Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law

Assessing the Challenge to Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting System for Congressional Elections

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a legal challenge to Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting system, filed by a Republican incumbent and three Republican Maine voters following the November 2018 mid-term election. Amar breaks down the crux of the lawsuit while also unpacking the logistics of a rank order voting system like Maine’s. Providing examples of how rank order voting could work in presidential elections, Amar uses illustrations of past election results to highlight how their outcome might have differed under such a voting system while addressing such a system's limitations.

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.

Rape and Confessions

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb explains how a better understanding of consent in a police interrogation context can inform our understanding of consent in a sexual context. Colb argues that the solution to both is to educate everyone more effectively about what will and will not successfully make things (the interrogation or the sexual activity) stop.

Why California Cannot Dictate to Whom the Federal Government Sells Federal Lands

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why a federal district court was correct in ruling that a California law that seeks to discourage the transfer of federal lands to private parties violates principles of federal supremacy under the Constitution. Amar addresses the two arguments California made in defense of the law and points out that under long-standing precedent, states cannot single out federal entities for discriminatory regulatory treatment.

How Bad Will Things Become? Part Seven: Goodbye, New Deal and Great Society?

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his series of columns considering how much damage the US Supreme Court will inflict after Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. Drawing upon the nation’s experience with a conservative Court during the Lochner era, Buchanan predicts that one of the most consequential results of Republicans’ theft of a Supreme Court seat could be to seriously undermine one or more of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Tension Between the Vatican and American Bishops Over Next Steps in the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis: Could We See the Beginning of a Schism?

Marci A. Hamilton—the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania—describes the growing tension between the Vatican and American Bishops with respect to clergy sex abuse and considers whether a schism might be imminent. Hamilton refers to and draws upon a column she wrote in 2002, in which she argued that disagreement between American bishops and the Vatican over the correct path for dealing with clergy sex abuse was foreordained.

Part Three on California’s Mandate That Women Be Placed on Corporate Boards: Dormant Commerce Clause and Improper Government Purpose Questions

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone continue their commentary on California’s mandate that women be placed on corporate boards. In this third of a series of columns on the topic, Amar and Mazzone consider whether SB 826 violates the Commerce Clause and whether there are constitutional issues with the state’s use of the law merely to make a political statement.

Is California’s Mandate That Public Companies Include Women on Their Boards of Directors Constitutional? Part Two

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone continue their discussion of the constitutionality of California’s law requiring that publicly held corporations have a minimum number of women on their boards of directors. In this second of a series of columns, Amar and Mazzone consider whether California’s ostensible reasons for enacting and implementing SB826 are permissible and “important”—the standard required under federal intermediate equal protection scrutiny.

Trump’s—and the GOP’s—Hat Trick of Falsehoods About Pre-Existing Conditions

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf debunks President Trump’s claim that he has kept his campaign promise to “protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions.” Dorf provides three primary reasons that the claim is dishonest: the administration’s position in a pending lawsuit; the GOP’s proposed alternative, which does not require insurance companies to offer policies that actually cover pre-existing conditions, and the claim that Democratic support of Medicare for All is “radical socialism.”

Should Madison Live or Die?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a case currently before the US Supreme Court—Madison v. Alabama—in which the Court will consider whether a death row inmate may constitutionally be executed despite his advanced dementia causing him not to recall the crime for which he is to be executed. Griffin highlights the ethical and legal issues raised in that case and addresses considerations on both sides.

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 Future of the American City: Part Two

In this second of a four-part series about a new approach to community well-being, Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the problem of displacement. Margulies points out that influx of capital is not necessarily bad for community well-being but distinguishes gentrification, which can be good, from displacement, which is harmful to communities.

Is California’s Mandate That Public Companies Include Women on Their Boards Of Directors Constitutional?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider the constitutionality of California’s recently passed law requiring that publicly held corporations to have a minimum number of women on their boards of directors. In this first of a series of columns on this topic, Amar and Mazzone analyze whether, under the Equal Protection Clause, the law fails federal intermediate scrutiny.

Could the Conservative Attack on the Administrative State be Good for Net Neutrality—and for Progressive Regulation More Generally?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf anticipates the possible next steps in the federal government’s lawsuit against California over the state’s new law mandating net neutrality. Dorf explains why, if conservative scholars and Supreme Court justices succeed in what seems to be their goal of weakening federal regulatory agencies, that could ironically be a boon to net neutrality and to government regulation more broadly.

What Legal Effect, If Any, Can Recent State Ratifications (Including Illinois’s Earlier this Summer) of the Equal Rights Amendment Have?

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether the recent purported ratifications by Nevada and Illinois of the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, proposed in 1972, have any legal effect. Amar proposes seven questions and answers raised by these states’ actions and argues that even if a 38th state were to ostensibly ratify that amendment (the number needed to amend the Constitution), it could not be considered part of the Constitution.

The United States Olympic Committee and the USA Gymnastics NGB Need to Be Dissolved and Reconstituted

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, calls upon Congress to dissolve and reconstitute the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics due to their inept handling of child sex abuse within those organizations. Hamilton points out that private organizations have boards of directors who shoulder responsibility for correcting actions of their organizations, but Congress must act when the bad actors are within national governmental bodies (NGBs) such as USOC and USA Gymnastics.

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