Analysis and Commentary on Philosophy and Ethics

Torture and Myth, Part One

In this first of a two-part series of columns, Cornell University visiting law professor Joseph Margulies debunks the widespread belief that Americans’ support for torture occurred immediately following the attacks of 9/11. In Part II, Margulies will discuss how support for torture took off only after it became a partisan issue, and an argument took shape that made torture sound congenial to American values.

Singling Out Jewish Kaporos For Criticism

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb explains why an animal rights advocate might choose to protest the Jewish Kaporos ritual and the relative merits of such a position. Colb argues that despite the potential for facilitating hypocrisy or anti-semitism, there are a few potential saving graces for campaigns against the ritual.

Using Facebook as a Discovery Device

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda discusses how various courts and bar associations treat attorneys’ uses of Facebook and other social networking sites. Rotunda describes some different rules that affect how lawyers may and may not use social networking sites to interact with witnesses, opposing parties, jurors, and clients.

What Counts as an Abortion, and Does It Matter?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the nature of the respondents’ claim that IUDs and morning-after pills are abortifacients. Colb analogizes to the distinction between the culpability of direct violence and failure to rescue in order to illustrate that the respondents’ claims are moral rather than factual in basis.

The Dilemma of Humane Execution and Humane Slaughter

Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses the notion of humane killing in the context of the death penalty and the slaughter of animals. She explores the apparent paradoxes of humane executions of criminals and the humane slaughter of animals. Colb concludes that the only way to truly eliminate the suffering of humans and animals during any intentional killing process is to abolish both executions and slaughters.

A Giraffe’s Death and the Meaning of Our Outrage

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the reasons why the killing of Marius the giraffe, who had lived at the Copenhagen Zoo, has angered so many people around the world. Why did Marius supposedly have to die? According to the zoo, Marius’s genes were too common to be useful for the breeding program there, and thus, in the zookeepers' eyes, there was no alternative. Colb takes up the question of why people were outraged at Marius's killing, and what this outrage could mean for our conduct toward animals more generally.

Excluding Pregnant Women from the Right to Terminate Life Support

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the situation of a pregnant 33-year-old woman in Texas whose family has been unable to have her removed from life support, notwithstanding her wishes and those of her family. The obstacle is a Texas law that prohibits the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment from a pregnant patient. Colb contends that while political groups have weighed in—in predictable ways, corresponding to their views regarding abortion—in fact we should analyze the dilemma as in some respects, legally and morally distinct from the situation that confronts us in the abortion context, as she explains.

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.

The Fortieth Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act last month, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb contends that whether one considers this legislation from the political right or left, its anniversary should be a cause for reflection on its deep messages about the relationship between humans and other animals, and about relationships between and among humans as well.

On Brain Death and Civil Rights

Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp discusses the tragic situation of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl who was pronounced brain dead after surgery, and whose family sought to keep her on a ventilator despite that diagnosis. Kemp focuses on the federal civil rights lawsuit recently filed by the family. He argues that it is unlikely to succeed on the merits and that the family would be better advised to seek alternative means of answers and justice for their loss.

Teaching Lawyers, And Others, To Be Leaders

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean draws upon Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode’s book Lawyers as Leaders to comment upon, among other leadership topics, the remarkable failure that he argues that we are seeing in both contemporary Washington lawyers and also in our political leaders. Dean praises Rhode’s strongly documented book as far transcending the typical banal business book, and having a great deal to offer the reader.

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 Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... 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 one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... 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

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more