Analysis and Commentary on Politics
The New Trump Florida Trial Date Is Sensible. It Also Leaves Us in the Dark About What Judge Aileen Cannon Learned

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.

Kavanaugh Is the Latest Justice to Try Shoring up the Supreme Court by Trying to ‘Put Lipstick on a Pig’

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.

Judge Doughty’s Aberrant First Amendment Decision Sows Distrust in the Law

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.

Living Together Under the Law

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.

Samuel Alito Channels His Inner Donald Trump and Shows Himself to Be the ‘Trumpiest’ Supreme Court Justice

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.

Good and Bad Reasons to Prosecute a Former President

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies distinguishes between the calls to prosecute officials from the George. W. Bush administration over their war crimes and the present prosecution of Donald Trump. Professor Margulies explains why he opposed prosecution of Bush but supports prosecution of Trump: Bush had the best interests of the country at heart, whereas the same cannot plausibly be said about Trump.

Joe Versus the Volcano: How Biden’s Debt Ceiling Deal Could Engulf the World Next Time

In this second of a series of columns conducting a postmortem on the debt ceiling crisis, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explain why the temporary resolution of the debt ceiling crisis may result in an even higher cost when the issue arises again on January 2, 2025. Professors Buchanan and Dorf argue that the debt ceiling statute can only ever operate as a source of leverage for extortionists or, if neither side blinks, as the means of inflicting terrible damage to the country.

Five Under-the-Radar Stories to Keep Faith in Our Democracy

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on five stories you might have missed that inspire continued faith in the functioning of our democracy. Mr. Aftergut suggest that when anti-democratic developments occur, citizens in a free society should never underestimate our ability to get things back on track by flexing our collective, pro-democracy muscle.

Why Jack Smith Might Bring a Second Trump Indictment in D.C.

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the recent news that Judge Aileen Cannon has been assigned to the federal grand jury indictment of Donald Trump. Mr. Aftergut explains the possible outcomes if Judge Cannon does not recuse herself from the case and what Special Counsel Jack Smith might have in mind.

Republican One-Party Rule Might—Might—Not Be Inevitable

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan suggests a sliver of a possibility that Republicans’ attempt to impose one-party rule on the United States might fail. Professor Buchanan’ points out that Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis’s argument that he, unlike Donald Trump, could hold the presidency for eight years might be the best reason for Republicans in Congress to allow him to lose.

President Biden’s “Win” in the Debt Ceiling Battle Was a Better Result than Expected, But Dangerous Nonetheless

In this first of a series of columns conducting a postmortem on the debt ceiling crisis, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf point out that President Biden’s debt ceiling resolution appears to have won the politics of 2023 and 2024 and sidestepped another huge crisis. However, Professors Buchanan and Dorf consider whether these short-term victories will have longer-term costs that prove even more extreme.

On to the Next Crisis

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies argues that the debt-ceiling “crisis” was manufactured by politicians and the media and that our nation is structurally induced to preserve and enflame such problems rather than solve them. Professor Margulies suggests that we view hype over alleged crises with skepticism and that we seek to understand the structural forces that drive “crisis-speak” so we can better resist its pull.

Will the Democrats Unilaterally Disarm on the Debt Ceiling in the Name of Being “Normal”?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out that, if we reach the drop-dead date of the debt ceiling, both options available to President Joe Biden will be unprecedented, destabilizing, and risky. Professor Buchanan argues that Biden’s least bad choice in that situation is to continue to pay the nation’s bills and that doing anything else for the sake of seeming “normal” is more dangerous for the economy and the country.

Musings on the Debt-Ceiling Controversy and the (Related) Limits of Arguments Sounding in Stare Decisis

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on the debt-ceiling controversy and argues that the left would be well-advised to engage the merits of these political and constitutional questions, rather than invoking the “the other side is unfairly trying to undo things that have already been decided” argument. Dean Amar points out that in fiscal politics and constitutional law, the status quo is not nearly as easy to identify or rigid as some would suppose, and very few decisions are truly immune from reconsideration, despite the principle of stare decisis.

The Debt Ceiling Crisis Provides No Cautious Way Out for Biden, Legally or Politically

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explain the options currently available to President Biden for handling the impending debt ceiling crisis. Professors Buchanan and Dorf argue that while the best option would have been to announce from the outset that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional, the President’s current least bad option is, if the drop-dead date arrives, to continue to pay the nation’s debts notwithstanding the debt ceiling.

Justifying Republican Hostage-Taking as Merely Normal Negotiating is Sophistry at Its Worst

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to a recent New York Times op-ed by Professor Michael McConnell that purports to defend congressional Republicans’ posture regarding the debt ceiling. Professor Buchanan argues that Professor McConnell’s entire argument is a strawman, fails to engage with the key points it purports to counter, and provides at most only the most inadequate fig leaf for Republicans’ willingness to endanger people’s livelihoods for political gain.

What’s So Special About the Fox/Dominion Settlement? Less Than You’d Think

Illinois Law professor Jennifer K. Robbennolt, University of Houston Law professor Jessica Bregant, and Illinois Law professor Verity Winship describe the findings of their study of people’s perceptions of legal settlements generally, and what that means about the Fox/Dominion settlement. The authors point out that the lawsuit ended exactly as most lawsuits do—in settlement—and argue that for all the case’s weighty implications, the public reactions to the settlement are exactly what we would expect.

CNN Turns Propaganda Organ. We Don’t Have to Put Up With It.

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut critiques CNN’s “Town Hall” program Wednesday night, which commentators have described as an “infomercial” for Donald Trump to air his unsupported claims. Mr. Aftergut points out the role that media plays in legitimizing authoritarianism and calls upon CNN viewers to “vote with your remote” and send CNN a message that it should stop enabling a former President who tried to overturn the Constitution.

A Debt is a Debt is a Debt: Exotic Bonds are No More Legal than Jumbo Coins or Refusing to Pay Our Obligations

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan and Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf continue their discussion of the assortment of illegal options President Joe Biden has available to him if Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Professors Buchanan and Dorf argue that because there are no loopholes or escape hatches in the debt ceiling statute, if put into that untenable position, President Biden should minimize the damage and simply issue normal Treasury securities—the “least unconstitutional” option.

Imagining a Successful Meeting Between Biden and McCarthy

In a mix of humor and seriousness, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf imagines how Tuesdays’ meeting between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell) could go. Professor Dorf explores one creative way the two sides might reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... 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 Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law and Director of the Center of Labor and... 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

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

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

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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