Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law
New York Sues the Trump Administration Over “Trusted Traveler” Eligibility

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on New York’s lawsuit against the federal government over the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to exclude New York residents from eligibility for Trusted Traveler programs. Dorf describes some of the interesting legal questions the lawsuit raises in terms of administrative law, judicial standing, and constitutional law.

Letting His Hair Down: Why a School District in Texas Is Wrong to Deprive a Male Student of an Education Because of the Length of His Hair

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Duke law professor Katharine T. Bartlett explain why a public school district in Texas violated both the federal Constitution and Title IX by having (and enforcing) a hair-length policy for boys but not for girls. Grossman and Bartlett describe the facts of the case and the legal landscape for sex-specific dress and appearance policies before concluding that the school district’s decision to enforce the policy was not only poor judgment but illegal.

Kansas v. Glover and Conditional Irrelevance

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb discusses the concept of “conditional irrelevance”—which she first identified in a law review article in 2001—and explains why the concept is useful for understanding the arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Kansas v. Glover. Through the lens of conditional irrelevance, Colb explains why the knowledge of one fact (that the owner of the vehicle in that case lacked a valid license) should not itself provide police reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle.

A Win for Equal Pay: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds A Law Designed to Address Wage Gap

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholding a local law designed to address the wage gap. Grossman describes the landscape of equal pay law and the efforts some states and localities have made to address the inequity.

Dead Letter Office: What’s Left of the Impeachment Power After Trump’s Acquittal

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, discusses what happens now, after Senate Republicans voted to acquit President Trump. Falvy predicts that (1) President Trump will be emboldened to commit further abuses of power, (2) future presidents will be less constrained by fear of impeachment, and (3) impeachment may become more routine as political practice and significantly less effective as a constitutional remedy.

What Else Might Senate Republicans Have Done, Given That They’re Too Scared to Do the Right Thing?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether there is anything Senate Republicans might have done, instead of outright acquitting President Trump, to maintain the role of Congress as a coequal branch with the Executive. Buchanan proposes that under the text of the impeachment clauses, those Republican senators could have voted for removal—the necessary result of finding wrongdoing—but permitted Trump to run again in the election later this year.

The Real Insidious Part of Dershowitz’s Impeachment Defense

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker discuss Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s explanation of why he stands (virtually) alone in his views on impeachment—that all the scholars who disagree with him are biased partisans. Amar and Caminker explain why this claim is so insidious, with effects lasting well beyond the span of the current presidency.

Discrimination and the “Leveling Down” Puzzle

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers how much freedom the government has to “level down” in response to a finding of impermissible discrimination. Dorf discusses several of the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents on leveling down and points out that these decisions are difficult to reconcile with each other and leave unresolved the questions whether and when leveling down is permissible.

The Unacknowledged Clash Between the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of the Religion Clauses and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and UC Davis law professor emeritus Alan Brownstein comment on a largely unacknowledged clash between religious accommodations and exemptions on the one hand, and core free speech principles which the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, on the other. Amar and Brownstein describe this apparent conflict and suggest that the Court begin to resolve the conflict when it decides two cases later this term presenting the question of the scope of the “ministerial exception.”

What Will the Court Say About Religious Freedom?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the oral argument the U.S. Supreme Court heard this week in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which presents the justices with questions about the meaning of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. Griffin describes the questioning by the justices and predicts that the outcome in this case will demonstrate how many justices still believe in the separation of church and state.

The Equal Rights Amendment and Article V

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the possible consequences of the Virginia legislature’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) just last week, becoming the 38th state to do so. Dorf explains why there remains a question as to the validity of Virginia’s ratification, given the Amendment’s purported deadline, and explains why both liberals and conservatives alike should urge Congress to deem the ERA now valid.

The Framers Would Want You to Know: Alan Dershowitz Is Wrong About Impeachment, and So Is the President

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that abuse of power is a sufficient ground for presidential impeachment, notwithstanding the argument to the contrary by President Trump’s impeachment defense lawyer, Alan Dershowitz. Hamilton explains that abuse of power by the President was the very fear of the Framers of the Constitution, and to reject it as an impeachable offense would subvert the spirit of the Constitution, as evidenced by the Framers’ debates at the Constitutional Convention.

You Have the Right to the Silent Treatment

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb proposes the psychological effects of the “silent treatment” as a possible reason that arrested individuals who understand their Miranda rights nevertheless confess to the police. Rather than seeking to dispute or displace other explanations of the phenomenon, Colb suggests that when police leave a suspect alone in his cell, he may experience their exit as the silent treatment and confess as an attempt to end it.

Dear Harvey: You Are the Spark that Started the #MeToo Movement

Joanna L. Grossman, law professor at SMU Dedman School of Law, reviews how disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein started the #MeToo movement. Grossman details the origins of the #MeToo movement, particularly Weinstein’s role, and describes how Weinstein’s despicable behavior helped to illuminate and begin to address sexual misconduct not only by individuals, but throughout entire industries.

Senate Secrecy: Can the Votes of Senators on President Trump’s Impeachment be Withheld from the Voting Public?

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone evaluate the suggestion made by some that the votes of senators on President Trump’s impeachment can and should be private. Amar and Mazzone argue that while the text of the Constitution alone does not foreclose secrecy, structural, prudential, and logistical considerations strongly disfavor a secret vote on the matter.

Impeachment of the President Normally Requires a Crime

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and 3L Christopher S. Owens discuss the unique situation of the impeachment of a U.S. President for conduct not alleged to be a crime. Looking to both text and history, Estreicher and Owens argue that commission of a particular, defined crime should be necessary for presidential impeachment for the preservation of the legitimacy and original purpose of that political device, particularly in polarized times such as these.

Can a President Who Is Reelected After Being Acquitted in One Impeachment Case be Retried by a Subsequent Senate?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether a President who has been impeached and acquitted may, if reelected, be retried by a subsequent Senate. Amar acknowledges that it is unclear whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendments’ criminal procedural protections apply to impeachment proceedings, but he offers two key reasons that re-litigation of impeachment allegations after presidential reelection would be improper.

Evaluating the Lawsuit Attacking Mississippi’s Distinctive Method of Picking Governors: Part Three in a Series

In this third of a series of columns on a legal challenge to Mississippi’s method of selecting governors, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone discuss the merits of the challenge, with a particular focus on the plaintiffs’ contention that the method violates the one-person, one-vote principle enshrined in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Amar and Mazzone discuss the relevant precedents and argue that based on those precedents, the challenge has solid legal ground on which to proceed.

If There Are No “Obama Judges” or “Trump Judges,” Does the Constitution Permit Delaware to Require Partisan Balance on its Courts? The Supreme Court Will Decide.

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a case the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review that presents the question whether a provision of the Delaware Constitution that requires the state’s judiciary be nearly equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans is constitutional. Dorf argues in favor of the provision, explaining that the provision takes into consideration partisan affiliation as means of limiting the role of politics in judicial appointments and judging.

Same-Sex Couples, Identical Twins, and the Text of Title VII: Point-Counterpoint

Cornell law 3L Jareb Gleckel and professor Sherry F. Colb discuss, in point-counterpoint style, one aspect of the legal issue presented in Altitude Express v. Zarda—in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees based on sexual orientation. Gleckel argues that sexual orientation discrimination does not qualify as sex discrimination under the text of Title VII and describes a hypothetical example in support of his argument. In response, Colb first addresses Gleckel’s formalistic argument and then contends, even assuming Gleckel’s premise to be true, that because the policy at issue in Zarda discriminates between men and women both formally and in a manner that inflicts a gender-relevant injury, it violates the text of Title VII.

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 Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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