Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Law
The Supreme Court Considers “True Threats” and the First Amendment

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, Elonis v. United States, in which the Court will consider what constitutes a “true threat.” Specifically, Colb considers whether the First Amendment right of free speech prevents criminalization of threatening speech only if the speaker intended to bring about fear of bodily harm or death, or if it is enough that a reasonable person uttering those words would have anticipated they would be interpreted as such a threat.

The Supreme Court to Consider When Threats Can Be Punished Consistent with the First Amendment

U.C. Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan E. Brownstein discuss a case the U.S. Supreme Court that will be argued in the coming months, which presents the issue how courts should define “true threats” that fall outside First Amendment protection and thus are subject to punishment.

Video-Recording Police–Citizen Encounters Is Necessary but Not Enough

In light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf weighs the benefits and costs of equipping police officers with wearable cameras to record encounters with citizens. Dorf concludes that while there are some risks inherent in the practice, it would be a good first step toward reducing the frequency of tragedies resulting from police–citizen confrontations.

Who Is Abusing Power: Rick Perry or Michael McCrum, His Special Prosecutor?

John Dean, former counsel to the president, comments on the recent indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Dean cautions against falling for Perry’s and even some Democrats’ quick dismissal of the indictment as politically motivated and lacking sufficient basis. Dean argues that only Perry, not his special prosecutor, may have abused his power.

The Supreme Court’s Approach to Restitution For Victims of Child Pornography Possession

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Paroline v. United States, in which the Court considered how much restitution a victim of sexual abuse should be able to recover from a single perpetrator. Colb explains the reasoning used by the majority and the two diametrically opposed dissenting opinions, and she extends the discussion to an important narrative the Court’s opinions fail to consider.

George Will and the Price of Ignorance

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton responds critically to a column by George Will recently published in the Washington Post in which Will belittled a Swarthmore rape victim and implied that college women are responsible for their rapes. Hamilton provides three examples of how society’s handling rape is improving and argues that Will and others should educate themselves about rape before writing columns that ignore facts.

Sex Abuse and Lawlessness in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton describes two recent disappointing developments for survivors of sex abuse in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. The first is the plea deal for the man who threw bleach in the face of a venerated advocate of sex abuse survivors, and the second is a community’s celebration of the prison release of a man who attempted to bribe a victim to drop charges against her abuser.

The Overland Park, Kansas, Anti-Semitic Killer, the Kansas RFRA, the Federal RFRA, and RLUIPA

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recent shooting incident by a white supremacist in Overland Park, Kansas. She describes the suspect’s religious beliefs and explains how the Kansas RFRA, federal RFRA, and RLUIPA can be used if not to protect a murderer acting due to his beliefs, then at least other wrongdoers similarly motivated.

PotCoin and DopeCoin: Are They Viable and Legal Ventures?

Justia columnist and U. Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry describes two new “cryptocurrency” competitors, PotCoin and DopeCoin. Ramasastry explains how these new ventures purport to operate and predicts whether there will be a sustained demand for such services. Finally, she considers some of the legal issues these new models present.

Burrage v. United States and the Role of Harm Causation in Culpability

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb continues her analysis, in the third of three columns on the topic, of the Supreme Court's decision in Burrage v. United States. There, the Court interpreted the eligibility of a heroin-distributing defendant for a sentencing enhancement under the penalty-enhancement provision of the Controlled Substances Act for selling drugs from the use of which death resulted. Colb explains how a defendant would qualify for the enhancement.

A Private Skirt in a Public Place: The Surprising Law of Upskirting

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman, and Justia guest columnist and Stanford law professor Lawrence Friedman comment on the law regarding “upskirting,” in which a man is surreptitiously videotaping up the skirt of a woman who is sitting, facing him, across the aisle of a bus or subway (or in another situation that lends itself to the practice). Grossman and Friedman note that Massachusetts’s legislature now has an anti-upskirting criminal law. Other states may follow soon too, for old laws are poorly fitted to address the very modern practice of upskirting, and unless legislatures move quickly, culprits may walk away scot-free.

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, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... 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

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... 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

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government 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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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