Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law
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.

Obamacare Nonseverability Ruling Exposes Uncertainty in our Conception of Law

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent ruling by a federal district judge in Texas striking down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act and argues that the judge relies on a highly unorthodox (and erroneous) interpretation of the doctrine of “severability.” As Dorf explains, there is a notable lack of judicial consensus as to what courts actually do when they declare laws unconstitutional, despite that the Supreme Court established its power of judicial review over two centuries ago in Marbury v. Madison (1803).

What Would a New Constitutional Convention Look Like? Two Dozen Unanswered Yet Crucial Questions

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses the possibility of a federal constitutional convention to propose fundamental revisions to the document. Amar points out that many fundamental legal questions about such a convention remain unanswered and highlights 24 important questions that will need to be considered if a constitutional convention seems imminent.

Double Jeopardy Case in Supreme Court is About More than Trump

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the double jeopardy question raised in Gamble v. United States, in which the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments last week, and explains how the extraordinary nature of the Trump presidency should inform judicial decision making. Building upon a point made in a 1985 Columbia Law Review article by Professor Vincent Blasi, Dorf argues that judges construing the Constitution and other legal texts in perilous times such as these should keep in mind that the rules they adopt will also operate in normal times.

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.

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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