Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Law
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.

Sex Assaults at Evangelical Colleges, the United Nations, and the Vatican

Justia columnist and Cardozo law school professor Marci Hamilton comments on recent stories about the mishandling of reports of sex abuse and assaults at two fundamentalist colleges: Patrick Henry College and Bob Jones University. Hamilton also covers the Catholic Church’s ongoing issues with clergy sex abuse, and cautions these colleges not to follow the Church's lead. Hamilton notes that President Obama has been silent on the epidemic of sex abuse and assaults in religious entities in the United States. She argues that it is high time now, nearing the end of his last Term, for him to step up for all victims, and to stop pandering to religious entities.

The Federal Government Turns Its Focus to Sexual Assault on Campus

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the topic of college campus sexual assault, which is disturbingly frequent—so much so that the Obama Administration is now focusing on it. Hamilton considers ways to protect college women, especially women in college sports; notes how college men can help in rape prevention; and argues that worries about false accusations by women are overblown.

Coming Out of the Turn: Charting a New Course in Criminal Justice

Justia guest columnist and Northwestern law professor Joseph Margulies explains why American criminal justice appears to be coming out of its prior, punitive turn in criminal justice. With even the Attorney General acknowledging that our criminal justice system is, in many ways, broken, Margulies suggests strong evidence that the punitive turn is waning, and may well be superseded with new and better approaches to criminal justice.

2013: The Year in Review for Child Sex Abuse Victims’ Access to Justice

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton describes and comments on developments regarding justice for child-sex-abuse victims. Hamilton reports that, in 2013, the pace of the movement to procure justice for victims quickened remarkably. But there is also a negative development, Hamilton notes: religious groups have gone back to the drawing board to find new ways to protect themselves from the law in this area.

Why a Texas Appellate Court Struck Down a Ban on Certain Sexual Communications Online

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a Texas Appellate Court decision from October. The decision was based on a Texas man’s being charged under the State’s penal code for the third-degree felony of communicating in a sexually-explicit manner with a person whom he believed to be a minor, with intent to arouse or gratify his sexual desire. The Texas appellate court, however, deemed the statute to be overbroad and therefore struck it down for First Amendment reasons, noting that content-based regulations of speech, such as the one at issue here, are presumably invalid, and citing the law's potential to reach even great works of literature.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers When Heroin Dealing “Results” In Death Part Two of a Two-Part Series of Columns

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb continues her two-part series regarding the Supreme Court’s Burrage case, which involves dealers’ responsibility for heroin overdoses. Here, in Part Two of the series, Colb comments on how the components of causation might apply to the particular facts of the case before the Court.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers When Heroin Dealing “Results” in Death

In Part One of a two-part series of columns by Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on a Supreme Court case that considers when heroin dealing “results” in death. Her column addresses complex issues of causation and legal responsibility. Part Two of the series will appear on Wednesday, December 11.

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

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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