Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler reports on the genocide convictions recently handed down by the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia after trials concluded over crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Wexler suggests three main takeaways of the rulings, including how the determination of genocide is beneficial to many victims in Cambodia, a reminder about how international legal entities define genocide in the context of this and other human rights atrocities, and a breakdown of the crucial importance of reparations to the Cambodian people.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah L. Brake discuss a proposal by the Department of Education that would roll back Obama-era guidance on how claims of sexual assault and harassment are handled by educational institutions that receive federal funding. In part one of this two-part series, Grossman and Brake provide historical background on Title IX, explain regulations implemented during the Obama administration, and touch on how the Trump administration’s rollback may affect student victims of sexual assault and harassment.
Boston University law professor Tamar Frankel unpacks the nuanced layers of whistleblower law. Frankel describes the two main legal sources that deal with whistleblowers in the United States, as well as the process by which a retaliated against whistleblower-employee may seek protection and relief. Frankel also explores the various objections to protecting whistleblowers, noting how problems may arise in the event that an employee whose employment was terminated as a result of whistleblowing activities is reinstated to their former position via the court system.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb explains how a better understanding of consent in a police interrogation context can inform our understanding of consent in a sexual context. Colb argues that the solution to both is to educate everyone more effectively about what will and will not successfully make things (the interrogation or the sexual activity) stop.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why a federal district court was correct in ruling that a California law that seeks to discourage the transfer of federal lands to private parties violates principles of federal supremacy under the Constitution. Amar addresses the two arguments California made in defense of the law and points out that under long-standing precedent, states cannot single out federal entities for discriminatory regulatory treatment.
GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his series of columns considering how much damage the US Supreme Court will inflict after Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. Drawing upon the nation’s experience with a conservative Court during the Lochner era, Buchanan predicts that one of the most consequential results of Republicans’ theft of a Supreme Court seat could be to seriously undermine one or more of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the legality of President Donald Trump’s firing of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and designating Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General. Dorf points out that while the Constitution does not expressly address acting officers, Trump’s actions certainly violate the spirit of the law and the Constitution.
Marci A. Hamilton—the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania—describes the growing tension between the Vatican and American Bishops with respect to clergy sex abuse and considers whether a schism might be imminent. Hamilton refers to and draws upon a column she wrote in 2002, in which she argued that disagreement between American bishops and the Vatican over the correct path for dealing with clergy sex abuse was foreordained.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler discusses the moral injury that results from conflicting fidelity to legal obligations and deeply held moral beliefs. Wexler explains how circumstances giving rise to such conflicts can arise and offers some suggestions of how persons experiencing moral injury might make peace with their value conflict.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.