Agency Guidance May Not Be Enough: Keeping Workers Safe and Avoiding Employer Workplace Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and 2L Elisabeth H. Campbell describe the wide array of laws that will need to come into play to keep workers safe and avoid employer liability as workplaces consider reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, cautioning that compliance will not necessarily relieve employers of the risk of litigation and liability. Estreicher and Campbell discuss applicable recommendations, guidelines, and requirements set forth by such agencies as the U.S. Department of Labor, which is responsible for administering the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).

A Constitutional Commitment to Access to Literacy: Bridging the Chasm Between Negative and Positive Rights

Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker discusses a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in which that court held that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause secures schoolchildren a fundamental right to a “basic minimum education” that “can plausibly impart literacy.” Caminker—one of the co-counsel for the plaintiffs in that case—explains why the decision is so remarkable and why the supposed dichotomy between positive and negative rights is not as stark as canonically claimed.

Pro-Gun Justices Announce Their Agenda While the Supreme Court Bides It Time on Gun Rights

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on yesterday’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court deferring deciding on a Second Amendment issue presented by a New York City law that prohibited gun owners from transporting their guns out of the city. Sarat points out that the issue that divided the Court’s conservative justices in this case was not whether to radically expand the protections of the Second Amendment, but when and how to do so.

Rethinking Retroactivity in Light of the Supreme Court’s Jury Unanimity Requirement

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday in Ramos v. Louisiana, in which it held that the federal Constitution forbids states from convicting defendants except by a unanimous jury, Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the Court’s jurisprudence on retroactivity. Dorf highlights some costs and benefits of retroactivity and argues that the Court’s refusal to issue advisory opinions limits its ability to resolve retroactivity questions in a way that responds to all the relevant considerations.

Believe All Women or Support Joe Biden?

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on recent sexual assault allegations against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Colb argues that if the only choices for President are Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the sexual assault allegation against the latter will take second fiddle to the need to defeat the former and defends this perspective as not manifesting hypocrisy or indifference to sexual assault or other intimate violence.

Even During a Pandemic, Fear-Mongering About the Debt Has Predictably Reared Its Ignorant Head

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why we should not be concerned about increasing the federal government’s debt, despite what some journalists are suggesting. Buchanan points out that sometimes—such as during a pandemic or other crisis—the federal government should borrow more to prevent a downward economic spiral.

Wisconsin’s Decision to Have an Election This Month Was Unjust, But Was it Also Unconstitutional? Why the Plaintiffs (Rightly) Lost in the Supreme Court

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent per curiam decision staying an injunction by a federal district court in Wisconsin, effectively allowing the election in that state to go forward on with the normal timeline for casting ballots in place, despite concerns over the effects of COVID-19. Amar and Mazzone argue that, while the outcome might have been unjust, the plaintiffs in that case likely did not allege a constitutional violation and thus did not properly allege claims suitable to be remedied in federal court.

Bringing Home the Supply Chain

NYU law professors Samuel Estreicher and Jonathan F. Harris describe how the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the United States to confront the problem of unchecked globalization. Estreicher and Harris argue that once the pandemic subsides, U.S. policymakers should, as a matter of national security, mandate that a minimum percentage of essential supplies be manufactured domestically.

Unconstitutional Chaos: Abortion in the Time of COVID-19

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler discuss the abortion bans implemented in several states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grossman and Ziegler explain why the bans are unconstitutional and comment on the connection between the legal challenges to those bans and the broader fight over abortion rights.

Religions Harm People

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin points out ways in which religions harm people—manifested today as an insistence on exemptions to social COVID-19 distancing orders. Griffin argues that telling the truth about religion should not be viewed as a form of discrimination and endorses Katherine Stewart’s recent book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, which provides a detailed explanation of how the Religious Right has used its power to advance religion-based government in harmful ways.

Conservative Authoritarianism Comes Out of the Shadows

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule’s essay “Beyond Originalism,” which Sarat argues brings conservative authoritarianism out of the shadows. Sarat describes Vermeule as a modern-day Machiavelli, offering advice to the governing class and laying out a theory of governance Vermeule calls “common-good constitutionalism” but which in reality elevates the “common good” above individual goods in a manner antithetical to freedom, pluralism, and democracy.

Why Did the U.S. Supreme Court Endanger the Lives of Wisconsin Voters?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent per curiam opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court effectively requiring that in-person voting in the Wisconsin primary election go as scheduled and without deadline extension for mail-in ballots, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dorf argues that the decision is the result of partisan politics and petty sticklerism in the Court and will unnecessarily endanger the lives of voting citizens.

Mr. President: This Is When the Country Can “Reopen”

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton writes an open letter to President Donald Trump asking that he not reopen the country until everyone has appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Hamilton argues that the President should exercise his power under the Defense Production Act to repurpose U.S. factories to make masks and gloves until everyone who needs them has them.

How Allen v. Cooper Breaks Important New (if Dubious) Ground on Stare Decisis

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on language in a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Allen v. Cooperdiscussing constitutional stare decisis in the context of state sovereign immunity. Amar points out some of the problems with the Court’s jurisprudence on state sovereign immunity and Congress’s Section 5 power, and he questions the Allen majority’s embrace of a “special justification” requirement for constitutional stare decisis.

When Children Stay Home—A COVID-19 Consequence

Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, describes how the COVID-19 pandemic uniquely endangers children who are being sexually abused by people close to them. Robb describes ways in which teachers, coaches, and other adult figures in children’s lives must do to ensure the safety of children in this time when schools and other safe spaces are shut down.

Why People Dislike the Insanity Defense

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the insanity defense, considering when and why juries (and others) might perceive a criminal defendant to be not guilty by reason of insanity. Colb proposes that if a criminal defendant’s mental illness looks like an outside force that made him behave in an out-of-character fashion, then the jury is more likely to find him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Toxic Religious Liberty in the COVID-19 Era

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that governors and lawmakers should not be granting religious exemptions to stay-at-home orders imposed due to COVID-19. Hamilton points out that there are two prerequisites for legitimate religious exemptions, and the exemptions granted in twelve states have met neither.

The Simple Message of Tolerance That Eludes President Trump

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies calls upon President Trump to condemn the rise of anti-Asian calumny and violence and contrasts Trump’s actions today with those of President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks. Margulies points out that immediately after 9/11, President Bush defined national identity in the language of equality and tolerance, stressing that Muslims and Arab-Americans were not the enemy.

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, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... 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

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... 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

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government 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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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