Analysis and Commentary on Juvenile Law
The Supreme Court’s Hits and Misses on Children’s Civil Rights During the 2020 Term

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, discusses several decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court this past term that affect children’s rights: Fulton v. Philadelphia, addressing whether a religious social services agency can refuse to place children with same-sex couples; Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., addressing whether a teen could be punished for speech on Snapchat, off school grounds and addressed to her own audience; and NCAA v. Alston, addressing whether the NCAA can deny student-athletes education-related benefits while exploiting their athletic achievements. Professor Hamilton notes that two of these three benefit children, while Fulton, which focuses exclusively on the adults involved and not the children, leaves open the possibility that states can pass neutral laws to meaningfully value the needs of children.

The Cosby Conviction Reversal Reveals a Faultline in Our Justice System for Sex Assault Victims: Unfairly Short Statutes of Limitation

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, comments on the recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturning Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction. Professor Hamilton argues that the decision illustrates the need for states to reform both civil and criminal statutes of limitations (SOLs) to give sexual assault and abuse survivors their day in court.

Justice Thomas Calls Out Liberals for Distinguishing Incarceration from Pregnancy

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb responds to an observation made by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence in his concurring opinion in Jones v. Mississippi, noting an ostensible inconsistency in the language liberals use in discussing incarceration, as compared to pregnancy. Professor Colb acknowledges the face value of Justice Thomas’s point—that liberals refer to minors seeking an abortion as “women” and minors facing life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) as “children”—but she points out that the difference in terminology reflects a consistent view that minors are not fully developed and should not be forced to do irreversible “adult” things like carry a pregnancy to term or serve a mandatory LWOP sentence.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: State Representative Ana-Maria Ramos Introduces Bill to Repeal Parental Consent Requirement for Birth Control

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a Texas bill that would allow teens to access birth control without parental involvement. Professor Grossman describes the current state of reproductive health laws and policies in Texas and explains why the proposed bill is so important.

Incorrigibility of the Juvenile Offender

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case the U.S. Supreme Court will consider this term that presents the question whether the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits sentencing a juvenile offender to life without the possibility of parole. Colb considers the wisdom and constitutionality of imposing such a sentence on a person who was under 18 at the time of his crime.

When Children Stay Home—A COVID-19 Consequence

Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, describes how the COVID-19 pandemic uniquely endangers children who are being sexually abused by people close to them. Robb describes ways in which teachers, coaches, and other adult figures in children’s lives must do to ensure the safety of children in this time when schools and other safe spaces are shut down.

A Tale of Two Victims Trying to Stay Above Water While Pursuing Justice: Corey Feldman and Patty Fortney (And Her Sisters)

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, describes two stories that show the persistent barriers to justice for child sex abuse victims, despite significant progress recently. First, Hamilton relates the story of Corey Feldman, who will finally get to tell his story of abuse in the premiere of My Truth: The Rape of Two Coreys on March 9, 2020, which will air at 11pm EST in a one-time, online showing globally. Second, Hamilton describes how Patty Fortney and her sisters are pursuing justice against the diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

2019 Is the Year We Reached the Tipping Point for Sex Abuse and Assault Victims to Receive Justice: 2020 Will Be Even Better for SOL Reform

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, reviews the 2019 victories of victims of child sex abuse and assault and describes what needs to happen in 2020 to further secure justice for them.

2019 Is a Banner Year for SOL Reform, But There Is Much More to Do

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why 2019 has been such an historic year for child sex abuse victims. Hamilton points out that children will not thrive in a society where individuals and institutions can ignore child sex abuse without consequence, so we must focus on protecting children and holding perpetrators and institutions accountable.

Access to Justice for College Sex Abuse and Assault Victims

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why statute of limitations (SOL) reform for sex abuse and assault victims is necessary not only for children, but also for college students. Hamilton describes the nationwide epidemic of sexual abuse on college and university campuses and argues that SOL reform is the best way to ensure these victims have access to justice.

Let’s Restore the Public Good to a Place of Honor and End Vaccination Exemptions Other Than Those Absolutely Necessary

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, calls for an end to legislative exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccinations, except those that are absolutely necessary. Hamilton explains why these exemptions undermine the public good and endanger children.

The Three-Front War on Child Sex Abuse: Law, Society, and the Public

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, describes the statute of limitations reform in New York that will give victims of child sex abuse a window of one year to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. Hamilton explains why this is an important—but not nearly sufficient—victory for child sex abuse victims and describes the three major changes we as a society need to implement to meaningfully address the scourge of child sex abuse.

Jeffrey Epstein and His Enablers Are Evil, But Not Special: He’s Just the Latest Example of a Toxic Culture for Children

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, comments on Jeffrey Epstein and the circumstances and people who allowed him to endanger children for so long. Hamilton describes the ways in which our culture enables men like him to abuse children and get away with it for as long as they do.

The SOL Reform Movement Becomes More Inclusive as Adult Victims of Sex Assault Seek Justice, Too

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, describes a recent development in the movement for reforming statutes of limitations for victims of sexual assault. As Hamilton explains, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that applies not only to children, but also to victims who were sexually assaulted as adults.

C’mon Pope Francis: You Can Do Better Than That

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why the modest steps taken by Pope Francis ostensibly to address the child sex abuse problem in the Church are not enough to effect meaningful change. Hamilton points out that the United States has also failed to act, with the notable exception of Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), who proposed that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) re-appropriation include a requirement that the states examine their laws related to institution-based sex abuse.

Children Have a Right to Live and Be Vaccinated, and Two Legal Reforms Are Needed

Marci Hamilton—professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA—discusses the importance of vaccinating children and proposes two legal reforms needed to ensure children’s protection. Specifically, Hamilton proposes that states eliminate religious exemptions to mandatory vaccination and permit mature children to decide whether they get vaccinations.

Insurance Carriers Hold a Key to Prevent Child Sex Abuse

Marci A. Hamilton—founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit academic think tank at the University of Pennsylvania dedicated to interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to prevent child abuse and neglect—explains why insurance carriers can and should play a key role in preventing child sex abuse. Hamilton describes two reforms that are needed to make the insurance industry a positive force instead of a barrier to child sex abuse prevention.

Robert Kraft Is the Canary in the Coal Mine: Conditions Have Changed for the Worse for Powerful Men Using Trafficked Girls and Women for Sex

Marci A. Hamilton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—discusses the significance of Patriots owner Robert Kraft being charged with soliciting a prostitute at a strip mall in Florida, after a sting exposed a sex trafficking scheme there. Hamilton points out the differences between the handling of Kraft and the mishandling of Palm Beach sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and suggests Kraft may be the “canary in the coal mine” indicating a shift of power from perpetrators to their victims.

Compare and Contrast: The Vatican’s Gathering of Bishops in Rome with the Epstein Court on Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims

Marci A. Hamliton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—describes the similarities and differences between the Vatican’s gathering of bishops to address clergy sex abuse scandals and the federal judge’s ruling in the case of Jeffrey Epstein over sex trafficking scandals. Hamilton points out that decision in the Epstein case is a victory for child sex abuse victims, while the approach of the Catholic Church is already misguided.

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 the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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