Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Law

The Future of the Supreme Court, Regardless of Who Wins the Election

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains what can be deduced about the Supreme Court's future, even before the 2016 US presidential election. Dorf references the role that the Court plays in American public life while also offering notable examples of areas where the Court has little to no say. Additionally, Dorf reminds readers that many more cases are decided unanimously than by a single vote and that it is difficult to predict future ideological divisions among justices, regardless of whether they were nominated by a Republican or Democratic president.

Criminal Justice and the Myth of a Rising Tide

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies breaks down the 'rising tide' strategy of criminal justice and explains why this framework is ultimately misguided in the case of drug policy. Margulies explains that neither the class of drug nor the demographic of drug user is created equal within our criminal justice system due to a variety of factors that he explores in this column.

Racism, Classism, Feminism … and Brock Turner

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies responds to two of the most common criticisms of the trial and sentencing of former Stanford undergrad Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Margulies explains why a change to California law imposing a mandatory minimum sentence for this crime actually does not address these criticisms, and in fact exacerbates one of them.

Seeking to Criminalize the Clinton Foundation—A Footnote

Former counsel to President Nixon, John W. Dean argues that comparisons between former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are inapt. Dean points out several ways in which Hillary’s behavior did not rise even to the level of that of McDonnell, and the U.S. Supreme Court found that even the latter did not support conviction.

The Outrageously False Charges of Perjury Against Hillary Clinton

John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, discusses the charges of perjury and false statements brought against Hillary Clinton by congressional Republicans led by Bob Goodlatte and Jason Chaffetz. Dean closely scrutinizes the facts underlying the charges and concludes that the charges are utterly baseless and manifest an abuse of power beyond the pale of dirty politics.

Imposing Criminal Punishment by Introducing False Testimony

Ronald Rotunda, law professor at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, comments on the latest developments in the criminal proceedings against Sholom Rubashkin—specifically the revelation that federal prosecutors introduced false testimony in pursuit of conviction. Rotunda provides background on the case and describes the misconduct of the prosecution in handling the case.

An Open Letter to the Change-Maker Hillary Rodham Clinton on Behalf of Sexual Abuse Victims in the United States

A Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, Marci Hamilton writes an open letter to Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton on behalf of sexual abuse victims around the country. Hamilton asks Clinton what she will do as President of the United States to address the problem of child sex abuse and to help improve victims’ access to justice.

Can Criminal Justice Reform Survive Cleveland?

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies laments the revival of the “law and order” rhetoric triggered by the recent shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge and seized upon as common ground for Donald Trump and the GOP. Margulies explains why greater police presence and more arrests actually make communities less safe, rather than safer, and argues that such changes threaten to undo the progress made in the criminal justice system over the past several decades.

Three Important Constitutional Lessons to Take From FBI Director Comey’s Statements About Hillary Clinton’s Email Management

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes three lessons we should take from FBI Director Comey’s statements about Hillary Clinton’s email management. First, Amar points out that the president is the ultimate decisionmaker when it comes to all criminal prosecutions. Second, he argues that there are other ways that Republican leaders could seek to punish Ms. Clinton for what they believe to be wrongdoing—such as the impeachment process. Finally, Amar suggests that to prevent Republicans (or others) from doggedly trying to prosecute Ms. Clinton for years to come, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, President Obama could pardon her just before he leaves office, as other presidents have done in numerous instances.

Should We Lift the Stigma on “Virtuous Pedophiles”?

Inspired by a Dan Savage podcast on the topic, Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers both the concept of “virtuous pedophiles” and some of its potential implications. Colb explains what this term means and draws several comparisons to other individuals who may be oriented toward a certain action that is either illegal or prohibited to them, ultimately expressing ambivalence toward the notion of the virtuous pedophile.

Finding Justice in Baltimore

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies explains why a criminal conviction of police officers is neither a necessary nor sufficient component of justice. In fact, Margulies argues that those who would dismantle the carceral state should not be the first to invoke it by seeking convictions as the sole means of justice.

Discrimination & Criminal Justice in the 21st Century

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Foster v. Chatman, in which the Court considered whether a prosecutor’s use of peremptory challenges to remove all eligible black jurors constituted impermissible race discrimination. Margulies argues that true criminal justice reform requires us to acknowledge the pervasiveness of implicit bias in society and let go of the idea that the behavior is an individual wrong by one person against another, and reconceive it as a social wrong by a person against the community.

Thank You, Penn State

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton explains how the Sandusky scandal at Penn State revealed that ignoring and covering up child sex abuse over an extended period of time is not unique to the Catholic church. Hamilton argues that Joe Paterno knew of the child sex abuse long before it came to public light but that he chose to keep Sandusky because doing so served his own ends.

War Crimes in a Punitive Age

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies discusses the challenges of comprehensive criminal justice reform. Even for victims of wrongful detention and torture, he argues that war crimes prosecutions are not the answer. With an eye toward a crime-free society, Margulies presents a compelling argument as to why the current, punitive nature of our carceral state should be dismantled.

Rabbis With a Conscience Make History

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a recent development in protections for child sex abuse victims’ access to justice: a letter signed by 62 Jewish rabbis and leaders calling for New York to pass the Child Victims Act, which would create access to justice for child sex abuse victims by eliminating and reviving expired statutes of limitations.

The Puzzle of Reform, Part II

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the reason behind the particular configuration of criminal justice reform that we presently observe. Margulies argues that the pattern can be explained by the group-position thesis, which posits that racial attitudes are determined substantially by competition and conflict among racial and ethnic groups over resources, power, and status in society.

A Safe Haven for Kody? Sister Wives Star Loses on Appeal, but Protected From Bigamy Prosecution in Utah

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reinstating Utah’s criminal law banning bigamy. Grossman explains the facts leading up to the lawsuit, the holding of the district, and the reasoning behind the Tenth Circuit’s reversal.

Bucks County DA David Heckler’s Mixed Signals on Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton examines the position Bucks County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney David Heckler has taken with respect to child sex abuse and sex assault victims. Hamilton points out that Heckler does not seem to truly support the protection of children, based on his role in the misleading statements about SOL in the Task Force Report, the delay in release of a grand jury report that supports SOL reform, and the failure to prosecute a Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse.

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 Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar, a Professor of Law at The George Washington Univ... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.  Bef... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... 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 of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

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

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more