Analysis and Commentary on Criminal Law
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.

The 1-2 Punch the Catholic Bishops Have Delivered to Clergy Sex Abuse Victims

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton and guest columnist and child traumatology specialist Steven Berkowitz, M.D., describe the several ways in which Catholic bishops have prevent sex abuse victims from seeking justice for their abusers. Hamilton and Berkowitz argue that justice demands that legislators revive expired civil statutes of limitations and, going forward, eliminate the criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sex abuse.

The Puzzle of Reform, Part I

In this first of a two-part series of columns, Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies begins to explain why criminal justice reform is happening. Margulies articulates three propositions toward which it is moving: (1) vulnerable populations should not be treated like “ordinary criminals”; (2) offenders deserve an opportunity to redeem themselves; and (3) the police should be monitored, but not closely regulated.

Legislators Should Find Courage in Spotlight’s Success and Motivation in Yet Another Grand Jury Report, and Finally Do SOL Reform Right

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the recently released report on abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese in Pennsylvania. Hamilton argues that with the motion picture Spotlight having received the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, legislators in Pennsylvania and elsewhere should have even greater motivation to reform civil and criminal statutes of limitations with respect to victims of child sex abuse.

The Most Promising Reform

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies reflects on the devastating toll solitary confinement can take on those who are already part of a vulnerable demographic, as witnessed during his time as a criminal defense and human rights attorney. The story Margulies describes offers compelling support for criminal justice reform as it currently exists in the United States.

Insight From Oregon

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies explains how the peaceful protesters at a federal facility in Oregon could advance the cause for criminal justice reform. Margulies reminds us that that the triggering event for the protest was an order by a federal judge that two ranchers serve a prison sentence mandated by federal statute that was far longer than the judge considered fair.

Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations Reform 2015 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses some of the changes 2015 saw with respect to reform of sex abuse statutes of limitations. Hamilton praises such progress as the sweeping inquiries undertaken by Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the release of the award-winning motion picture, Spotlight, which chronicles the Boston Globe journalists’ path to breaking the story of priest abuse in the Catholic church.

Appealing and Unappealing Peeling: Two Takes on Nudity

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman and Stanford University law professor Lawrence Friedman comment on the changing attitudes toward nudity over time in the United States from a social and legal standpoint. Grossman and Friedman point to two recent instances in the news that seem contradictory: the increasing openness of high schoolers when it comes to sexting one another and millennial men's reticence to be nude while changing or showering in locker rooms.

Anger Management: Charlie Sheen’s Ex-Fiancée Sues Over Sheen’s Failure to Disclose HIV Status

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent lawsuit by Charlie Sheen’s ex-fiancée seeking damages for Sheen’s failure to disclose his HIV status. Grossman discusses the nature of the complaint filed and describes how civil and criminal laws must balance the right of individuals to sexual privacy against interests such as public health.

The Second Principle: The Demand for Even-Handed Justice

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes one of the bedrock principles of a legitimate criminal justice system: the obligation of government to be fair and even handed. Margulies describes several examples of how governments have fallen short in this respect and argues that without even-handed justice, there cannot be a truly legitimate criminal justice system.

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

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

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... 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 the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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