Preferences, Norms, and a President Who Can’t Tell the Difference

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies explains the difference between preferences and norms and argues that when social norms and personal preferences conflict, the norm must win. Margulies laments that President Donald Trump misunderstands the elemental distinction between social norms and personal preferences and accepts the norm as legitimate only to the extent it coincides with his personal views.

The Vatican Plans to Meet in February to Discuss Doing What the Bishops Should Have Done in 2002

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, comments on Pope Francis’s call for the Catholic bishops to Rome to discuss the clergy sex abuse crisis. Hamilton points out that a similar meeting was called in 2002 after the Boston Globe’s report on sex abuse in the Boston Archdiocese, yet the changes needed in in the Catholic Church in 2002 are still outstanding today in 2018.

What Does #BelieveWomen Mean?

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb explains what #BelieveWomen means—that society should stop being presumptively skeptical of women who report sexual misconduct—as well as what the movement does not mean. Colb points out that to believe women does not mean to criminally convict the accused and bypass constitutional safeguards; rather, it means to treat their testimony the same as society and the law treat all other testimony—as presumptively credible. Colb argues that if we make systemic changes to the way we treat women reporting sexual misconduct, starting with initial contact with the police, these changes could translate into more widespread reforms in the courtroom and prosecution of sexual offenders.

The Immediate Gratification Election: Young Voters Can Stop Trump Here and Now

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes the immediate consequences that should persuade all voters, but particularly young voters, to vote in this year’s midterm election. Buchanan points out that the short-term consequences of Republican victories this week will mean the likely shutdown the special counsel’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign, continued vilification of the FBI and intelligence services, environmental ruin, increasing economic inequality, and more.

Part Three on California’s Mandate That Women Be Placed on Corporate Boards: Dormant Commerce Clause and Improper Government Purpose Questions

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone continue their commentary on California’s mandate that women be placed on corporate boards. In this third of a series of columns on the topic, Amar and Mazzone consider whether SB 826 violates the Commerce Clause and whether there are constitutional issues with the state’s use of the law merely to make a political statement.

Justice O’Connor Withdraws From Public Life, and the Reagan Court is Finally Born

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the announcement that retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor would be withdrawing from public life and explains how, ironically, the exit of President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nominees is giving rise to what could be called the Reagan Court. Dorf describes Reagan’s successes and failures with respect to shaping the Court and explains why only now, with its present composition, the Court may actually be poised to further Reagan’s agenda.

#MeToo: The 2018 Nobel Prize, Pinkwashing, and Institutional Reform

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the 2018 peace prize to relatively unknown contenders for leading efforts “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Wexler considers whether the decision might be “pinkwashing”—a term Wexler derives from “whitewashing” to mean (1) an institution or individual’s deployment and publicity of policies and practices (2) in response to the identification of a #MeToo or sex discrimination related grievance, (3) which does not address the underlying concern of the aggrieved and (4) is intended to establish, maintain, burnish, or restore institutional reputation. Wexler raises and discusses the question how one distinguishes sincere efforts to address a #MeToo problem from pinkwashing.

Especially After Pittsburgh

In the wake of the tragedy in Pittsburg, which in some ways mirrors the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies draws upon his experience representing Abu Zubaydah—the first person held in the CIA "enhanced interrogation program"—to provide an answer the question of how one can represent someone so many people hate. Margulies argues that the advocate’s highest calling is to insist upon humanity even when society is most determined to deny it.

Kavanaugh Saga Shows the #MeToo Movement at a Crossroads: Three Legal Reforms Needed Now

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how the Kavanaugh confirmation process shows the crossroads at which the #MeToo movement now stands. Hamilton goes on to describe three legal reforms that are needed now: to fix the criminal and civil statutes of limitations, to revise defamation laws, and to fix the mandated reporting laws so those with knowledge of sex assault share it with the authorities.

Evaluating a Rape List

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a wiki document allegedly started by a group of students at the University of Washington last year that allows people to make anonymous accusations of rape or sexual abuse by posting the names of alleged assailants. Colb explains the reasons behind the list, as well as the problems the list poses, and concludes that while the list is not perfect, it may be the only form of justice available to victims under a system that fails to prosecute and convict acquaintance rapists in earnest.

