Analysis and Commentary on Courts and Procedure

The Supreme Court Considers Whether to Pierce Jury Secrecy for Evidence of Racial Bias

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the arguments on both sides of a difficult question currently before the Supreme Court—whether a defendant is entitled to use juror testimony to impeach a verdict based on racial bias, notwithstanding a contrary rule of evidence. Colb describes the facts leading up to the case and discusses the jurisprudence that will most likely affect the justices’ ultimate decision.

The State Law Gauntlet Facing Child Sex Abuse Survivors: A Long Way to Go to Child-Centered Justice

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how federal and state law interact to block survivors of child sex abuse from justice. As Hamilton explains, extending statutes of limitations for bringing abuse claims, or eliminating them altogether, is only one (albeit critically important) step state legislators must take toward helping survivors get the justice they deserve.

Do Fourth Amendment Protections Vanish After an Indictment? The Manuel v. Joliet Case on the Supreme Court’s Docket

University of Illinois Law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar comments on a case in which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week. In that case—Manuel v. Joliet—the Court will consider whether an individual’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure continues after an indictment has issued, thereby allowing a malicious prosecution claim based on the Fourth Amendment. Amar argues that the case highlights some unusual features of Supreme Court practice, as well as some important aspects of constitutional law.

The Future of the Supreme Court, Regardless of Who Wins the Election

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains what can be deduced about the Supreme Court's future, even before the 2016 US presidential election. Dorf references the role that the Court plays in American public life while also offering notable examples of areas where the Court has little to no say. Additionally, Dorf reminds readers that many more cases are decided unanimously than by a single vote and that it is difficult to predict future ideological divisions among justices, regardless of whether they were nominated by a Republican or Democratic president.

The Problem With the Texas Federal Court’s Nationwide Order Regarding Bathroom Access for Transgender Students

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and U.C. Davis Law professor Courtney Joslin discuss a recent decision by a federal district court in Texas issuing a nationwide order regarding bathroom access for transgender students. Amar and Joslin explain why the order almost certainly oversteps that court’s authority without providing any reasons or analysis to justify its overbroad relief.

Who Oversees the Overseers? An Explosive Law Review Article Points Up the Difficulty in Keeping Appellate Courts Honest

University of Illinois dean and law professor Vikram David Amar responds to a law review article by University of Illinois law professor Al Alschuler criticizing the Seventh Circuit, and specifically judge Frank Easterbrook, for what Alschuler views as judicial wrongdoing. Rather than comment on the validity of Professor Alschuler’s allegations, Amar argues that Alschuler’s article highlights the need for greater attention to be paid to the integrity and validity of U.S. courts of appeals.

Justice Breyer Uses Trans Restroom Case to Revive “Courtesy Fifth Vote”

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on Justice Stephen Breyer’s use of a “courtesy fifth vote” to stay lower court rulings that would have allowed a trans student to use the restroom corresponding to his gender identity. Dorf explains the origin and history of the “courtesy” vote in the U.S. Supreme Court and argues that Justice Breyer’s attempt to invoke and expand it is inappropriate in this particular context.

Judges Excoriating Other Judges for Using Terms of Art They Don’t Like: The Comments of Richard Posner

Ronald Rotunda, law professor at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, comments on a concurring opinion by Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit criticizing other judges for using legal terms of art. Rotunda argues that Judge Posner’s criticism makes little sense and is inconsistent with his own prior written opinions.

Prisoner Case Underscores Justice Scalia’s Legacy

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses a recent unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that illustrates the lasting impact Justice Scalia had on the Court’s approach to statutory interpretation. Dorf describes the shift from purposivism to textually constrained purposivism over the past half century, and explains how they differ from the textualism Justice Scalia espoused.

(Yet) Another Obamacare Lawsuit Raises Issue Whether the House Can Sue the President

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare) that recently succeeded in a lower federal court. That challenge, brought by the U.S. House of Representatives, raises the threshold issue whether the House can sue the president to vindicate their legislative powers. Amar explains the few notable times the Supreme Court has considered whether legislators or legislatures could sue the executive branch, and he compares and contrasts those cases with the present challenge.

Supreme Court Requires “Concrete” Injury for Standing

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, in which the Court unremarkably affirmed its position that a plaintiff in federal court must have suffered (or be in danger of imminently suffering) a “concrete and particularized injury.” Dorf explains why, in cases such as Spokeo that involve one private party suing another, the Court should abandon the concreteness requirement of judicial standing.

Two Courts, Two Interpretations

Igor De Lazari, Antonio Sepulveda, and Carlos Bolonha discuss a recent decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court affecting presidential impeachment procedures. The authors point out that the United States and Brazil have similar constitutional origins of impeachment proceedings but that the two countries diverge in interpreting and applying those provisions.

Supreme Court Convenes a Settlement Conference

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on a recent unusual order by the U.S. Supreme Court asking for supplemental briefing from the parties to the latest religious challenge to Obamacare. In contrast with other commentators who have described the order as “puzzling” or “baffling,” Dorf explains how the Court’s order resembles something federal district courts do on a routine basis: facilitate settlement of the dispute.

How Should Courts Evaluate a Treatment Decision by a Government Doctor That Takes into Account the Patient’s Race? The Ninth Circuit Doesn’t Quite Get Things Right

Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, and Michael Schaps, a California civil litigation attorney, critique a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considering whether and when a government physician can take into account a patient’s race. Amar and Schaps argue that the court’s analysis is internally consistent and legally flawed, as well.

Deciding Strategically: Lessons From a Brazilian Supreme Court Decision

Guest columnists Igor De Lazari, Antonio Sepulveda, and Henrique Rangel comment on a recent ruling by the Brazilian Supreme Court that criminal sentences may be enforced after a challengeable appellate court decision—a ruling the authors argue departs from the clear meaning of article 5, section LVII of the Brazilian Constitution. De Lazari, Sepulveda, and Rangel suggest that the ruling was based on strategic motivations by the justices, rather than purely on interpretations of the law.

The Grave Risks of the Senate Republicans’ Stated Refusal to Process any Supreme Court Nominee President Obama Sends Them

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes some of the risks Senate Republicans will face if they refuse to process any Supreme Court nominee that President Obama sends them, as they have claimed they would. Among these risks, Amar argues, are the possibility that a President Hillary Clinton might appoint Obama to the Supreme Court, that the Democrats could take over the Senate and approve a nominee that a Republican-controlled Senate would not have approved, or even that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg could retire under a Democrat-controlled Senate, giving President Obama three places on the Court to fill with liberal justices.

Senate Republicans Offer Laughable Reasons for Refusing to Confirm an Obama Supreme Court Nominee

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf explains why Republicans’ claims that President Obama lacks democratic legitimacy in appointing a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Dorf points out that the reasons offered thus far for refusing to confirm an Obama nominee seem to imply that originalism/formalism can be validated or invalidated by popular approval, even absent a constitutional amendment.

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 Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar, a Professor of Law at The George Washington Univ... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.  Bef... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... 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 of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more