Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Law
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.

Should Revenge Porn Be Illegal? Victims Say Yes, and so Does the California Legislature

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on “revenge porn,” which occurs when a person agrees to provide nude photos to his or her partner during a relationship, but after the breakup, the partner posts the nude photos online, at times connected to the partner’s name or other information. Hilden notes that California now has a relevant law on this topic, but some think that the law is not sufficiently strong.

Some Flaws in California’s New Law Regarding Paparazzi’s Harassment of Celebrities’ Children

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on an updated California law that protects celebrities' children from the paparazzi, with penalties of jail time and hefty fines. Hilden suggests that the new law ignores serious First Amendment concerns, and that civil remedies, rather than criminal sanctions, might have been enough, particularly in light of those concerns.

Is Republican Obstructionism Criminal?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on whether current Republican obstructionism could be charged as a federal crime. In particular, Dean questions whether Section 371 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the government of the United States, applies here. Dean concludes, however, for interesting reasons, that, even if Section 371 could apply, no criminal charges ought to be brought.

Are Trial Courts Even-Handed in Excusing Jurors Based on their Views on the Death Penalty?

Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell continues her series of columns on the death penalty in California. She describes the methods trial courts must use in deciding whether to exclude prospective jurors in death penalty cases. She then examines several cases suggesting that trial court judges do not necessarily act even-handedly when excusing jurors based on their views on the death penalty.

Ripe for Resolution: Ending Taxpayer Expenditures on Pointless Litigation

In this second of a series of columns on the death penalty in California, Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell describes a procedural dilemma facing federal courts in states with the death penalty. Mitchell explains that under a Supreme Court case decided earlier this year, federal courts are not required to stay habeas corpus proceedings for death row inmates who are mentally incompetent. She describes the absurd result this holding creates and calls on death penalty states to implement alternative dispute resolution programs in order to reduce miscarriages of justice and end “taxpayer expenditures on pointless litigation.”

The Legal Significance of the Leo Frank Case

Justia guest columnist and Touro Law Center professor Rodger Citron comments on the historic case of Leo Frank, who was convicted of the murder of a woman who worked at the factory he managed, and ultimately lynched by an angry mob, but might well have been innocent. Citron focuses on the case's legal significance as this year marks the 100th anniversary of Frank's conviction, noting two key lessons that we can take from it.

California Voters’ Shifting Views on the Death Penalty

Justia guest columnist and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell describes California voters' changing views on the death penalty. She provides several possible explanations for the death penalty's decreasing support, including the presence of high-profile cases where an innocent person was sentenced to death, lower concerns about crime rates, and the high economic costs of maintaining capital punishment in the state. This is the first of a series of columns by Mitchell discussing the death penalty in California.

Sullivan & Cromwell and Yeshiva University Issue a Disappointing Report on Child Sex Abuse That Is Short on Facts and Long on Public Relations

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the investigation that occurred after many months, and many media stories about child sex abuse at the Yeshiva University High School (YUHS) in The Jewish Daily Forward. In the end, Yeshiva University released an “independent investigation” led by Karen Patton Seymour of Sullivan & Cromwell. Hamilton takes strong issue with the report that resulted from the investigation, and explains in detail her sharp criticisms of it, and what she contends that it should have contained, but did not. She also argues that, in this situation, pending litigation is a poor excuse for nondisclosure, especially in light of the statute-of-limitations situation in New York.

New Accusations by a Nixon Apologist Based on Recently Discovered Information Regarding the Watergate Cover-Up Trial

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on Watergate revisionism, and, in particular, Geoff Shepard’s recent piece in The Atlantic claiming that Nixon’s top advisers did not get justice when they were convicted for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Dean strongly differs with Shepard’s account, and explains precisely why. Among other points, Dean rebuts Shepard’s claim that former Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski and Judge Sirica held secret ex parte meetings which were unlawful.

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