Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law

Did a Federal District Judge Defy the Supreme Court in Invalidating Male-Only Draft?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision by a federal district court judge in Texas declaring unconstitutional the US’s male-only military draft. Dorf points out that the judge’s decision defies the Supreme Court’s admonition that federal court judges should follow even outdated Supreme Court precedents, “leaving to th[at] Court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions” and considers whether there is any other reason that admonition should not apply.

What Should the Court Do With That Cross?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a case heard by the US Supreme Court this week raising questions about the Establishment Clause. Griffin summarizes some of the main points of each of the advocates in the case and argues that the Court should provide a clearer standard—a straightforward rule that one religion cannot be preferred to another.

Holy Dictum: Federal Judge Rejects Protection Against Transgender Discrimination in “Elegant Aside”

SMU Dedman School of Law professors Joanna L. Grossman and Grant M. Hayden comment on a concurring opinion by a Fifth Circuit judge that goes well out of its way to make illogical arguments regarding transgender discrimination under Title VII. Grossman and Hayden briefly describe the history of courts’ interpretation of Title VII and explain, point by point, why Judge James Ho’s writing is merely an “op-ed piece masquerading as a concurring opinion.”

How do Grutter and Fisher Bear on the Question Whether Law Reviews Can Take Race and Gender Into Account in Selecting Members (and Also Articles)? Part Two in a Series

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone continue their discussion of whether law reviews may take race and gender into account in selecting members and articles. In this second of a three-part series of columns, Amar and Mazzone analyze some of the key substantive arguments made by the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The Heckler’s Veto vs. The Podium Pullback: Why Public Universities Should be Given Room to Craft Data-Informed and Viewpoint-Neutral Policies to Govern Speaker Events

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a challenge presently facing public (and many private) universities: how best to handle student organizations’ invitations of contentious speakers to speak on campus. Amar points out the legal limitations to some proposed solutions and argues that the law should adapt to a changing world to allow universities more options to craft data-informed and viewpoint-neutral policies.

Complicity in Trump’s Bogus Emergency

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency after Congress denied him most of the funding he requested for a border wall. Dorf describes the legal framework that allows the president to do so even in the absence of an emergency and points out that combined actions of Congress, the courts, and the People have created this situation.

Can Law Reviews Take Race and Gender Into Account in Selecting Members (and Also Articles)? Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a legal challenge to the practice by Harvard Law Review of taking into consideration race, gender, and other demographic factors when making membership decisions. Amar and Mazzone highlight some of the hurdles the challenger faces in establishing standing— the right to have the dispute heard in a federal forum.

Justifying External Support for Regime Change in Venezuela

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recognition by the United States and some other constitutional democracies of Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader pending new elections. Dorf points out that many countries suffer under incompetent, corrupt, and authoritarian leaders just as Venezuela did under Nicolás Maduro, yet constitutional democracies typically do not rally behind the ouster of those leaders. What makes Maduro’s case different?

Not an Administrative Law Bang but a Whimper

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher comments on Kisor v. Wilkie, a case currently before the US Supreme Court that raises the narrow question whether a court should accept an interpretation by the Department of Veterans Affairs of its own technical regulation but also gets at a broader question of judicial deference more generally. Estreicher argues that when agencies interpret their own regulations, courts should afford those interpretations only Skidmore respect, not the higher Chevron-style deference that has come to be commonplace.

“Implied Consent” and the Fourth Amendment Go To the US Supreme Court

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case the US Supreme Court recently agreed to review raising the question whether a state statute may constitutionally conduct a blood test on an unconscious driver suspected of drunk driving under a theory of “implied consent.” Colb explains the meaning of “implied consent”—deceivingly named, for there is no actual consent—and predicts that, consistent with the Court’s recent precedent on a similar issue, the state statute should be struck down.

On Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, New York Moves to Shore Up Reproductive Rights

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing into law the Reproductive Health Act, which eliminates disparities between the federal constitutional standard and New York’s statutory standard preserving a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Grossman describes the evolution of abortion rights in the United States and points out that New York’s move to safeguard this right comes at a time when the US Supreme Court might rule to overturn its precedent, and ironically, on the 46th anniversary of the Court’s historic decision in Roe v. Wade.

What the Alabama Confederate Memorial Case Says About Modern Constitutional Doctrine

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why a recent decision by an Alabama trial court was constitutionally misguided while also illustrating some of the prominent and problematic features of modern First Amendment and federalism doctrines. Amar describes the reasoning behind the ruling, points out the flaws in the analysis, and then offers two takeaway points that we might learn from the opinion.

How Should the Law Address Illicit Motives in the Age of Trump?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a case arising from the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire—a case the US Supreme Court had on its calendar for oral arguments until late last week, when the federal district judge issued an opinion and enjoined the government from including the question. Despite the original issue presented in the case (a technical one about the scope of discovery) being made moot by the district court opinion, Dorf discusses the remaining and greater issue of how to discern and address illicit government motives.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan Proves Once Again the Church Will Never Reform Itself without the Law and Civil Society Behind It

Marci A. Hamilton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—comments on an op-ed by New York City’s Archdiocese’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan that Hamilton characterizes as full of “misstatements and ugly implications.” Hamilton disassembles Dolan’s claims and explains why litigation—not mediation, as Dolan claims—is critically essential for the victims of child sex abuse to access the justice they deserve.

Who’s a Good Boy? US Supreme Court Considers Again Whether Dog Sniffs Are Searches

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case in which the US Supreme Court is considering whether to grant review that presents the question whether police must obtain a search warrant before bringing a trained narcotics dog to sniff at a person’s door for illicit drugs. Colb highlights some of the most interesting arguments on the issue and explains some of the nuances that make a clear answer more elusive in these cases.

Run, Baby, Run: Federal Court (Correctly) Sends Pregnancy Discrimination Case to Trial

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman praises a recent decision by a federal district court allowing a claim of pregnancy discrimination to go to trial and denying the employer’s motion for summary judgment. Grossman describes the factual and legal background of the case and explains how the court used two methods to find that the case should go to trial on the merits.

Why Facebook’s Hate-Speech Policy Makes So Little Sense

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on Facebook’s global efforts to block hate speech and other offensive content and explains why formula-based policy necessarily makes very little sense. As Dorf explains, accurate determinations of hate speech require cultural understanding and evaluations of cases on an individual basis, but this approach also necessarily injects individual bias into those decisions. Thus, Facebook’s policy, while not ideal, may be but one of a handful of inadequate options.

2018 Year in Review: Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations, and the Catholic Bishops’ Spiritual Retreat

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—comments on the progress (and lack thereof) of legislation in 2018 affecting child sex abuse victims’ access to justice across the United States. In particular, Hamilton calls upon American bishops to start advocating for, rather than against, the victims of abuse.

Federal Lawsuit Tests Constitutionality of Arizona Statute for Filling US Senate Vacancy Created by John McCain’s Death: Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a lawsuit filed in federal court in Arizona that challenges the way state officials are handling the vacancy in the US Senate created by Senator John McCain’s death four months ago. Amar explains the basis of the lawsuit and discusses the sparse case law on point that may determine the outcome of the lawsuit.

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

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