Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law
How Should Universities Respond to Organized Right-Wing Trolling?

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.

The Case for Televising Donald Trump’s Trials

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.

A Breach of Decorum

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.

Friendly Advice for Law Schools Seeking to Inculcate Proper Free-Speech Values and Understandings in Light of the Stanford Episode with Judge Kyle Duncan: Part Two in a Series

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.

A Public Statement About Law Students (and Others) Acting Like Children, from a Fictional University President— Or, the Stanford Incident is Not What You Think

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.

Can a President Serve From Prison? We Might Find Out

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.

What Law Students Should Take Away from the Stanford Law School Controversy Involving Disruption of a Federal Judge’s Speech: Part One in a Series

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”?

Repeal of Iraq War Authorization While Leaving Post-9/11 Authorization Will Send Mixed Signal

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the apparently imminent repeal of two Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) against Iraq. Professor Dorf argues that while their repeal can be seen as an acknowledgment of the terrible error of invading Iraq and a reassertion of the principle of separation of powers, the action is insufficient so long as the post-9/11 AUMF remains in place, giving the President extraordinary power to deploy the military overseas without congressional involvement.

What Role Can States Properly Play in Resisting Potential Federal Overreach? A Recent Federal Case From Missouri Involving Gun Rights Illustrates Possibilities and Misconceptions

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a federal district judge striking down Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA). Dean Amar argues that while there are signification portions of SAPA that are unconstitutional and should be enjoined, the court’s decision is overbroad and poorly reasoned and should be reversed in part on appeal.

First, “Let’s Corrupt All the Lawyers”: Trump’s Pathway to Autocracy

Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comment on an order last week by Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordering former Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to answer questions he had declined to answer in January before Special Counsel Jack Smith’s grand jury. Professor Tribe and Mr. Aftergut point out that lawyers are uniquely positioned to either defend democracy against tyranny or facilitate its downfall; Judge Howell’s order reaffirmed the DC district court’s commitment to the rule of law as our shield against tyranny.

Latest on the MAGA Republican Agenda: Intimidate Prosecutors and Politicize Prosecution

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the number of bills recently introduced in many red states to curb prosecutorial discretion when it is exercised in ways that do not conform to their tough-on-crime agenda. Professor Sarat argues that prosecutorial discretion is an indispensable component of a society governed by laws, and that these bills violate the separation of powers, threaten to politicize prosecution, and, in so doing, undermine the rule of law.

The Ghost of Anthony Comstock and the Abortion Wars

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and professor Lawrence M. Friedman explain why the Comstock Act, an anti-vice law passed 150 years ago but never removed from the books, has recently become noticed again with Republicans’ renewed efforts to ban abortion nationwide. Professors Grossman and Friedman describe the law and the man behind the law, Anthony Comstock, and they argue that the so-called ghost law should remain dead.

The Inadequate “Adequate State Law Ground” Doctrine

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week in Cruz v. Arizona, in which a 5-4 majority of the Court delivered a rare victory to a capital defendant. Professor Dorf describes the circuitous path Cruz’s case took and how it highlights an inadequacy in the standard for viewing the “adequacy” of state law grounds for denying federal judicial intervention.

Arizona Case May Change the National Conversation About Race and Capital Punishment

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on two cases currently working their way through the Arizona court system, in which defense lawyers from the Capital Unit of the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender are raising innovative arguments based on the systemic racism in all aspects of American life. Professor Sarat argues that these carefully crafted and extensively documented motions call on judges to confront the reality of America’s racist past and continuing institutional racism before allowing the government to carry out any more “legal lynchings.”

South Carolina Tries to Ramp Up Secrecy in a Frantic Effort to Restart Executions

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the many attempts by South Carolina to resume executions in that state. Professor Sarat describes the recent history of capital punishment in that state and notes that a recent decision by the South Carolina supreme court put on hold a case involving death row inmates’ challenge to the state’s attempt to use the electric chair and the firing squad.

Do We Really Need the Third Amendment? Or What Can and Should We Do About Constitutional Vestiges

Amherst professor Austin Sarat points out the obsolescence of the Third Amendment and considers how we should regard that and other constitutional provisions that no longer serve the era in which we live. Professor Sarat argues that the Supreme Court has the unique authority to help the Constitution adapt to changing times, but the fascination of the Court’s current conservative majority with originalism threatens that adaptive capacity.

Does President Biden’s Plan to End the COVID Emergency Affect Pending SCOTUS Litigation Involving Title 42 and Student Debt Forgiveness?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether the Biden administration’s announcement that it would end the COVID states of emergency in May affect pending Supreme Court cases involving immigration policy and student debt forgiveness. Professor Dorf explains why the news is unlikely to affect the outcome of the immigration case and, conversely, why it might affect the student debt forgiveness case.

“I Hope They Stomp His Ass”

Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the videos released by the City of Memphis documenting the murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers. Professor Margulies points out that the atrocious conduct captured on video reflects a police culture that encourages brutality and indifference, arguing that if the Memphis Police Department can’t change the culture they’ve created, their officers don’t deserve the badge.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: A Long-Awaited Victory for Pregnant Workers

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which Congress introduced for the first time in 2012 and which President Biden finally signed into law on December 29, 2022. Professor Grossman explains the gaps in pregnancy discrimination law, the need to better address the realities of pregnant workers, and the ways in which the new law will better meet their needs.

George Santos and the Right of Candidates to Lie

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the revelation that George Santos, who is scheduled to take the oath of office as a new member of Congress tomorrow, lied about nearly his entire biography. Professor Dorf explains why the First Amendment likely prevents candidates from being held criminally liable for their lies, but he points out other ways we can sanction candidates who blatantly lie to gain office.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... 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

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

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

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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