Cornell professor Joseph Margulies explores the journey of Rob Hildum, a former Assistant District Attorney in New Orleans and now a judge in Washington, D.C., who reflects on his past complicity in a system that disproportionately targets and harms Black individuals. Professor Margulies connects Hildum’s narrative with broader issues of systemic racism and police brutality, using recent cases like the killing of Ta’Kiya Young in Ohio to demonstrate that the unwillingness to challenge deeply ingrained beliefs and practices—like the appropriateness of “street justice”—perpetuates injustice.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat criticizes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Congressman Jim Jordan for decrying the “weaponization” of justice while themselves exerting political pressure to remove duly elected Democratic district attorneys. Professor Sarat warns that such actions undermine the independence of prosecutors and pose a threat to the rule of law, and he cautions voters to be vigilant against this danger in upcoming elections.
Cornell professor Joseph Margulies delves into the paradoxical attitudes society holds towards surveillance: while people criticize the invasion of privacy by the surveillance state, they also endorse and benefit from its capabilities, particularly when it serves a purpose they support. This conundrum is further complicated by the blurred lines between state and private surveillance, the use of publicly available data by companies, and the desire to hold the state accountable through the very means of surveillance.
Cornell professor Joseph Margulies comments on the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into the City of Memphis and its police department following the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, which exposed a culture of violence and indifference within the department. While Professor Margulies welcomes this investigation as a step in the right direction, he argues that the Department of Justice lacks the tools and authority to address systemic issues related to policing and public safety in Memphis; ultimately, the solution must come from local initiatives and collaboration within the community.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the number of bills recently introduced in many red states to curb prosecutorial discretion when it is exercised in ways that do not conform to their tough-on-crime agenda. Professor Sarat argues that prosecutorial discretion is an indispensable component of a society governed by laws, and that these bills violate the separation of powers, threaten to politicize prosecution, and, in so doing, undermine the rule of law.
Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies points out that the murder of Tyre Nichols challenges the oversimplified conception of authority and race that prevails in this country. Drawing upon the language of historian Robin Kelley, Professor Margulies argues that police violence is the end result of a racialized processnot merely an expression of anti-Black racism by white police officers.
Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies points out that the Memphis police officers who beat Tyre Nichols to death were doing exactly what the SCORPION unit of the department was supposed to do. Professor Margulies argues that until we collectively quash the belief that “we” are threatened until “they” are brought to heel, society will futilely pursue public safety while disregarding public suffering.
Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies observes that the Memphis Police Department’s Policies and Procedures document is missing an entire section called “Response to Resistance,” which sets the rules governing the use of force by a Memphis officer, including deadly force. Professor Margulies points out that adopting or amending rules is not enough to solve the problem that led to the murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers; rather we police culture must change. Indeed, Margulies argues, the SCORPION unit was doing exactly what Memphis leaders inside and outside the Department wanted it to do.
Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the videos released by the City of Memphis documenting the murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers. Professor Margulies points out that the atrocious conduct captured on video reflects a police culture that encourages brutality and indifference, arguing that if the Memphis Police Department can’t change the culture they’ve created, their officers don’t deserve the badge.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the House Judiciary Committee minority members’ staff report in which Republican members of the committee are seeking to undermine the FBI by portraying it as partisan and dishonest. Mr. Aftergut points out that the report disregards facts in an attempt—consistent with other Republican efforts—to confuse the public about who is telling the truth so that ordinary people busy with their lives disengage and give up trying to figure out the facts. He argues that if Republicans achieve a majority in Tuesday’s midterm election, they will turn America’s premier law enforcement agency into a McCarthy-esque inquisitorial tool in their anticipated Republican presidential administration.
Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies comments on two seemingly unrelated concerns expressed by readers: the policy of a local sheriff in Florida to publish mugshots of juveniles who have been charged with a felony, and the oppressively hot conditions of prison cells in Texas. Professor Margulies explains that both of these problems are products of an unforgiving society that insists on differentiating people into “us” versus “them.”
NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher and rising 3L Zachary G. Garrett propose two measures to improve the safety of public transportation in New York City. Specifically, Professor Estreicher and Mr. Garrett suggest that (1) stationing at least one police officer at each turnstile (or set of turnstiles), around the clock, and (2) installing weapons screeners at every subway station would reduce violence and crime.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut points out that Donald Trump’s attempt to avoid being held in contempt of New York court for failing to respond to a document subpoena closely tracks an approach described by Nixon White House aide John Ehrlichman during the Watergate scandal. Mr. Aftergut predicts that New York Attorney General Letitia James is unlikely to fall for that tactic and is sure to go after Trump’s “limited, modified hang-out” to try to avoid accountability and the hand of justice.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that the January 6 House Select Committee’s new filing provides further support for the indictment of former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. Mr. Aftergut calls upon Attorney General Merrick Garland to fulfill his vow to uphold the Constitution by enforcing compliance with lawful congressional subpoenas.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut discusses three things that former President Donald Trump said that potentially demonstrate evidence of a guilty mind trying to cover up his actions. Mr. Aftergut points out that anyone who is potentially the target of an investigation—as Trump is—should resist the impulse to speak out.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut opines that former Attorney General William Barr’s forthcoming memoir glosses over Barr’s substantial role in Donald Trump’s effort to undermine democracy. Mr. Aftergut argues that Barr damaged the Justice Department’s reputation for integrity, and no memoir can make up for that.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the recent news that Mazars—Donald Trump’s long-time New York accounting firm—disclaimed the veracity of Trump’s financial statements. Mr. Aftergut explains that this development is particularly significant because it will likely threaten Trump’s ability to stay financially afloat, particularly amid other ongoing investigations into his conduct.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on recent revelations about how the Department of Justice is handling cases arising from the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Aftergut observes that the DOJ shows every intention of handling those cases aggressively.
Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Caniglia v. Strom, holding that police may not enter a private home to perform a “community caretaking” function without having a search warrant. Professor Colb suggests that by recognizing limits on the authority of law enforcement officers to enter a home without a warrant in these circumstances, the Court may be implicitly adopting the message of “defunding the police” by reallocating a non-police function to better-suited responders, such as social workers or mental health experts.
Igor De Lazari, a Brazilian legal scholar, Antonio Sepulveda, Professor of Law at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) and at the Fluminense Federal University, and Ana Beatriz a legal assistant at the Public Ministry Office of the State of Santa Catarina and Criminal Procedure Law Specialist, comment on the police use of lethal force in Rio de Janeiro. The authors suggest several institutional and social policy changes that would begin to address the disproportionate use of lethal force in Rio and restore public faith in its public security policy