminate, or even substantially reduce, the incidence of sexual harassment at work, but it is unquestionably necessary to address that problem and protect survivors.

The Sex Trifecta: United Airlines Sued Over Pilot Who Tormented Flight Attendant with Stalking, Revenge Porn, and Harassment

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a lawsuit recently filed by the EEOC against United Airlines alleging that the airline failed to protect a female flight attendant from sexual harassment by a pilot, in violation of its obligations under federal anti-discrimination law. Grossman argues that while United is entitled to its day in court, it will need compelling evidence to refute the allegations in the EEOC's complaint.

Children’s Rights Softly Emerge in the Midst of the Trump Administration’s Heartless Separation of Children from their Parents at the Border

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, comments on a laudable decision by a federal district court judge in Connecticut that recognizes children as persons with constitutional rights, in the midst of the Trump administration’s separation of children from their parents at the border. Hamilton calls upon the Senate to ratify the Convention for the Rights of the Child, and upon Congress to pass simple legislation that would ban such separations.

Replacing Justice Kennedy: Why Roe Won’t Be (Formally) Overruled, Same-Sex Marriage Rights Won’t Be Undone, and Affirmative Action Won’t Be Terminated, but Electoral Reform Could Suffer Greatly

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar argues that while Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the US Supreme Court will change the institution, it may not result in a significant shift to the right on some hot-button issues, as many anticipate. Amar explains that the greatest casualty of Justice Kennedy’s retirement might be electoral reform—not reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, or affirmative action.

The Supreme Court and Conservatives’ Right Not to Be Associated in Any Way With Disagreeable Things

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the pro-business, anti-union expressed during oral argument and in the majority opinion in Janus v. AFSCME, written by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by the other conservative justices including Justice Anthony Kennedy, epitomizes both Kennedy’s right-wing fundamentalism and the direction in which the Court would have continued to move even if he had chosen not to retire. Buchanan points out that the trend among the conservative justices is to insulate conservatives—especially Christian Republicans—from having to be in any way connected to anything with which they disagree, such as collective bargaining, sexual liberation, or provision of contraception.

The Aftermath of the #MeToo Movement

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman gives a brief overview of the #MeToo movement and describes the great strides our society has made, yet also the challenges it still faces. Specifically, Grossman points out that it is now time for businesses and lawmakers to figure out how best to prevent sexual harassment while protecting women’s career opportunities.

Attitudinal and Doctrinal Takeaways from the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and UC Davis Law emeritus professor Alan E. Brownstein discuss two doctrinal issues raised in the Supreme Court’s majority and concurring opinions in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Amar and Brownstein explain how Colorado could have reached the results it reached without disfavoring religion or religious liberty/equality at all, and they point out that the Court’s focus on the motives of the commissioners is unusual given the Court’s prior decisions on the role of invidious motives.

When Is an LGBTQ Rights Case Not About LGBTQ Rights? When It’s the Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision

Marci A. Hamilton— one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania—comments on the recent decision by the US Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Hamilton explains the scope and limitations of the Court’s decision and notes the significance of its narrow holding in that case.

The Perceived Threat of Trans Identity

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb explores the reasons behind some people’s refusal to refer to trans men as men and trans women as women. Colb describes some of the concrete harms caused by such refusal, such as policies sending trans women to prisons for the wrong gender—a policy Colb argues violates the Eighth Amendment under the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence.

The Last Roar of the ‘Liberal Lion’: Judge Stephen Reinhardt Reverses Ruling That Would Have Allowed Employers to Justify Women’s Lower Wages by Prior Salaries

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the last ruling by the late Judge Stephen Reinhardt, in which Reinhardt, writing for the Ninth Circuit en banc, reversed an interpretation of the Equal Pay Act that allowed employeers to justify paying female employees less than their male counterparts based on salary history. Grossman explains why the ruling is a correct interpretation of the Equal Pay Act and notes that the decision underscores Judge Reinhardt’s reputation as a staunch defender of equality and justice.

Fly Away: Why the New York City Human Rights Commission is Right to Investigate The Wing, a Private Club and Workspace that is Just for Women

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman considers whether New York’s all-female private social club, The Wing, violates that state’s public accommodations law. Grossman reviews the relevant case law and concludes that The Wing will likely have difficulty arguing that should be exempt from the public accommodations law under First Amendment or public policy grounds.

The EEOC and the #MeToo Era: Is the Budget Increase Enough?

Marci A. Hamilton—a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the CEO and Academic Director of CHILD USA—considers recent news of the EEOC’s budget increase for fiscal year 2018. Hamilton notes that this appears to be a win for the EEOC and the #MeToo movement at first glance. Nevertheless, Hamilton explains that the increasing public encouragement for victims of sexual misconduct to come forward does not negate the unwillingness of those in power to effect change within the legal system for these victims to have a real chance at justice.

Does the Constitution Permit a State to Abolish Marriage?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether, in protest of the Supreme Court’s recognition of the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, states can “get out of the marriage business” altogether. Dorf explains that abolishing marriage for everyone likely poses no equal protection issues, and points out some interesting and unique characteristics about marriage as a fundamental right.

Take a Flying Leap: The Second Circuit Holds That Skydiving Instructor Can Sue for Sexual Orientation Discrimination Under Title VII

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sitting en banc, holding that sexual orientation discrimination is an actionable form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Grossman explains the significance of the holding and describes the circuitous route federal courts have taken to finally arrive at that common-sense conclusion.

What Miranda Can Teach Us About Sexual Consent

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb compares the requirement that police officers advise suspects in custody of their Miranda rights with the proposal that we as a society adopt a "Yes means yes" requirement for sexual consent. Colb describes how many of the fears about Miranda never actually came to fruition and points out how both the strengths and weaknesses of Miranda can help us to figure out how best to design the rules defining sexual assault.

Lawyers and Judges Crossing the Bar in 2017

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda commemorates some of the notable lawyers who died in 2017, including John Nolan, Jr., Michel, Aurillac, Willie, Stevenson Glanton, Gustavo Valdés, Hersh Wolch, the honorable Thomas Griesa, and others. Rotunda also notes one lawyer who had a near-death experience, Nikolai Gorokhov, a Russian lawyer who found key evidence of a $230 million corruption scandal involving high-ranking state officials.

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 is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George... 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

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 Robert A. Fox Leadership Program 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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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