Q & A with the Author: Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide

John W. Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon, engages in a question-and-answer session with Jonathan Weiler, who, along with Marc Hetherington, authored Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide. Responding to Dean’s insightful questions, Weiler explains some of the book’s themes, particularly the authors’ choice to use the terms “fixed,” “fluid,” and “mixed” to describe political views that have traditionally been described in terms of “authoritarianism.” Dean praises the work as a fascinating read and a well-written book.

Is California’s Mandate That Public Companies Include Women on Their Boards of Directors Constitutional? Part Two

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone continue their discussion of the constitutionality of California’s law requiring that publicly held corporations have a minimum number of women on their boards of directors. In this second of a series of columns, Amar and Mazzone consider whether California’s ostensible reasons for enacting and implementing SB826 are permissible and “important”—the standard required under federal intermediate equal protection scrutiny.

Employees’ Representation in Corporate Boards

Guest columnists Tamar Frankel, the Robert B. Kent Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law, and Sezgi G. Fuechec, a foreign-trained transactional lawyer with an LL.M. degree in banking and financial law, discuss the trend of employee representation in corporate boards. Frankel and Fuechec point out that while idea of employee representation in the board level is not novel, it is an important development that more corporations should embrace now, rather than waiting until there is a significant conflict between employees, management, and financiers.

Trump Channels Nixon Again: This Time, His Target Is the US Economy

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes why President Trump’s recent attacks on the nation’s independent central bank, the Federal Reserve, is dangerous and worrisome. Buchanan explains the reason the Fed is independent of politics and highlights the importance of its continued existence and independence, regardless of who is in the White House.

Trump’s—and the GOP’s—Hat Trick of Falsehoods About Pre-Existing Conditions

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf debunks President Trump’s claim that he has kept his campaign promise to “protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions.” Dorf provides three primary reasons that the claim is dishonest: the administration’s position in a pending lawsuit; the GOP’s proposed alternative, which does not require insurance companies to offer policies that actually cover pre-existing conditions, and the claim that Democratic support of Medicare for All is “radical socialism.”

Reversal of Reputation: How Dershowitz is Taking Liberties to Defend Trump

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, critiques Alan Dershowitz’s The Case Against Impeaching Trump, finding that the book is essentially a defense brief for President Trump that largely lacks meaningful legal analysis. Falvy argues that the book won’t persuade any legal scholars, but if at least 34 members of the GOP Senate caucus buy Dershowitz’s argument, Trump will likely not be forced from office.

Pennsylvania Republican Leadership Spits in the Eyes of Child Sex Abuse Victims with Faux Justice in New Proposal

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, criticizes Pennsylvania Republican leadership for letting down child sex abuse victims in that state by proposing a “tribunal” that amounts to faux justice rather than passing meaningful legislation. Hamilton calls upon the legislature to pass a real window via statute of limitation reform and to let the private entities handle their own compensation funds.

Should Madison Live or Die?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a case currently before the US Supreme Court—Madison v. Alabama—in which the Court will consider whether a death row inmate may constitutionally be executed despite his advanced dementia causing him not to recall the crime for which he is to be executed. Griffin highlights the ethical and legal issues raised in that case and addresses considerations on both sides.

Girls…Will Not…Replace Us

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb argues that some people's belief in the trivial nature of sexual assault may go hand in hand with the belief that it never happened. Colb examines the relationship between denial and devaluation in other contexts, as well as in the context of gender oppression, and finds consistency in the thinking of people who hate or otherwise persecute others.

Beneath the Fray: Federal Courts Continue the Work of Enforcing Sexual Harassment Laws

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a federal court in Florida correctly denying an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a workplace rape case that deserves a full trial on the merits. Grossman points out that anti-discrimination law is not sufficient to eliminate, or even substantially reduce, the incidence of sexual harassment at work, but it is unquestionably necessary to address that problem and protect survivors.

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 is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George... 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

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 Robert A. Fox Leadership Program 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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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