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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hofstra Law professor Eric M. Freedman argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization repudiates the Court’s delicate role in our democracy. Professor Freedman argues that the decision is a reckless assault on the very institution of judicial review and will weaken the Court and endanger us all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the uniquely problematic conduct of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Virginia (Ginni).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.