Analysis and Commentary on Courts and Procedure
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.

The Procedural Issues in the Texas Abortion Case

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the procedural issues the U.S. Supreme Court recently addressed in the Texas abortion case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Dorf explains why the majority’s reasoning on the procedural issues is reasonable (and in his view, correct), notwithstanding the criticism by the dissent.

More On Trump’s Business Practice Coming Soon to a Screen Near You

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, continues his discussion of the federal lawsuit against Trump University. As Dean points out, Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel drew public attention to this lawsuit and may further harm his presidential bid if his confidential and video depositions are released, which Dean argues is likely.

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.

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.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... 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 Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law and Director of the Center of Labor and... 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 Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in... 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