Analysis and Commentary on Courts and Procedure
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.

Why the North Carolina Berger Voter ID Case Pending in the U.S. Supreme Court Would Benefit from Certification to the State High Court: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the facts and law giving rise to Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a North Carolina voter ID case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that the case highlights the importance of the legal procedure of certification and suggest that if the Court’s decision falls back on the traditional model of singular executive-branch representation embraced by the federal system and that of other states, the North Carolina legislature will have only itself to blame.

NY AG Tish James Won’t Be Fooled by Donald Trump’s Dodgy Affidavit to Escape His New York Court Contempt

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut points out that Donald Trump’s attempt to avoid being held in contempt of New York court for failing to respond to a document subpoena closely tracks an approach described by Nixon White House aide John Ehrlichman during the Watergate scandal. Mr. Aftergut predicts that New York Attorney General Letitia James is unlikely to fall for that tactic and is sure to go after Trump’s “limited, modified hang-out” to try to avoid accountability and the hand of justice.

The Value of Certification of State Law Questions by the U.S. Supreme Court to the North Carolina Supreme Court in the Pending North Carolina Berger Case: Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the development of the legal procedure of certification of state-law questions—by which federal courts ask a state high court how state law would apply to specific circumstances. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone explain why this procedure may be particularly helpful in a case currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, which shows the downsides to a state’s (North Carolina’s0 unique refusal to accept certified questions.

Textualism Masks Ideological Opposition to the Administrative State

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle invalidating the federal mask mandate for travelers. Professor Dorf points out the flaws in Judge Mizelle’s reasoning and argues that her ruling reflects a right-wing ideology that is hostile to government agencies addressing even the most pressing social problems.

The Chief Justice’s Dissents Confirm He’s Not In Charge. Let’s Just Call It the “McConnell Court”

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on three recent Supreme Court decisions in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the dissent, demonstrating that he does not carry sway in decisions on central issues such as a woman’s right to choose, voting rights, or protecting the environment. Mr. Aftergut points out that how the Justices vote in the upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will reveal whether the Roberts Court can preserve the core principles of judicial restraint in constitutional adjudication and stare decisis—or whether it is more appropriately called the “McConnell Court.”

The Evolution of Chief Justice John Roberts

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that Chief Justice John Roberts is, perhaps surprisingly, on the left of the current Court partly because of the Court moving far to the right in recent years and partly because of Roberts’s evolution as a jurist. Professor Dorf explores why Roberts has shifted, noting that he seems simply to adhere to a principle that historically liberals, moderates, and conservatives all agreed upon: don’t lie about the law.

Are Procedural Rights Under Title VII and Other Antidiscrimination Laws Modifiable or Waivable Outside of an Arbitration Agreement?

NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher and 2L Andrew Vaccaro comment on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit suggesting that statutory procedural rights are generally waivable by contract outside of arbitration.

Judge’s Ruling Helps January 6 Committee Zero in on Trump Lawyer’s Emails

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, explains how a recent ruling by a federal judge in Santa Ana, California, helps the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack get closer to obtaining emails from former Trump lawyer John Eastman. Mr. Aftergut argues that disclosure of Eastman’s emails would advance the committee’s search for truth, and with it, strengthened hope for preventing another insurrection.

Justice Breyer’s Legacy

In light of the news of Justice Stephen Breyer’s imminent retirement, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf reflects on Justice Breyer’s career. Professor Dorf observes that Justice Breyer lacks a distinctive legacy largely for two reasons: (1) he was junior to O’Connor, Kennedy, and Ginsburg for their time on the Court together and thus did not get key liberal assignments, and (2) as a pragmatist and compromiser, his reasoning relied more on nuance than on bold strokes.

Can the Public Trust that an Unmasked Justice Gorsuch was Unbiased About Mandates?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf asks whether we can trust that Justice Neil Gorsuch—who was the sole Justice not to wear a mask during oral arguments last week—was unbiased in considering two challenges to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates. Professor Dorf argues that Justice Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a mask indicates that he either does not believe the public health guidance or thinks he should be free to decide for himself whether to follow it—both of which possibilities undercut public confidence in the basis for his votes in the vaccine cases.

Remembering Brett Kavanaugh

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb praises Ruth Marcus’s 2019 book, Supreme Ambition, about Brett Kavanaugh’s rise to power and the events that took place after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault. Professor Colb notes that the book is engaging even for someone who closely followed the events as they occurred, and reflects on the trauma of living (and reliving) through that disillusioning period in our nation’s recent history.

Potential Juror Misconduct Threatens Ghislaine Maxwell Convictions

Texas law professor Jeffrey Abramson comments on a recent development in Ghislaine Maxwell’s jury trial for sex trafficking young girls to Jeffrey Epstein. Professor Abramson considers whether and to what extent Juror 50’s failure to disclose that he had been the victim of child sex abuse may upset the verdicts.

Who’s a Bounty Hunter? How the Supreme Court’s Own Standing Precedents Answer the Effort to Normalize Enforcement Outsourcing in the Texas Abortion Case

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why the concern expressed by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent in the Texas abortion case (Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson) that other states will follow Texas’s example and employ “private bounty hunters” is well founded and legitimate.

Kyle Rittenhouse, SB8 and the Dangerous Legalization of Vigilante Justice

Amherst professor Austin Sarat explains why the not guilty verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse sends a powerful message condoning vigilantism, particularly when coupled with the Texas law that authorizes private enforcement of its extreme prohibitions on abortion. Professor Sarat argues that vigilantism, including these instances, has historically taken root in times of social, cultural, and political transition, and in places with high levels of cultural diversity and institutional instability

A Question by Justice Thomas During the Second Amendment Argument Inadvertently Exposes a Weakness of his Originalist Philosophy

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explores the meaning of a question Justice Clarence Thomas asked during the oral argument in New. York State Rifle. & Pistol Association v. Bruen about the interpretation of the Second Amendment: “should we look at the founding, or should we look at the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, which then, of course, applies it to the states?” Professor Dorf argues that the question exposes a weakness of Justice Thomas’s originalist philosophy and affirms what we already know about arguments rooted in original meaning: they typically serve a rhetorical function, and Justices invoke them to justify decisions taken on other, ideological, grounds.

The Supreme Court’s Authority is at Stake in the Texas Abortion Case

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that even the procedural issues presented in the federal government’s challenge to Texas’s restrictive abortion law are high stakes. Professor Dorf argues that the procedural question fundamentally asks whether the U.S. Supreme Court will permit state-sanctioned lawlessness.

From Boston to Brunswick, Georgia: The Perils of Jury Selection

Texas law professor Jeffrey Abramson explains why the trial judge in the case against the three men who chased and shot to death Ahmaud Arbery should not commit the same mistake that occurred in the Boston Marathon trial—speeding up jury selection to convict obviously guilty defendants, only to have the sentence thrown out on appeal. Professor Abramson argues that while judges may understandably feel frustrated during jury selection in high-profile cases, taking shortcuts during jury selection risks forcing victims, witnesses, and the community to live through traumatic events twice.

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

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... 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

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... 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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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