Amherst professor Austin Sarat and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argue that Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, together with the language in Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion, put the country on a path toward the totalitarian state that one-time Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork had envisioned. Professor Sarat and Mr. Aftergut point out that Bork’s America would have a constitution that does not evolve or change to meet new circumstances and that affords no protection of citizens’ privacy from government intrusion
UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which the Court allowed a public-school football coach to lead players in his public Christian prayer. Professor Griffin argues that the decision effectively deletes the Establishment Clause from the Constitution and elevates the free exercise rights of a few individuals.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Nance v. Ward, holding by a 5-4 majority that death row inmates can file suits using 42 U.S.C § 1983. Professor Sarat argues that lethal injection specifically and executions generally are necessarily inhumane, brutal, and savage.
Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies describes the tribal blame machine, which both sides use to demonize the “other” side and drive us apart. Professor Margulies argues that a mature democracy must reject the tribal blame machine and instead embrace a fair, sober, even-handed appraisal of the facts, free from hyperbole and pot-banging.
In this second of a series of columns on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., attorney Jon May argues that the decision threatens certain fundamental rights conferred by the Fourth Amendment. Mr. May predicts that those rights will not withstand the onslaught of law enforcement conduct in entering and searching our homes without a warrant, invading our private thoughts and associations found on our smart phones and computers, or stopping and searching us on the streets without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the Supreme Court’s opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., Inc. v. Bruen invalidating a New York law restricting licenses to carry concealed handguns to persons able to demonstrate a “special need” for one. Professor Dorf explains that the majority opinion adopts a methodology that focuses exclusively on history, which he argues could make it nearly impossible for government to protect people from new threats due to gun violence.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the recent announcement that under one scenario, the depletion date of the Social Security trust funds is now one year later than previously predicted—now 2035. Professor Buchanan explains the significance of this announcement—that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s visionary program will continue (for now) to protect all generations of Americans despite efforts of Republican autocrats to destroy it.
University of Pennylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week in Carson v. Makin, in which it held the Free Exercise Clause requires Maine to subsidize religious private schools because it subsidized non-religious private schools. Professor Hamilton argues that the decision further erodes the Establishment Clause and disregards the rights and needs of children.
University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton comments on the recent news that the Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, a Jewish synagogue in Florida, has sued the state under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) over its new restrictive abortion laws that it argues violate their religious faith. Professor Hamilton praises the synagogue for leading the charge against an oppressive minority but condemns the tool it must use to do so—RFRA— which Hamilton argues is a tried-and-true path to religious division and mutual intolerance.
Attorney Jon May argues that the reasoning of Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked majority draft of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. poses a threat not only to reproductive rights, but to all constitutional liberties not expressly enumerated in the Constitution. Mr. May points out that the radical departure of Justice Alito’s opinion could pave the way for the Court to overturn numerous rights recognized over the past seventy years deriving from the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should put the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory to rest sooner rather than later. Specifically, Dean Amar suggests that Justice Stephen Breyer—who is set to retire but who joined Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter in expressly rejecting ISL in 2000—should be among the voices to condemn the unsupportable theory.
In light of Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., which would overrule Roe v. Wade and its progeny, UChicago Law professor emeritus Albert W. Alschuler and Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe ask six questions of the apparent five-Justice majority. Professors Alschuler and Tribe point out some of the inconsistencies and illogic of the opinion and call on the Justices to account for these issues.
Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explores a suggestion by some pro-choice advocates that a “religious abortion” might serve as a workaround to the apparently imminent demise of the constitutional right to abortion. Professor Colb explains why that workaround is unlikely to prevail: the current Court discounts the Establishment Clause, and its ostensible embrace of the Free Exercise Clause is actually friendliness only to conservative Christianity (and to Judaism and Islam where the traditions happen to be the same).
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut writes a hypothetical speech that, unfortunately, those grieving the suffering and loss of life from the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, will likely never hear from their elected officials. In the speech, Mr. Aftergut rhetorically points out that the speaker’s approach is common sense yet also highly unlikely to be embraced by those with the power to do so.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar describes a few (albeit unlikely) ways in which the Supreme Court could more moderately rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., rather than outright striking down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which a majority seems poised to do), or upholding them (which three Justices almost certainly support). Dean Amar explains the doctrine of “political reliance” and how it could lead the Court either to “return” the abortion question to the states to legislate (rather than having unenforced pre-Roe statutes to spring back to life), or to “sunset” the abortion right, giving the public time to account for the change in law.
In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court likely deciding soon to review a case presenting the question of the legitimacy of the “Independent State Legislature” (ISL), Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains why the theory necessarily fails unless its proponents make up the meaning of Article II of the Constitution without regard to its words or historical context. Dean Amar argues that the notion of ISL does not work for Article I or Article II, but it certainly does not work for Article II under the textual approach employed by its proponents.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shinn v. Ramirez, in which the Court held that federal judges may not intervene in state cases to protect the Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel, even when there is evidence evidence that the condemned might be actually innocent. Professor Sarat points out that the decision demonstrates the conservative Justices’ prioritization of finality over justice and serves only to further erode confidence in and support for capital punishment in this country.
Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies explains why, when asked how he can defend someone accused of horrible crimes, he no longer uses the response that most criminal defense lawyers use—that a lawyer doesn’t defend their client’s behavior but instead holds the government to its burden by zealously defending their client’s rights. Instead, Professor Margulies responds to that question that he is defending the client’s humanity against society’s impulse to reduce a defendant to their deed, imprisoning them in their past.
In light of the leaked Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. and the resulting protests in front of the homes of some of the Justices, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers where, if anywhere, protests against judicial decisions are appropriate. Professor Dorf notes that under current law, the First Amendment as currently construed by the Supreme Court seems to protect a right to peaceable protest near the home of a judge or Justice so long as: (a) the protesters merely pass by but do not linger at the home; and (b) they do so without the intent to intimidate. However, Professor Dorf also points out that such protest might not always be tactically prudent.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the recent botched execution of Clarence Dixon in Arizona, pointing out that the repeated efforts to place the IVs demonstrate that lethal injection is not a humane process. Professor Sarat describes the importance of time in the execution process and argues that courts assessing the start time of an execution (for purposes of Eighth Amendment challenges and Double Jeopardy challenges) should start the clock from the moment of the first physical invasion of the inmate’s body, contrary to the Ohio Supreme Court’s determination that the insertion of IV lines is “merely a ‘preparatory’ step to the execution.”