The Supreme Court Further Dismantles the Establishment Clause, Empowers Religious Parents to Obtain Taxpayer Funds for Sectarian Schools, and Ignores the Rights of the Children in Carson v. Makin

University of Pennylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week in Carson v. Makin, in which it held the Free Exercise Clause requires Maine to subsidize religious private schools because it subsidized non-religious private schools. Professor Hamilton argues that the decision further erodes the Establishment Clause and disregards the rights and needs of children.

The Complicity of the ‘Comfortable Liberals’ in the Decline of American Constitutional Democracy

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan points out that some Democratic elites are complicit in the decline of American constitutional democracy when they support conservative policies and talking points in order to preserve their own personal comfort. Professor Buchanan points to the acceptance of the empty idea of “cancel culture” and the rejection of progressive prosecutors as two examples of this complicity.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act Formula Comes Full Circle in Florida

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton comments on the recent news that the Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, a Jewish synagogue in Florida, has sued the state under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) over its new restrictive abortion laws that it argues violate their religious faith. Professor Hamilton praises the synagogue for leading the charge against an oppressive minority but condemns the tool it must use to do so—RFRA— which Hamilton argues is a tried-and-true path to religious division and mutual intolerance.

New York’s High Court Rejects a Habeas Corpus Petition on Behalf of a Captive Elephant

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision by the New York Court of Appeals ruling that Happy, an Asian elephant who has been imprisoned at the Bronx Zoo for nearly her entire half-century of existence—was not entitled to the writ of habeas corpus. Professor Dorf points out the questionable logic and errors that led the court to its conclusion and suggests that, despite the sad ending for Happy, her case might mark a turning point in the legal rights of nonhuman animals, evidenced by the thoughtful and compassionate dissent by two members of that court.

Justice Alito’s Opinion on Abortion: Not Just a Threat to Reproductive Rights, but to All Constitutional Liberties Not Expressly Set Out in the Constitution

Attorney Jon May argues that the reasoning of Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked majority draft of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. poses a threat not only to reproductive rights, but to all constitutional liberties not expressly enumerated in the Constitution. Mr. May points out that the radical departure of Justice Alito’s opinion could pave the way for the Court to overturn numerous rights recognized over the past seventy years deriving from the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Three Questions that the House Select Committee’s Spellbinding Second Hearing Asks All of Us

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes three future-oriented questions the House Select Committee investigating January 6 poses to all Americans: (1) Do we choose to live in a fact-based world? (2) Do we recognize the danger that Trump’s continuing Big Lie poses to our ability to choose our own leaders? And (3) if we do, will we demand accountability for those whose misdeeds still threaten us?

Was It Really a Threat to Democracy?

Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies observes that while the events of January 6, 2021, were “horrific,” “criminal,” and “anti-democratic,” he suggests that they were never a true threat to democracy. Professor Margulies points out that polling may be misleading and that overblown partisan rhetoric, by either side, does not equip us to confront true challenges to democracy when they do arise

How and Why Justice Breyer (and Other Justices) Should Weigh in on the Independent-State-Legislature Notion Before Breyer Retires

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should put the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory to rest sooner rather than later. Specifically, Dean Amar suggests that Justice Stephen Breyer—who is set to retire but who joined Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter in expressly rejecting ISL in 2000—should be among the voices to condemn the unsupportable theory.

How Did the Public Discussion About Inflation Become Even More Ridiculous?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the political posturing about inflation in this country is becoming increasingly ridiculous. Professor Buchanan points out that we have no idea what is an acceptable (or unacceptable) level of inflation and that despite endlessly criticizing Democrats in power for higher rates of inflation, Republicans have proposed no plan for how to reduce inflation.

Some Questions for the Alito Five

In light of Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., which would overrule Roe v. Wade and its progeny, UChicago Law professor emeritus Albert W. Alschuler and Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe ask six questions of the apparent five-Justice majority. Professors Alschuler and Tribe point out some of the inconsistencies and illogic of the opinion and call on the Justices to account for these issues.

