Analysis and Commentary on Courts and Procedure

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.

Sticking Up (Kind of) for a(n Idaho) State Court Slapped Down by the U.S. Supremes

Vikram David Amar—dean and law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law—comments on a summary reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court of a decision by the Idaho Supreme Court. While Amar agrees with the Court that the Idaho court erred in reaching its decision, but he argues that the Idaho jurists were not guilty of the particular stupidity or defiance the Supreme Court imputed to them.

Bill Cosby and the Rule Against Character Evidence

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the role of Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 404 in the criminal trial against Bill Cosby. Colb argues that the rule against character evidence serves a specific purpose in “whodunit” cases (where the perpetrator is unknown) but that it may serve a different purpose in “what was done” cases, such as the present case against Cosby.

Insight From Oregon

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies explains how the peaceful protesters at a federal facility in Oregon could advance the cause for criminal justice reform. Margulies reminds us that that the triggering event for the protest was an order by a federal judge that two ranchers serve a prison sentence mandated by federal statute that was far longer than the judge considered fair.

Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations Reform 2015 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses some of the changes 2015 saw with respect to reform of sex abuse statutes of limitations. Hamilton praises such progress as the sweeping inquiries undertaken by Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the release of the award-winning motion picture, Spotlight, which chronicles the Boston Globe journalists’ path to breaking the story of priest abuse in the Catholic church.

When Does Congress’s Recognition of an Injury Count to the Supreme Court? Standing and the Spokeo v. Robins Case

Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, and Michael Schaps, a California civil litigation attorney, discuss Spokeo v. Robins, in which the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the nature of injury required for a plaintiff to avail herself of the federal court system. Specifically, Amar and Schaps describe the justices’ various perspectives on the issue and the possible origins and significance of these perspectives.

Locating the Problem of Race-Based Peremptory Challenges in a Broader Context: The Possibilities Raised by the Foster Case on the Court’s Docket

University of Illinois law professor and dean Vikram David Amar describes the problem of race-based peremptory challenges and argues that peremptory challenges be eliminated altogether on the grounds that we should not allow a person to be denied the right to serve on a jury for any reason that would not also suffice as a reason to deny that person the right to vote in an election.

Delayed Trials for Fairer Outcomes?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a proposal by Adam Benforado, author of Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice, that one way to improve the criminal justice system would be to conduct and record trials outside of the jury’s presence, then to show edited versions of the recordings to juries after all of the evidence has been presented. Colb explains how this proposal could potentially improve the system and addresses some potential obstacles to its implementation.

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 Col... 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 teac... 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

She is an expert in an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book, more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States and the Paul R. V... 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 i... 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