Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes how Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld has escalated right-wing attacks on American democracy by suggesting that elections are futile and calling for civil war as the only solution to the country's problems. Professor Sarat warns that Gutfeld’s rhetoric, unrepudiated by Fox News, poses an urgent threat to democracy and calls on the media and political leadership to educate the public on the dangers of such a mindset.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf analyzes whether the U.S. House of Representatives can choose a Speaker who is not a current member of Congress. While conventional wisdom suggests that a non-member could serve as Speaker due to the lack of explicit qualifications in the Constitution, Professor Dorf argues that this interpretation may be faulty, citing original understanding, historical practice, and functional considerations. Professor Dorf concludes that while the Constitution is unclear on this issue, the absence of explicit language should not be taken as carte blanche to make any choice, and that both liberals and conservatives should be cautious in their assumptions about what the Constitution does or does not allow.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat expresses deep concern about the current U.S. Supreme Court’s potential effects on the country, arguing that the Court appears to be moving in a decisively conservative direction on issues like religious freedom, abortion, and affirmative action. Professor Sarat also raises questions about the ethics and legitimacy of the Court, citing public approval ratings and noting upcoming cases on racial gerrymandering, gun regulation, and administrative authority that could have significant societal consequences.
UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the controversy surrounding the potential impeachment of new Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz for having expressed her views on gerrymandering during her campaign. Professor Amar argues that sharing one’s views on specific legal topics should not be grounds for impeachment, as it helps the public understand a candidate’s legal philosophy and does not necessarily mean the judge’s mind is fixed on an issue.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that Donald Trump has weaponized free speech to undermine American democracy and legal institutions, posing a complex challenge for the judicial system and society at large. Professor Sarat emphasizes the importance of a pending legal motion for a gag order against Trump, arguing that it could be a critical step in countering the destructive effects of his inflammatory speech on the legal process and public trust.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that American democracy is at a critical juncture, facing existential threats in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election. Professor Sarat contends that Donald Trump and his supporters are sowing distrust in the electoral system by labeling legal actions against Trump as “election interference,” a strategy that is dividing public opinion and undermining faith in democratic institutions, potentially leading to dire consequences for the future of American democracy regardless of the 2024 election outcome.
Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that mainstream media’s self-reckoning after the 2016 U.S. presidential election led to an overcompensation, which gave platforms to conservative “outside voices” that did not authentically represent the “Real America” they claimed to understand. Professor Buchanan criticizes this overcompensation for leading to an uncritical amplification of narratives like Gary Abernathy’s, which justify and perpetuate the divisive and false beliefs held by Trump supporters, while failing to meaningfully engage with the deeper issues.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat criticizes efforts by some Republicans to use the power of the purse to protect former President Donald Trump from criminal prosecutions. Professor Sarat argues that such actions are not only an abuse of power but also potentially unconstitutional, undermining the separation of powers and echoing historic misuses of legislative authority.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that in deciding whether Mark Meadows’s case should be tried in federal court, the judge should apply a “totality of the circumstances” test—which would result in the case being remanded to state court. Mr. Aftergut points out that this approach would weigh all of Meadows’s actions, rather than focusing on a single official act, thereby accommodating competing legal and social values.
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.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the Fulton County indictment process involving Donald Trump and 18 others, including Kenneth Chesebro, who allegedly created the “fake elector” scheme. Mr. Aftergut explains the possible strategies by the prosecutor and defense, focusing on how Chesebro’s now-severed trial could pave the way for other prosecutions in the case, and provides insights into the evidence against him, emphasizing that a conviction in his trial could offer momentum for cases against Trump and other defendants.
Penn professor Marci Hamilton highlights the alarming alignment between Donald Trump and right-leaning evangelicals in undermining the rule of law, suggesting that both view it as an expendable barrier to their goals. Professor Hamilton draws attention to Trump's lawlessness and the evangelicals' belief that their religious convictions should override legal principles, creating a synergy where both groups assist each other, even as Trump faces legal accusations.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes the deep dissatisfaction and uncertainty surrounding the potential presidential candidates for the 2024 election, with recent polls showing neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden as favorable choices for many Americans. Highlighting a historic level of pessimism about the country's direction, Professor Sarat warns that the upcoming “hold your nose” election, characterized by choosing the lesser of two evils, may pose a significant threat to the future of the Democratic Party and American democracy as a whole.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat critiques U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for his close relationships with conservative billionaires and the luxurious gifts and perks he’s received from them without proper disclosure, as recently reported by ProPublica. Drawing parallels to the case of Justice Abe Fortas, who resigned in the 1960s after a series of ethical missteps, Professor Sarat suggests that the current divisive political climate enables and even rewards ethically questionable behavior among leaders, as long as it aligns with tribal loyalties and partisan allegiances.
In light of recent questions regarding the health of U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar examines Kentucky’s 2021 statute on filling Senate vacancies, which restricts the governor’s appointment power by requiring a choice from a list provided by the departing senator’s political party. Professor Amar expresses doubt about the law’s constitutionality in light of the Seventeenth Amendment and the historical intent to reduce political party influence in Senate appointments.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on today's announcement that federal district court judge Aileen Cannon set a May 2024 trial date in Donald Trump’s trial for obstructing justice and unlawfully taking and retaining national security documents at Mar-a-Lago after he left office. Mr. Aftergut points out that Judge Cannon “split the baby” by choosing a date between the proposals of Special Counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s lawyers but argues that the decision reveals little about whether she will treat Trump more favorably than other criminal defendants.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on recent comments by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh describing the Justices as respectful and restrained in their criticism of each other, despite written evidence in their opinions to the contrary. Professor Sarat points out the mocking and sometimes disparaging language that some Justices have used in discussing opposing views in the contentious cases of late.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut highlights two points about the federal district court’s July 4 decision blocking the Biden administration from communicating with social media companies—points which, Mr. Aftergut argues, underscore the decision’s risk of sowing great mistrust in law. Mr. Aftergut contrasts the apparent “judge shopping” that put the case before a Trump-appointed judge with the even-handed approach of Special Counsel Jack Smith, and he points out the opinion’s glaring omission of an especially relevant precedent.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, history professor emeritus Frederick E. Hoxie reflects on the juxtaposition of the American Independence Day holiday and the prior week’s handful of Supreme Court decisions that usurp the ideal of self-government. Professor Hoxie argues that only by accepting one another and embracing our task as members of a lively democracy can we adopt effective rules for ourselves.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the most recent off-the-Court behavior by Justice Samuel Alito: preemptively responding to a ProPublica report that the Justice had gone on a $100,000 trip paid for by Republican mega-donor Paul Singer. Professor Sarat argues that this behavior is just the latest demonstration of Alito’s “grievance conservatism” and has no place on the highest court in the land.