Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the proposal that eliminating or substantially reducing the qualified immunity currently enjoyed by police officers would address racism and police brutality. Although the idea has lately garnered some bipartisan support and could potentially have some benefit, Dorf describes two reasons to be skeptical of the suggestion. He concludes that for all of its flaws, qualified immunity may actually facilitate the progressive development of constitutional rights.
Touro law professors Jeffrey B. Morris and Rodger D. Citron conduct a profile of John J. Gleeson, the lawyer and former judge who has been appointed as a “friend of the court” to advise the federal district court on a matter where the U.S. Department of Justice is seeking dismissal of the case against former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Morris and Citron describe Gleeson’s background both on and off the bench and predict that, if given the opportunity to fulfill his role, Gleeson will certainly be fair and proper in determining the proper way to deal with Michael Flynn’s case.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on the recent news that the Justice Department will seek dismissal of charges against Michael Flynn. Sarat suggests that because the decision does not seem to advance the fair administration of justice in this case, the court should take the unusual step of refusing to grant the prosecutor’s motion to dismiss.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent per curiam decision staying an injunction by a federal district court in Wisconsin, effectively allowing the election in that state to go forward on with the normal timeline for casting ballots in place, despite concerns over the effects of COVID-19. Amar and Mazzone argue that, while the outcome might have been unjust, the plaintiffs in that case likely did not allege a constitutional violation and thus did not properly allege claims suitable to be remedied in federal court.
Guest columnist Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—points out one unusual effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: deferring the executions of death row inmates. Sarat observes that while past pandemics have not affected the rate at which states have executed inmates, last week the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted 60-day stays in the execution sentences of two men, and other states seem poised to follow suit.
Touro law professor Jeffrey B. Morris reflects on the impressive career of the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein, who recently announced his retirement from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York at the age of 98. Morris praises Judge Weinstein for his skill and humanity as a jurist, pointing out the many ways his opinions, articles, and speeches reflect his belief that “aiding the weak and suffering is the primary duty and soul of American law.”
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on last week’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit holding that federal courts could not enforce a congressional subpoena to former White House Counsel Don McGahn because federal courts cannot adjudicate interbranch disputes. Dorf describes some of the major flaws in the court’s reasoning and explains why the ruling is a clear victory for Donald Trump and a loss for the constitutional system.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on New York’s lawsuit against the federal government over the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to exclude New York residents from eligibility for Trusted Traveler programs. Dorf describes some of the interesting legal questions the lawsuit raises in terms of administrative law, judicial standing, and constitutional law.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on case in which Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) brought a civil damages suit on behalf of an abused horse, now named Justice, against the horse’s former owner. Colb dismantles three arguments critics raise in opposition to recognizing abused animals as plaintiffs in lawsuits such as this one.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf offers one interpretation of Chief Justice John Roberts’s annual year-end report on the federal judiciary—that the Chief Justice intends to serve as a modest counterbalance to President Trump. Dorf supports his interpretation with text and context of the year-end report but offers his cautious praise to the Chief Justice with a few important caveats as well.
Rodger D. Citron, the Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship and a Professor of Law at Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, comments on the late Justice John Paul Stevens’s last book, The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years. Citron laments that, in his view, the memoir is too long yet does not say enough, but he lauds the justice for his outstanding service on the Supreme Court.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a case the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review that presents the question whether a provision of the Delaware Constitution that requires the state’s judiciary be nearly equally balanced between Democrats and Republicans is constitutional. Dorf argues in favor of the provision, explaining that the provision takes into consideration partisan affiliation as means of limiting the role of politics in judicial appointments and judging.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg and his critics are both wrong about the U.S. Supreme Court having become especially political. Dorf points out that since the Court’s 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison the Court has been highly political, and the true problem lies with the unprecedented polarization of the political parties—not with the Court or the appointments process.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent unanimous decision by the U.K. Supreme Court ruling that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in asking the Queen to prorogue Parliament. Dorf explains how that ruling highlights the error of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause, in which the Court declined to intervene in a political gerrymandering case, citing the so-called political question doctrine.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb responds to a colleague’s claim (yet unconfirmed) that jurors have an easier time distinguishing truth from falsehood when they read a transcript of testimony than when they listen to and watch the testimony directly. Assuming the claim is true, Colb describes why that claim might at first be surprising and also why, on further consideration, it makes sense. She proposes that if the claim is true, we ought perhaps to consider whether the distractors inherent in live testimony should excludable under the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a panel of state-court judges in North Carolina striking down partisan gerrymandering schemes as violating that state’s constitution. Amar had argued after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Rucho v. Common Cause that state courts would have to address partisan gerrymandering on “independent and adequate state-law grounds” (rather than on federal constitutional grounds), which is exactly what the North Carolina court did.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether a possible Supreme Court ruling in a “faithless elector” case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit could end the National Popular Vote (NPV) movement, which attempts to circumvent the Electoral College by interstate compact. Dorf provides a short background of NPV and the Tenth Circuit’s decision, and he explains why a decision by the Court decides to affirm the Tenth Circuit’s reasoning would threaten NPV.
Guest columnist Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—expresses concern that Democrats are joining President Trump in undermining the public’s trust in the judiciary. Sarat specifically discusses an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by five Democratic senators in which the senators criticize the bias and partisanship of the Court’s conservative justices.
In this second of a series of columns, Illinois law professors Lesley Wexler, Jennifer Robbennolt, and Jennie Pahre continue their discussion of the legal mechanism of cy pres—by which a court decides a remedy based on how closely it serves the intended purpose (originally from the law of trusts). The authors draw upon the plot and characters of the television show Fleabag to illustrate how restorative justice might help re-center the #MeToo debate away from its seemingly sole punitive focus and more towards the twin purposes of victim restoration and deterrence.
In tribute to Justice Stephen Breyer’s 25 years of service as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses his favorite Breyer majority opinion, dissent, and concurrence. Amar describes Justice Breyer’s opinion in each case and explains why it is notable, and he considers what we might expect from the justice in the coming years.