Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar critiques a recent decision by a federal district judge in Colorado on free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Dean Amar points out the essential problems with the court’s reasoning and assesses what those errors might mean about the shortcomings of legal education and the legal system.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out that, if we reach the drop-dead date of the debt ceiling, both options available to President Joe Biden will be unprecedented, destabilizing, and risky. Professor Buchanan argues that Biden’s least bad choice in that situation is to continue to pay the nation’s bills and that doing anything else for the sake of seeming “normal” is more dangerous for the economy and the country.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on the debt-ceiling controversy and argues that the left would be well-advised to engage the merits of these political and constitutional questions, rather than invoking the “the other side is unfairly trying to undo things that have already been decided” argument. Dean Amar points out that in fiscal politics and constitutional law, the status quo is not nearly as easy to identify or rigid as some would suppose, and very few decisions are truly immune from reconsideration, despite the principle of stare decisis.
Cornell Law Professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week in National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) v. Ross, in which the Court rejected a challenge by a pork industry trade group to a California law that bans in-state sale of pork unless the pigs were raised in accordance with certain minimum standards for “humane” treatment. Professor Dorf points out that it is unusual for the Supreme Court to acknowledge, as Justice Neil Gorsuch’s lead opinion does, animal welfare as a legitimate moral interest and expresses hope that the decision might pave the way to more substantial reforms of animal cruelty laws and changes in personal consumption choices.
NYU Law Professor Samuel Estreicher comments on a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Illinois holding that the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act protections do not apply to union-represented workers because claims under the Privacy Act are preempted by Section 301 of the federal Labor Management Relations Act. Professor Estreicher argues that the court’s decision is in tension with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in Lingle v. Norge Div., Magic Chef, Inc., and its progeny, which provide that adjudication of an employer’s under the CBA does not generally trigger Section 301 preemption.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent from the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s use of lethal injection as a method of execution. Professor Sarat argues that Justice Thomas has seldom come across a death sentence he wouldn’t uphold or an execution he wouldn’t try to expedite—and his opinion in this case was no exception.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on California’s SB 403, which proposes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste. Dean Amar points out some of the constitutional flaws in the bill and describes some changes that likely need to be made to make the law more constitutionally defensible.
Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar explores some of the difficult questions related to First Amendment challenges to public university diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and programs. Dean Amar points out that while open-ended balancing tests are often unsatisfying, sometimes—as may be the case with these challenges—they are also the best courts can come up with.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues forcefully that the U.S. Supreme Court should stay the execution of Richard Glossip, whom Oklahoma is planning to execute on May 18 despite serious doubts about the fairness and reliability of his conviction. Professor Sarat points out that the Oklahoma Attorney General supports Glossip’s application for a stay, recognizing that to carry out the execution would irreparably harm both the defendant and the integrity of Oklahoma’s justice system.
Penn professor Marci Hamilton and UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin explain how six conservative Catholics were able to be on the U.S. Supreme Court at the same time. Professors Hamilton and Griffin describe how 1970s and 1980s laid the groundwork for today’s conservative Catholic Court and argue that this group is making extraordinary progress toward making the United States a Catholic theocracy.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf provide yet another reason against the proposal that the government should mint a multi-trillion-dollar platinum coin to avoid the impending debt ceiling crisis. Professors Buchanan and Dorf point out that if trillion-dollar platinum coins are legal to avoid a debt-ceiling crisis, that would lead to the absurd result that they would always be legal as a means of substituting modern monetary theory (MMT) for the entire apparatus of public finance.
Continuing his discussion of the incident at Stanford Law School, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains the essential difference between disagreeable speech and intimidation and threats of physical violence. Professor Buchanan reminds us that the consequences of being disfavored and vulnerable are not a matter being socially unpopular, but matters of life and death.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent Supreme Court oral argument in Counterman v. Colorado, which raises the question of what may constitute a “true threat,” which is outside the scope of First Amendment protection. Professor Dorf argues that, notwithstanding the present case about stalking, the Court’s rulings gutting the Voting Rights Act, greenlighting extreme political gerrymandering, and expanding the scope of the Second Amendment are the true threat to democracy.
In this second of a series of columns in response to a recent controversy at Stanford Law School, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers how universities should respond to organized efforts to stir up politically useful controversy on campus. Professor Buchanan argues that it is a recipe for disaster to fail to see through the schemes of individuals or organizations who are acting in bad faith and that other universities should not play along.
Criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Jon May discusses the rules regarding televising high-profile trials and calls for the trials of former President Donald Trump to be televised in the interest of transparency. Mr. May argues that courts have adequate procedural controls to ensure jurors and the judicial process are sufficiently protected and that televising the trials will allow anyone, anywhere in the country or the world, to see the truth for themselves.
Cornell professor Joseph Margulies comments on the recent expulsion of two Democratic representatives from the Tennessee legislature after the representatives (along with one other) participated in a peaceful but disruptive protest on the House floor. Professor Margulies points out that Tennessee has a history of silencing Democratic voices through state-law preemption of local laws on matters including minimum wage, antidiscrimination law, restrictions on plastic containers, access to broadband internet, gun control, and more.
In this second of a series of columns in response to the Stanford Law School controversy involving disruption of a federal judge’s speech, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer additional thoughts about how to design a training session about the freedom of speech and norms of the legal profession should include. Specifically, Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone discuss (1) when and how educational institutions should themselves speak, (2) the best ways to register disagreement with offensive speakers and messages, and (3) what schools should do about students who say they feel genuinely harmed or unsafe when certain kinds of speakers are present.
UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan assumes the role of president of a fictional university writing in response to the recent “shouting down” incident at Stanford Law School. Specifically, Professor Buchanan takes on the claim some have advanced that the law student protesters were acting like children, and he argues that in fact, the (adult) federal judge behaved in the most juvenile manner.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why, if Donald Trump wins the 2024 Presidential Election, there is a genuine possibility that he would serve some or all of a presidential term while in prison. Professor Dorf points out that while the best reading of the Constitution would render Trump ineligible to serve as President while in prison, the only actors authorized to declare him ineligible would be extremely unlikely to do so.
In response to the Stanford Law School controversy involving disruption of a federal judge’s speech, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer thoughts about how to design a training session about the freedom of speech and norms of the legal profession should include. In this first of a series of columns, Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone focus on two key topics: (1) What, precisely is “shouting down” of a speaker, and why can such activity be prohibited and punished? And (2) What About the Venerable Tradition of “Civil Disobedience”?