Analysis and Commentary on Courts and Procedure
A Constitutional Republic Demands a Constrained Judiciary: Judicial Overreach in “Vacating” Biden’s Loan Forgiveness Program

Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe comments on a decision by a federal judge in Texas vacating the Biden administration’s loan forgiveness program. Professor Tribe argues that Judge Mark Pittman, a Trump appointee, incorrectly concluded that the court had jurisdiction to review the challenge to the debt relief program and explains why judicial restraint is such a critical part of a constitutional republic.

Three Reasons the Midterms Were Good for Courts

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes three pieces of news from Tuesday’s elections that Americans who value the Constitution should celebrate. Specifically, Mr. Aftergut highlights the defeat of key state gubernatorial election deniers, the continued confirmation of federal court judges, and the affirmation by voters of their faith in the evidence-based work that courts do.

Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.: Of Corporate Registration Statutes and Personal Jurisdiction

Touro Law professors Laura Dooley and Rodger Citron discuss a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of a state statute authorizing the exercise of general personal jurisdiction over corporations registered to do business in the state. Professors Dooley and Citron argue that the Court will almost certainly declare the state statute violates the due process rights of the defendant corporation, and they explore why that outcome is such a foregone conclusion.

The Federal Courts’ Future Is on the Ballot

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut explains the stakes of the upcoming election with respect to the shape and legitimacy of the federal courts. Mr. Aftergut points to numerous recent examples of federal district courts and courts of appeals fulfilling their role as factfinders and seekers of truth amid a country awash in election lies and conspiracy theories.

The Injustice, Insincerity, and Destabilizing Impact of the SCOTUS Turn to History

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent cases demonstrate that the Supreme Court’s self-professed originalists are acting in bad faith, knowing that professed originalism is no more than a rhetorical envelope they can stuff with their conservative policy views. Professor Dorf explains why the Court’s new test of “text, history, and tradition” is unjust, insincere, and destabilizing.

Is Justice Kagan Right that Areas of Constitutional Law Should Not Change Quickly on Account of New Membership on the Court?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on recent comments by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan expressing reservations about doctrinal changes attributable to the arrival of new Justices. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that new Justices have played an important and generally positive role in advancing the constitutional landscape.

It Is Time for the Supreme Court to Act: A Four Step Proposal to Strengthen the Court’s Legitimacy

Barry Winograd proposes a four-step plan to restore the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is currently facing a serious public relations problem. Mr. Winograd calls upon the Court itself to act—rather than waiting for the Executive or the Legislative branch—by: (1) providing live and orderly audio transmission of oral arguments, (2) adopting an enforceable code of ethics binding on all Justices, (3) establishing consistent standards limiting use of the Court’s “shadow docket,” and (4) establishing term limits for the Justices.

What the Divided Argument in the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Cases Could Mean

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the possible significance of the Supreme Court’s decision to divide, rather than consolidate, argument in the affirmative action cases it will be deciding next term. Professor Dorf suggests the decision would allow Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to participate in one of the cases and could also allow the Court to attend to at least two important factual and legal differences between the two cases.

James Coddington’s Clemency Petition Offers a Chance to Recognize the Rehabilitation and Redemption of Death Row Inmates

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the clemency petition filed by Oklahoma death-row inmate James Coddington. Professor Sarat argues that, though unlikely to succeed based on Oklahoma’s history, Coddington’s petition offers the state the chance to revive a tradition of recognizing rehabilitation and redemption for people on death row.

Roe and Dobbs as Defining Cases for the Supreme Court and the Justices Who Wrote the Majority Opinions

Touro Law professor Rodger D. Citron argues that just as Roe v. Wade is the representative case of Justice Harry Blackmun’s tenure on the Supreme Court, so too will Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization become the emblematic decision of its author, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. Professor Citron analyzes the differences between the two decisions and the Justices who authored them, and what those differences mean about the Court that decided each of those cases.

The Kavanaugh Court?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar observes that Justice Brett Kavanaugh is emerging as a centrist perspective in key cases, including one expanding gun rights (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen) and one repudiating abortion rights (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization). Dean Amar points out that although Justice Kavanaugh voted with the majority in both cases, he added a narrower gloss via a concurring opinion and was the only Justice to do so in both cases.

Some Questions for the Alito Five

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.

Judicial Deference and the Future of Lethal Injection

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on a recent decision by a federal district court judge deferring to the evidence provided by the state in support of its lethal injection procedure, despite significant contradictory evidence. Professor Sarat argues that the trilogy of Supreme Court precedents on lethal injection not only altered the legal standards but tilted the playing field for fact-finding when death row inmates bring lethal injection challenges.

Are Activist Judges Efficient? Who Cares? What Matters Is That They Do Justice

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is “efficient” (in one sense of that fraught word) for courts to sometimes act like legislatures—i.e., to legislate from the bench. Professor Buchanan points out that deciding cases too narrowly or incrementally causes unnecessary litigation to try to identify where courts will draw the line, particularly when the judges and justices already know where they want that line to be. He emphasizes, however, that efficiency is not the ultimate goal of the law, and minimizing litigation costs should never supersede the pursuit of justice.

Is the SCOTUS Leak Investigation Legal? Maybe, But It Is Also Hypocritical and Potentially Counterproductive

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that while the Supreme Court’s investigation into who leaked Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade may be legal, it is also highly hypocritical in at least two respects. Professor Dorf argues that the investigation violates the spirit (and perhaps even the letter) of the Court’s Fourth Amendment cases, and it amounts to self-dealing because it focuses on the clerks, but not the Justices or their spouses.

Justice Comes to John Durham’s and Bill Barr’s Political Prosecution

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the acquittal of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman and what it means for former U.S. Attorney John Durham and former Trump Attorney General William Bar. Mr. Aftergut points out that all of Durham’s prosecutions, including another he has set for trial in October, are about facts that post-date the fully legitimate launch of the FBI’s 2016 Trump-Russia investigation, precluding any possibility of showing that investigation was a “hoax.”

Ten Thoughts on Illinois’s Unique Process for Filling State Supreme Court Vacancies

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer ten thoughts on Illinois’s unique process for filling state supreme court vacancies. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone describe some of the advantages and disadvantages of Illinois’s process, and they compare and contrast it to other similar processes in government.

Defamation Lawsuit Hits “Big Lie” Bullseye

Former federal prosecutor comments on recent news that courts have required several far-right television networks to issue statements recanting their false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Aftergut praises these decisions as demonstrating the role of lawyers and courts in upholding truth and provable facts.

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

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 Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... 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