Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Law

The Latest Report on Institution-based Sex Abuse Is Issued on the United States Olympic Committee’s Failures

Marci A. Hamilton—the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania—comments on the most recent report on child sex abuse, which was commissioned by the US Olympic Committee and focuses on the Dr. Larry Nassar scandal. Hamilton points out that scandal after scandal should make clear to the public that we have a systemic problem that is cultural, not isolated.

Abuse Victims Still Don’t Get Justice

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin criticizes the recent order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to permanently redact the names of eleven priests from the grand jury report on sexual misconduct by the clergy in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses. Griffin argues that the redaction undermines the purpose of the grand jury report to promote openness and sends the negative signal to survivors that the court will protect their abusers.

Rape and Confessions

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb explains how a better understanding of consent in a police interrogation context can inform our understanding of consent in a sexual context. Colb argues that the solution to both is to educate everyone more effectively about what will and will not successfully make things (the interrogation or the sexual activity) stop.

Tension Between the Vatican and American Bishops Over Next Steps in the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis: Could We See the Beginning of a Schism?

Marci A. Hamilton—the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania—describes the growing tension between the Vatican and American Bishops with respect to clergy sex abuse and considers whether a schism might be imminent. Hamilton refers to and draws upon a column she wrote in 2002, in which she argued that disagreement between American bishops and the Vatican over the correct path for dealing with clergy sex abuse was foreordained.

Kavanaugh Saga Shows the #MeToo Movement at a Crossroads: Three Legal Reforms Needed Now

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how the Kavanaugh confirmation process shows the crossroads at which the #MeToo movement now stands. Hamilton goes on to describe three legal reforms that are needed now: to fix the criminal and civil statutes of limitations, to revise defamation laws, and to fix the mandated reporting laws so those with knowledge of sex assault share it with the authorities.

Evaluating a Rape List

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a wiki document allegedly started by a group of students at the University of Washington last year that allows people to make anonymous accusations of rape or sexual abuse by posting the names of alleged assailants. Colb explains the reasons behind the list, as well as the problems the list poses, and concludes that while the list is not perfect, it may be the only form of justice available to victims under a system that fails to prosecute and convict acquaintance rapists in earnest.

To Achieve Justice for the Victims of Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania: Don’t Let History Repeat Itself

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains why it is so important for the justice for the victims of sex abuse in Pennsylvania that that state continue its momentum for statute of limitations reform. Hamilton explains that the state legislature has only seven days left in its session to pass the reform.

What Do the Cases Involving Bill Cosby, Clergy Sex Abuse, and Brett Kavanaugh Have in Common? Powerful Men Who Think Themselves Powerful Enough to Make Credible Accusations Disappear, But They Are Wrong

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how Bill Cosby, Catholic clergy, and Brett Kavanaugh are all in different stages in the justice system but cut from the same cloth. Hamilton points out that in the era of #MeToo, powerful men can no longer evade credible serial accusations of sexual misconduct.

Exceptional, but not an Exception

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies relates the story of one young man whose early life experiences and mistakes landed him in prison but who, after excelling in the Cornell Prison Education Program—a program in which Cornell professors teach university classes to prisoners—was released on parole after his first parole hearing and now attends Cornell University as a student. Margulies explains that this young man—Darnell Epps—may be exceptional, but he is not unique in being a person incarcerated at an early age who can redeem himself and contribute great things to our society.

Big Business Battles the #MeToo Movement

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes how insurance, chamber of commerce, and religious lobbyists are impeding child sex abuse victims’ access to justice in several states. Hamilton points to three states that were considering bills that seemed optimistic but have since been turned sideways by big business and powerful lobbyists.

The Sex Assault Avengers: The Enemies and a Superpower

Marci A. Hamilton—one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania—analogizes Marvel’s blockbuster Avengers movie with the far more serious (and real) fight for justice for sexual assault victims. Hamilton explains in terms understandable to any moviegoer why statutes of limitations on sexual abuse claims allow the “bad guys” to win.

The Bill Cosby Re-trial: What a Difference a Year Makes

Marci A. Hamilton, the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, explains why Bill Cosby’s retrial for the sexual assault of Andrea Constand will likely go differently from the first one, which ended in a mistrial. Hamilton describes the changes in public awareness and understanding of sexual assault over the past year, as well as some procedural differences between the first trial and the retrial.

Donald Who? Reform Goes Forward Despite His Idiocy

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes how President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on criminal justice has not actually impacted (positively or negatively) the state of criminal justice reform across the country. Margulies describes the modest progress but cautions that the most significant shifts may be taking place at a level that is not yet detectable.

The EEOC and the #MeToo Era: Is the Budget Increase Enough?

Marci A. Hamilton—a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the CEO and Academic Director of CHILD USA—considers recent news of the EEOC’s budget increase for fiscal year 2018. Hamilton notes that this appears to be a win for the EEOC and the #MeToo movement at first glance. Nevertheless, Hamilton explains that the increasing public encouragement for victims of sexual misconduct to come forward does not negate the unwillingness of those in power to effect change within the legal system for these victims to have a real chance at justice.

Misgoverning Missouri: Sex, Privacy, and the Leering Eye of the Camera

Joanna L. Grossman, SMU Dedman School of Law professor, and Lawrence M. Friedman, a Stanford Law professor, comment on the legal trouble facing Missouri governor Eric Greitens for allegedly taking a nonconsensual compromising photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair. Grossman and Friedman describe the relatively new state statute under which Greitens was charged and explain some of the nuances of that law.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Victim?

Marci A. Hamilton—a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the CEO and Academic Director of CHILD USA—describes the small step forward New York has recently taken to improve access to justice for child sex abuse victims. Hamilton points out that Republican senators are dragging their feet and offering flimsy excuses for not backing the legislation that would expand the window for sex abuse claims, a stance inconsistent with their position on other windows, such as those for medical malpractice claims.

Miracles in Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitation Reform: Three of the Worst States Are Stepping Up

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor and resident senior fellow in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes what three states are doing to improve child sex abuse victims' access to justice. Hamilton explains how Georgia, Michigan, and New York are finally changing their restrictive statutes of limitations to start to give victims access to the court system they so deserve.

The #MeToo Elephant in the Room During the 2018 State of the Union

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor and resident senior fellow in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, critiques President Donald Trump for failing to mention the #MeToo movement during his State of the Union address. Hamilton posits that like Dr. Larry Nassar, who was accused of sexually abusing 265 young gymnasts, Trump believes he can indefinitely deflect questions about sexual assault, but she argues that he can do so only because the Republicans and evangelicals are propping him up.

#MeToo, Time’s Up, and Restorative Justice

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the 2018 Golden Globes acceptance speech by Laura Dern calling for restorative justice in the context of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements. Wexler analyzes the possible meaning of this somewhat ambiguous call to action, explaining that it could mean the restoration and reintegration of women who have suffered employment setbacks at the hands of their harassers and assaulters, and pointing out that it could also carry the more traditional notion of restorative justice, which includes the wrongdoers and the community as a whole to engage in "apologies, restitution, and acknowledgments of harm and injury."

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 is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George... 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

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 Robert A. Fox Leadership Program 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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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