Analysis and Commentary on International Law

Trump Can Destroy NAFTA Alone But Cannot Replace It Without Congressional Help

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why President Trump can unilaterally undermine NAFTA but cannot act to replace it without help from Congress. Dorf distinguishes treaties from “congressional-executive agreements” (NAFTA is an example of the latter), and he points out that any new agreement Trump seeks to enter with Canada and Mexico that differs in any substantial way from NAFTA can only become effective upon the passage of new legislation by Congress.

A Law in Austria That Would Have Forced Jews and Muslims to Register for Meat

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb explains the controversy over a proposed (but failed) law in Austria that would have regulated the consumption of Kosher and Halal meat in Lower Austria, one of nine states in that country. Colb points out that the law could not have achieved its purported purpose, to promote the welfare of animals, because it would have permitted animals to be slaughtered at all. Rather, it would have required that religious Jews and Muslims register with the government—just as they were required to do under Nazi rule. Colb also observes that while the law invidiously targeted religious Jews and Muslims, no one seemed to consider that the intended targets could avoid the law altogether by becoming vegans.

Mexico’s Turn to Transitional Justice

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler analyzes the strategy of newly elected Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador with respect to that country’s war on drugs and cartels—a strategy known as transitional justice. Wexler defines transitional justice and explains how the core components of transitional justice might serve as a good framework for addressing some of Mexico’s most daunting challenges.

The European Immigration Deal and Its Aftermath

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on last week’s EU summit, in which the heads of state sought to address the immigration crisis affecting various countries in the European Union. Wexler describes the highlights of the resulting agreement and while cautiously optimistic, expresses concerns for what some of the longer term implications may be.

The Children Mistreated at the Border Are a Wake-up Call: It’s Time for the United States Senate to Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

In light of US immigration policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the borders, Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, calls on the United States Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Hamilton points out that the United States is the only country in the world not to ratify it, and that its failure to do so is entirely indefensible.

The Irish Pro-Choice Vote and Empathy

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the outcome of a recent vote in Ireland repealing that country’s ban on nearly all abortions and explains why empathy for opposing perspectives is important on abortion and other issues, such as animal rights. An ethical vegan, Colb shares her own experience of learning to be empathic when people make untenable arguments in favor of violence toward nonhuman animals.

We Need to Talk About Brazil

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the ongoing national strikes by truckers and oil workers in Brazil in protest of the recent steep increase in diesel prices due to international market-based pricing. Wexler expresses specific concerns over calls for a return to a military dictatorship to replace the democracy, despite the prior military government’s corruption and engagement in serious human rights violations including torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.

Bad Apologies and the Windrush Scandal

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the Windrush scandal developing in the United Kingdom, just one example of immigration policies that affect not only undocumented migrants present unlawfully but also undocumented citizens present lawfully. Wexler explores the reasons for the scandal and identifies troubling shortcomings in the apology and remedy offered.

Whose Tax Is This?

Guest columnists Igor De Lazari, Antonio Sepulveda, and Judge Sergio Dias describe how Brazil recently addressed an issue currently before the US Supreme Court-an issue of when (and whether) a state may collect taxes on goods that originate out of state. De Lazari, Sepulveda, and Dias suggest that perhaps the issue is better resolved, as it was in Brazil, through the legislative process rather than by court decision, so as to ease what is likely to be an abrupt transition.

Red Lines and Chlorine Weapon Use in Syria

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler analyzes the Trump administration's position with respect to Syria and its use of chemical weapons. Wexler considers whether France or the US would actually follow through on their promises to use military force to enforce the Chemical Weapon Convention, and she considers whether it is even legal for states to do under the UN Charter in the absence of a need for self-defense or a UN authorization.

The Chancellor’s New Coalition: Why Germany Can’t Quit Angela Merkel

Guest columnist Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, describes the current political situation in Germany, and how the unlikely coalition between Angela Merkel's center-right party and the center-left Social Democrats came to be. As Falvy skillfully explains, the German government was designed to be nearly perfectly representative, and to encourage pro-democratic parties to stand together in defense of democracy, rather than allow partisan ambition empower the enemies of democracy.

Cluster Munitions: Policy Reversal and International Law Norms

Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on the Trump administration’s reversal of longstanding policy on cluster munitions. Wexler describes both what changes and what remains the same under the new policy and considers whether, taken in the context of other similar shifts in policy, the Trump administration is implementing its “America-First” approach and discarding prior policies that upheld international law norms.

Trouble in Paradise? The Paradise Papers and the Ethics of Lawful Tax Avoidance

University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on the recent release of records known as the Paradise Papers, which reveal the identities of thousands of individuals and corporations using offshore jurisdictions as a tax avoidance strategy. Ramasastry argues that while such actions may in many cases be legal, they are also unethical. She points out that if we focus on the harm of tax avoidance to society, rather than how it is legally defined, then we can see that it contributes to growing inequality and increases tax burdens on resident taxpayers who cannot change their citizenship or move their money.

The Changing Scope of the Freedom of Expression in the United States and Brazil

Guest columnists Igor De Lazari and Antonio Sepulveda, and Justia editor David S. Kemp compare and contrast the evolving recognition of the rights of LGB individuals in the United States and Brazil. The authors point to several parallel decisions by the high court of each nation, but they also point to ways in which the jurisprudence of the two countries might diverge—specifically when religious beliefs appear to conflict with the recognition of the rights of gays and lesbians.

The Lessons of Sex-Selection Abortion

Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb reviews Sital Kalantry’s book Women's Human Rights and Migration: Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in the United States and India. Colb explains how the book taught her a new way to think about an area in which Colb herself already has extensive knowledge. Colb praises Kalantry for taking an empirically supported look at the practice of sex-selection abortions in the United States and elsewhere and for drawing sophisticated conclusions about the proper place for regulation on the basis of that scrutiny.

Supreme Court of Israel Requires Ultra-Orthodox Men to Perform Military Service

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision by the Israel Supreme Court holding that the government’s policy of exempting Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) from military service was unconstitutional discrimination. Dorf describes the background of the legal system in Israel and explains how the relationship between the court and the elected officials in that country might inform judicial review in other democracies.

Supreme Court of India Protects a Right to Privacy

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision by the Supreme Court of India in which that court ruled that the Constitution of India protects a right of privacy. Dorf explains the significance of the decision not only for the largest democracy in the world, but also for people in other constitutional democracies, including the United States.

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 and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... 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 con... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... 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 the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavi... 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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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