Analysis and Commentary on Government
Whether and Why Delegations of Government Power to Private Actors Are Problematic: The Court May Take Up the Nondelegation Doctrine in DOT v. Association of American Railroads

UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a case the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this Term regarding the so-called nondelegation doctrine. Amar argues that the Court should uphold the delegation of power in this case and that related concerns about conflicts of interest and anti-competition that may arise from some delegations to market actors are better handled under a due process analysis.

A Special Counsel to Investigate the IRS Targeting of Tea Party Groups

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda discusses the need for the Attorney General to appoint Special Counsel to investigate IRS misconduct. Rotunda argues that by appointing Special Counsel, the Attorney General can restore America’s faith in the nonpartisanship of the Internal Revenue Service.

Resurrecting the Dubious State Secrets Privilege

John Dean, former counsel to the president, comments on a recent case between two private parties in which the U.S. Attorney General intervened and sought dismissal, citing the “state-secrets privilege.” Dean explains the questionable history of this privilege and explains why blind adherence to it can be dangerous.

Are “Advisory” Measures (Like Proposition 49) Permitted on the California Ballot?

UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a recent decision by the California Supreme Court temporarily blocking an “advisory” measure from appearing on the ballot. Focusing on the opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu, Amar describes three main weaknesses in the rationale behind disallowing the legislature from placing the advisory question (or any advisory question) on the ballot.

Who Is Abusing Power: Rick Perry or Michael McCrum, His Special Prosecutor?

John Dean, former counsel to the president, comments on the recent indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Dean cautions against falling for Perry’s and even some Democrats’ quick dismissal of the indictment as politically motivated and lacking sufficient basis. Dean argues that only Perry, not his special prosecutor, may have abused his power.

Message to Young People: Social Security Will Be There For You, Unless You Let Wall Street Take It Away From You

George Washington University law professor and economist Neil Buchanan argues against the notion that Social Security will “go broke” before today’s workers retire. Buchanan discusses the origins of the idea—including disinformation campaigns by opponents of Social Security—and explains why the is unfounded, as long as people continue to support the program politically.

Grounding the No-Fly List: Part Two of a Three-Part Series of Columns

John W. Dean, former counsel to the president, continues his discussion of the U.S. government’s No-Fly List. In this second of a three-part series of columns, Dean focuses on the constitutional implications of the No-Fly List: deprivation, without due process, of one’s right to travel internationally and one’s reputation interest.

Did the Supreme Court Err by Rejecting Political Deadlock as a Basis for Recess Appointments?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning, in which the Court unanimously invalidated President Obama’s 2012 appointment of three members of the National Labor Relations Board. Dorf discusses the differences between rationales and implications of the five-Justice majority opinion authored by Justice Breyer and those of the four-Justice concurrence authored by Justice Scalia. Dorf argues that the Court’s rejection of political deadlock as a basis for recess appointments could prove to be an important weapon anytime the majority in the Senate is actively hostile to the President.

Follow-Up on California’s Legislative Effort to Repeal Proposition 187

U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar continues his discussion of the California Legislature’s efforts to repeal, by ordinary legislation, provisions of a proposition that have been blocked indefinitely by a federal district court judge. Amar responds to arguments by the State Legislative Counsel that Proposition 187 can be repealed by simple legislation. He contends that the Legislative Counsel overreads the import of a judicial block on enforcement of the proposition and ignores the expressive effects of that law. Amar concludes by proposing that while he agrees that the repeal should go forward, it should follow prescribed procedures and include popular approval.

Grounding the No-Fly List: Part One of a Three-Part Series of Columns

In this first of a three-part series of columns, former counsel to the president John W. Dean discusses government watch lists in the post-9/11 era—specifically No-Fly Lists. He explains the questionable means by which these No-Fly Lists are created and maintained, and he calls attention to the absence of any way for people erroneously listed to seek any legal recourse.

Why the California Legislature Can’t Simply Repeal the Judicially Invalidated Proposition 187

U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses efforts by California lawmakers to repeal provisions of the state code that a federal judge invalidated many years ago. Amar explains why those efforts, though understandable, reflect fundamental understandings of the scope of the legislature’s authority and the essence of judicial review.

The Soda Ban or the Portion Cap Rule? Litigation Over the Size of Sugary Drink Containers as an Exercise in Framing

Guest columnist and Touro Law Center professor Rodger Citron comments on the litigation in New York over a rule prohibiting food-service establishments from serving sugary drinks in sizes larger than sixteen ounces. Citron describes the arguments put forth by each side and explains why the critical issue is whether the Board of Health's has the authority to promulgate such a rule.

Federal Judge Turns Back Hunt for Gays in the Department of Justice

Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a federal lawsuit by a conservative group seeking to “expose” the U.S. Department of Justice as having been taken over by gay and lesbian employees. Grossman compares the attempt to 1950s-era McCarthyism and the largely successful effort to purge the federal government of gays and communists at that time. She argues that the district court in this case correctly found that the DOJ was justified in refusing to release sensitive documents pertaining to the sexual orientations of its employees.

Impeachment Insanity Has Consequences

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean describes a recent trend of hard-right conservatives using the impeachment process as a weapon against government officials with whom they have mere political differences. Dean comments on the “Impeach Obama” movement and explains why it is unfounded and dangerous. He explains how the trend is now also starting to affect state officials, and he cautions that the impeachment movement could have serious consequences and cause significant problems that its advocates seem not to understand.

The Legal Story of the Year, and Next Year Too: Edward Snowden

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the ongoing importance of Edward Snowden, whose spectacular leaking of National Security Agency (NSA) secrets continues to have profound implications, in a set of specific ways that Dean describes. Accordingly, Dean argues that Snowden’s should be deemed the key legal story of 2013 and very likely that of 2014, too. Dean also compares what Snowden should do now, with what Daniel Ellsberg did after revealing the Pentagon Papers.

GAO Report Highlights Compelling Reasons for New Federal Privacy Law

Justia columnist and U.Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on the world of big data, in which, as our data gets resold, recombined, and repurposed, we often have little idea what companies have data about us, where a given company may have initially obtained that data, and what that data will be used for in the future. Ramasastry argues that regulation in this area is sorely needed, and discusses the recent GAO report on the issue.

The GOP’s Nixonian Filibuster of Another Obama Judicial Nominee

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the Republicans’ filibusters of judges nominated for federal Circuit Court seats. He notes that this is a pure Nixonian technique, as well as a standard contemporary GOP procedure. Dean also comments on the first GOP filibuster, in 1968. Dean also comments on when Democrats will retaliate.

Could the President Bomb Syria Even If Congress Says No?

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on President Obama’s options in Syria. Dorf notes that Secretary of State John Kerry’s position is that the President can act without Congress. But Dorf calls that position profoundly misguided, citing international law and the U.N. Charter on the use of force. Dorf also points out that Congressional approval cannot substitute for Security Council authorization. Moreover, he comments on prior presidents who faced situations in which there was a lack of Congressional authorization for the use of force.

New Accusations by a Nixon Apologist Based on Recently Discovered Information Regarding the Watergate Cover-Up Trial

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on Watergate revisionism, and, in particular, Geoff Shepard’s recent piece in The Atlantic claiming that Nixon’s top advisers did not get justice when they were convicted for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Dean strongly differs with Shepard’s account, and explains precisely why. Among other points, Dean rebuts Shepard’s claim that former Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski and Judge Sirica held secret ex parte meetings which were unlawful.

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 Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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