Will We Fall for Factless GOP Attacks on the January 6 Committee?

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that because the facts are not on their side, Trump supporters’ main ploy in combating the January 6 Committee will be simply to take advantage of media “both-siderism” to confuse Americans. Mr. Aftergut points out that the promulgators of both-siderism are counting on Americans taking recycled disinformation at face value and treating it as equivalent to testimony under oath and documents that don’t lie.

Judicial Deference and the Future of Lethal Injection

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on a recent decision by a federal district court judge deferring to the evidence provided by the state in support of its lethal injection procedure, despite significant contradictory evidence. Professor Sarat argues that the trilogy of Supreme Court precedents on lethal injection not only altered the legal standards but tilted the playing field for fact-finding when death row inmates bring lethal injection challenges.

Are Activist Judges Efficient? Who Cares? What Matters Is That They Do Justice

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is “efficient” (in one sense of that fraught word) for courts to sometimes act like legislatures—i.e., to legislate from the bench. Professor Buchanan points out that deciding cases too narrowly or incrementally causes unnecessary litigation to try to identify where courts will draw the line, particularly when the judges and justices already know where they want that line to be. He emphasizes, however, that efficiency is not the ultimate goal of the law, and minimizing litigation costs should never supersede the pursuit of justice.

Are Religious Abortions Protected?

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explores a suggestion by some pro-choice advocates that a “religious abortion” might serve as a workaround to the apparently imminent demise of the constitutional right to abortion. Professor Colb explains why that workaround is unlikely to prevail: the current Court discounts the Establishment Clause, and its ostensible embrace of the Free Exercise Clause is actually friendliness only to conservative Christianity (and to Judaism and Islam where the traditions happen to be the same).

Is the SCOTUS Leak Investigation Legal? Maybe, But It Is Also Hypocritical and Potentially Counterproductive

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that while the Supreme Court’s investigation into who leaked Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade may be legal, it is also highly hypocritical in at least two respects. Professor Dorf argues that the investigation violates the spirit (and perhaps even the letter) of the Court’s Fourth Amendment cases, and it amounts to self-dealing because it focuses on the clerks, but not the Justices or their spouses.

A Speech Those Grieving For Uvalde’s Children Would Like to Hear

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut writes a hypothetical speech that, unfortunately, those grieving the suffering and loss of life from the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, will likely never hear from their elected officials. In the speech, Mr. Aftergut rhetorically points out that the speaker’s approach is common sense yet also highly unlikely to be embraced by those with the power to do so.

Middle-Ground Possibilities in Dobbs? A Few Arguments From “Political Reliance”

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar describes a few (albeit unlikely) ways in which the Supreme Court could more moderately rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., rather than outright striking down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which a majority seems poised to do), or upholding them (which three Justices almost certainly support). Dean Amar explains the doctrine of “political reliance” and how it could lead the Court either to “return” the abortion question to the states to legislate (rather than having unenforced pre-Roe statutes to spring back to life), or to “sunset” the abortion right, giving the public time to account for the change in law.

Justice Comes to John Durham’s and Bill Barr’s Political Prosecution

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the acquittal of Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman and what it means for former U.S. Attorney John Durham and former Trump Attorney General William Bar. Mr. Aftergut points out that all of Durham’s prosecutions, including another he has set for trial in October, are about facts that post-date the fully legitimate launch of the FBI’s 2016 Trump-Russia investigation, precluding any possibility of showing that investigation was a “hoax.”

The Court Seems Poised to Decide Soon Whether to Take Up the “Independent-State-Legislature” (ISL) Notion and (Hopefully) its Textual Nuances

In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court likely deciding soon to review a case presenting the question of the legitimacy of the “Independent State Legislature” (ISL), Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains why the theory necessarily fails unless its proponents make up the meaning of Article II of the Constitution without regard to its words or historical context. Dean Amar argues that the notion of ISL does not work for Article I or Article II, but it certainly does not work for Article II under the textual approach employed by its proponents.

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

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 Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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