Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law
Trump’s Pardons Can and Must Be Challenged and Nullified

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the President’s pardon power is not absolute or unreviewable, despite what many have suggested. Professor Buchanan observes that this conventional misreading of the clause is agrammatical because it treats an ambiguous provision as if it were unambiguous, and he points out that even self-styled textualists do not construct comparable provisions of the Constitution so absolutely.

Double Jeopardy: Answers to Six Questions About Donald Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, addresses six key questions about Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. Falvy provides clear and supported answers to frequently asked questions such as whether the Senate can act to remove Trump from the presidency, whether it can hold a trial after his term expires, who should preside, and whether he will lose his presidential perks.

Hawley’s Excuse for a Coup: Dangerous Nonsense in Search of a Legal Fig Leaf

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan challenges Senator Josh Hawley’s proffered reason that the Senate should have heard challenges to the counting of electoral votes. Professor Buchanan argues that, no matter how he tries to justify his approach, he was willing to violate the U.S. Constitution to overthrow the duly elected incoming President and to further his own cynical plans to run for President in a future election.

Remembering Deborah Rhode: Co-Author, Friend, and Feminist Co-Conspirator

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman, Duke Law professor Katharine T. Bartlett, and Pitt Law professor Deborah L. Brake reflect on the life and achievements of Professor Deborah Rhode, who recently passed away. Professors Grossman, Bartlett, and Brake describe Professor Rhode’s countless contributions to the legal academy and to the fight for gender equity.

The Steps the Biden Administration Needs to Take to Rescue the U.S. from the Precipice of Theocracy

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, describes the steps the Biden administration needs to take to bring the country back from the precipice of becoming a theocracy. Professor Hamilton highlights action items with respect to the Department of Justice, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment, tax exemptions and accountability, and governmental financial support for organizations engaged in discriminatory practices.

One More for the Road: Why Congress Must Impeach Donald Trump (Again)

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, makes the case for impeaching Donald Trump again, after the failed insurrection of January 6. Falvy describes three possible ways to disempower Trump from undermining democracy in our nation and explains why immediate impeachment by the House and removal by the Senate is the most appropriate course of action.

To Our Elected Representatives in Congress: The Framers Wouldn’t Be Surprised a President Attempted a Coup, Just Disappointed You Didn’t Stop It Sooner

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, pens an open letter to members of Congress, describing Wednesday’s insurrection by pro-Trump extremists as predicable (even predicted) to the Framers and calling upon Congress to impeach and convict the President. Professor Hamilton argues that Donald Trump is the embodiment of what the Framers expected from rulers: self-centered corruption, greed, and no care for the common good.

Can a Misdemeanor Count as an “Emergency” for Purposes of Skipping the Warrant?

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that presents the question whether the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement applies when the suspect may have committed a misdemeanor, as opposed to a more serious crime. Colb argues that if the Court believes that a misdemeanor (or a particular misdemeanor) is not important enough to justify the invasion of a person’s home, then it ought perhaps to hold that the police officer in the present should not have entered the suspect’s home, period, with or without a warrant.

Another Strike Against § 230 of the Communications Decency Act: Courts Allowing § 230 to Trump Federal and State Public Accommodations Protections

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and 2L Samantha Zipper describe how several courts have invoked Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a basis for limiting rights against discrimination in public accommodations. Estreicher and Zipper argue that as American society moves increasingly online, § 230 must be read more narrowly, with goals of safeguarding individual civil rights in an already prolific internet sector.

The Twenty-Sixth Amendment and the Real Rigging of Georgia’s Election

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar explains why Georgia’s law allowing persons 75 years and older to get absentee ballots for all elections in an election cycle with a single request, while requiring younger voters to request absentee ballots separately for each election, is a clear violation of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Dean Amar acknowledges that timing may prevent this age discrimination from being redressed in 2020, but he calls upon legislatures and courts to understand the meaning of this amendment and prevent such invidious disparate treatment of voters in future years.

Pardonne-Moi

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb describes the assumptions inherent in the executive pardon power and explains why the purpose of the presidential pardon forecloses the possibility of a self-pardon. Colb argues that the only person who would dare to try to grant a self-pardon—one who lacks empathy—is the very one who should not be exercising the pardon power at all.

Severability in Larger Constitutional Context: Part Five in our Series on the California v. Texas Challenge to the Affordable Care Act

In this fifth of a series of columns examining the California v. Texas case challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar, Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker, and Illinois law professor Jason Mazzone discuss severability in a larger context and explain why, in their view the majority and minority positions are partly right and partly wrong. The authors conclude that if the Court invalidates and enjoins the individual mandate, it should reject the challengers’ substantive express inseverability claim that the entire ACA remainder should be enjoined.

What Trump’s Pardons Reveal about Him and His Misunderstanding of Executive Clemency

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—describes how President Trump’s pardons reveal his “superficial and distorted” understanding of American values. Professor Sarat points out that for someone who claims to value the clemency power, President Trump has granted clemency fewer times than any President since William McKinley, who served from 1897 to 1901, and when Trump has granted clemency, he has used it to reward people whose crimes show their contempt for the rule of law.

How Mike Huckabee and Robert Bork Could Help Center Neil Gorsuch

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb analyzes an unusual comment by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee that a government restriction on the size of people’s Thanksgiving gathering would violate the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. Colb describes a similar statement (in a different context) by conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork during his (unsuccessful) confirmation hearings in 1987 and observes from that pattern a possibility that even as unenumerated rights are eroded, the Court might be creative in identifying a source of privacy rights elsewhere in the Constitution.

The Rhetoric About a “Decline” in Religious Liberty Is Good News for Americans

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, explains why the rhetoric about a “decline” in religious liberty actually signals a decline in religious triumphalism, and is a good thing. Professor Hamilton describes how religious actors wield the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) not as a shield, but as a sword to destroy the lives of fellow Americans.

Mandatory Vaccination and the Future of Abortion Rights

In light of recent news that Pfizer and Moderna have apparently created safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19, Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether the government can mandate vaccination for people who lack a valid medical reason not to get vaccinated. Dorf briefly addresses issues of federalism and religious objections to vaccination and then addresses the question whether mandatory vaccination might be inconsistent with a right to abortion.

How to Prevent Republican State Legislatures from Stealing the Election

Amherst College Associate Provost Austin Sarat and attorney Daniel B. Edelman explain the important role of Democratic governors in preventing Republican state legislatures from stealing the election. Sarat and Edelman describe a “nightmare scenario” in which Republican legislatures may try to strip the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada, leaving Biden with 232 electoral votes compared to Trump’s 306. The authors call upon the governors of those states to defend the integrity of their states’ election results, insist that there have been no “election failures,” and, if necessary, submit to Congress their own elector lists.

The Affordable Care Act Challenge and the Senate Runoff Elections in Georgia

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the third challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that has made it before the U.S. Supreme Court, and considers how the case will play in the upcoming Georgia runoff elections. Dorf argues that absent a dramatic and highly unusual development—like a Supreme Court decision rejecting the ACA challenge in the next few weeks—that should help the Democratic candidates in Georgia’s runoff elections.

Pope Francis’s Statement Endorsing Civil Protections for Same-Sex Couples Undermines the Moral Legitimacy and Legal Arguments in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia

David S. Kemp, a professor at Berkeley Law, and Charles E. Binkley, MD, the director of bioethics at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, consider the implications of Pope Francis’s recently revealed statement endorsing same-sex civil unions as they pertain to a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Kemp and Binkley argue that the Pope’s statement undermines the moral legitimacy of the Catholic organization’s position and casts a shadow on the premise of its legal arguments.

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 the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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