Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Procedure

What Montgomery v. Louisiana Portends for Future Juvenile Sentencing

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the changing meaning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. Colb discusses specifically the Court’s decision earlier this year in Montgomery v. Lousiana, which held that Miller must be applied retroactively on state collateral review.

Prisoner Case Underscores Justice Scalia’s Legacy

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses a recent unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that illustrates the lasting impact Justice Scalia had on the Court’s approach to statutory interpretation. Dorf describes the shift from purposivism to textually constrained purposivism over the past half century, and explains how they differ from the textualism Justice Scalia espoused.

Discrimination & Criminal Justice in the 21st Century

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Foster v. Chatman, in which the Court considered whether a prosecutor’s use of peremptory challenges to remove all eligible black jurors constituted impermissible race discrimination. Margulies argues that true criminal justice reform requires us to acknowledge the pervasiveness of implicit bias in society and let go of the idea that the behavior is an individual wrong by one person against another, and reconceive it as a social wrong by a person against the community.

When Illegal Stops Lead to the Discovery of Outstanding Warrants: Utah v. Strieff

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Court will decide whether evidence located during a search incident to arrest after an unlawful stop will be admissible in evidence against the arrestee. Colb discusses this and also the broader question of the future role of the exclusionary rule in the law of the Fourth Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court Evaluates Criminal Penalties for Refusing Blood/Breath Alcohol Content Tests

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on a case on which the the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral argument that presents the question whether a state law may, absent a search warrant, attach criminal penalties to a DUI suspect’s refusal to undergo a chemical test of the suspect’s blood, urine, or breath to determine alcohol concentration. Colb predicts that the Court will decide that any test of a person’s internal state—whether through a blood draw, a breathalyzer, or a urine sample—requires a search warrant in the absence of exigent circumstances.

Are Long Death Penalty Delays Unconstitutional?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether long delays in carrying out capital punishment render the practice unconstitutional. Dorf responds specifically to an argument put forth by the late Justice Scalia that execution delays are chiefly the result of the extensive procedures that the Court’s liberals have required for carrying out an execution.

The Second Circuit Honors the Threshold of the Home in a Fourth Amendment Opinion

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that when police are outside the threshold of a home arresting a suspect who is inside the threshold, it is a “home arrest” requiring a warrant. Colb explains why the decision is significant in protecting the home as a space where a person can feel the highest degree of privacy and comfort, free from unreasonable government intrusions.

The Bottoson Effect

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies discusses the problem of states executing death row inmates under laws subsequently found to be unconstitutional, as has happened in Texas and in Florida, and likely in many other cases. Margulies laments that the United States continues to experiment with capital punishment when experience demonstrates the procedures for imposing this irreversible sentence are rife with problems.

Bill Cosby and the Rule Against Character Evidence

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the role of Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 404 in the criminal trial against Bill Cosby. Colb argues that the rule against character evidence serves a specific purpose in “whodunit” cases (where the perpetrator is unknown) but that it may serve a different purpose in “what was done” cases, such as the present case against Cosby.

Insight From Oregon

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies explains how the peaceful protesters at a federal facility in Oregon could advance the cause for criminal justice reform. Margulies reminds us that that the triggering event for the protest was an order by a federal judge that two ranchers serve a prison sentence mandated by federal statute that was far longer than the judge considered fair.

Delayed Trials for Fairer Outcomes?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a proposal by Adam Benforado, author of Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice, that one way to improve the criminal justice system would be to conduct and record trials outside of the jury’s presence, then to show edited versions of the recordings to juries after all of the evidence has been presented. Colb explains how this proposal could potentially improve the system and addresses some potential obstacles to its implementation.

The Shrinking Fourth Amendment: Heien v. North Carolina

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the potential downsides of the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding earlier this year in Heien v. North Carolina, in which the Court held that a police officer could, consistent with the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures, stop a driver for a behavior that the officer mistakenly but reasonably believes is illegal.

How Breast Exams Are Like Dog Sniffs

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb compares medical screening tests with dog sniffs for narcotics with respect to their propensity to yield Type I errors—also known as false positives. In particular, Colb references Justice Souter’s dissenting opinion in Illinois v. Caballes, in which he opined that the possibility that dogs would incorrectly indicate the presence of narcotics and lead to an invasive search meant that such dog sniffs constitute searches for Fourth Amendment purposes.

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 and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... 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. Befo... 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 country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing 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