Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, pens an open letter to members of Congress, describing Wednesday’s insurrection by pro-Trump extremists as predicable (even predicted) to the Framers and calling upon Congress to impeach and convict the President. Professor Hamilton argues that Donald Trump is the embodiment of what the Framers expected from rulers: self-centered corruption, greed, and no care for the common good.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and adjunct professor Zachary Fasman comment on two bills passed by the New York City Council that would mandate detailed and extensive labor protections for fast-food workers in New York City. Professors Estreicher and Fasman praise the intent behind the laws but explain why the City Council is not the place where binding agreements governing private workplaces in the City should be enacted.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf describes what is at stake on Wednesday, January 6, when Congress meets in joint session to confirm Joe Biden’s election as President. Professor Dorf explains why, although Trump apparently lacks the majority necessary to invalidate a duly chose electoral slate, the stakes are still very high.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—explains why the police murder of George Floyd was the worst moment of 2020 in American law. Professor Sarat proposes that we remember the event and that date—May 25—as “infamous,” a word reserved for rare and atrocious events like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in an attempt to capture the brutality and inhumanity of the act.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that presents the question whether the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement applies when the suspect may have committed a misdemeanor, as opposed to a more serious crime. Colb argues that if the Court believes that a misdemeanor (or a particular misdemeanor) is not important enough to justify the invasion of a person’s home, then it ought perhaps to hold that the police officer in the present should not have entered the suspect’s home, period, with or without a warrant.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and 2L Samantha Zipper describe how several courts have invoked Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a basis for limiting rights against discrimination in public accommodations. Estreicher and Zipper argue that as American society moves increasingly online, § 230 must be read more narrowly, with goals of safeguarding individual civil rights in an already prolific internet sector.
Steven D. Schwinn, a professor of law at the University of Illinois Chicago John Marshall Law School, explains how the Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing the Trump administration to proceed with efforts to exclude undocumented aliens from the census is consistent with the administration’s manipulation of the courts to achieve illegal policy. Professor Schwinn describes why that the Court’s ruling in the census case is an appropriate bookend to the travel ban ruling he received early in his presidency.
Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar explains why Georgia’s law allowing persons 75 years and older to get absentee ballots for all elections in an election cycle with a single request, while requiring younger voters to request absentee ballots separately for each election, is a clear violation of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment. Dean Amar acknowledges that timing may prevent this age discrimination from being redressed in 2020, but he calls upon legislatures and courts to understand the meaning of this amendment and prevent such invidious disparate treatment of voters in future years.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—explains the enhanced risk of COVID-19 infection in the federal death row in Terre Haute, not only among inmates but among those necessary to carry out executions. Professor Sarat calls upon the Trump administration and other officials to focus on saving, rather than taking, lives inside and outside prison.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains the legal concepts of ripeness and laches, which pertain to the timing of filing a lawsuit, and argues that in the context of election lawsuits, it is far better for courts to relax ripeness rules and risk unnecessary adjudications than to discard the doctrine of laches and risk widespread disenfranchisement and the undermining of confidence in fair elections.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman responds to a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden for using the academic title she earned. Professor Grossman dissects the op-ed, penned by a retired lecturer at Northwestern University, and explains the deep and pervasive sexism behind it.
Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb describes the assumptions inherent in the executive pardon power and explains why the purpose of the presidential pardon forecloses the possibility of a self-pardon. Colb argues that the only person who would dare to try to grant a self-pardon—one who lacks empathy—is the very one who should not be exercising the pardon power at all.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—predicts that because the lawyer discipline process is broken, President Trump’s lawyers will get away with facilitating his anti-democratic misconduct. Professor Sarat notes that Lawyers Defending American Democracy (LDAD) released a letter calling on bar authorities to investigate and punish members of Trump’s post-election legal team, but he points out that while LDAD can shame those members, it still lacks the ability itself to discipline or disbar.
In this fifth of a series of columns examining the California v. Texas case challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar, Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker, and Illinois law professor Jason Mazzone discuss severability in a larger context and explain why, in their view the majority and minority positions are partly right and partly wrong. The authors conclude that if the Court invalidates and enjoins the individual mandate, it should reject the challengers’ substantive express inseverability claim that the entire ACA remainder should be enjoined.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf argues Trump’s actions during his final months are different from those of past presidents, and particularly dangerous. As Dorf explains, Trump is aiming to do damage for its own sake, whereas other lame-duck presidents have at least sought to advance policy aims in pursuit of some conception of the common good.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—describes how President Trump’s pardons reveal his “superficial and distorted” understanding of American values. Professor Sarat points out that for someone who claims to value the clemency power, President Trump has granted clemency fewer times than any President since William McKinley, who served from 1897 to 1901, and when Trump has granted clemency, he has used it to reward people whose crimes show their contempt for the rule of law.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies describes a recent piece of hate mail he received from someone who apparently saw him quoted in an Associated Press article about what a Biden administration might mean for the 40 remaining prisoners in Guantanamo. Professor Margulies explains that he can forgive the writer because he knows the writer’s rant most likely comes from a place of psychological and cultural insecurity, but at the same time he also holds the writer accountable for his behavior.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb analyzes an unusual comment by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee that a government restriction on the size of people’s Thanksgiving gathering would violate the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. Colb describes a similar statement (in a different context) by conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork during his (unsuccessful) confirmation hearings in 1987 and observes from that pattern a possibility that even as unenumerated rights are eroded, the Court might be creative in identifying a source of privacy rights elsewhere in the Constitution.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by the Kansas Supreme Court holding that a woman who conceives through artificial insemination and her same-sex partner can both be deemed the legal parents of any resulting child born during their relationship under the Kansas Parentage Act, even if the couple has not entered into a co-parenting agreement. Grossman explains the facts of the case and the court’s reasoning, and she explains why the court effectively balanced the rights and interests of the two women.
Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the increasing importance of courts and lawyers in safeguarding and reinforcing the role of factual truths in our democracy. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that lawyers and judges are steeped in factual investigation and factual determination, and they call upon legal educators (like themselves) to continue instilling in students the commitment to analytical reasoning based in factual evidence, and to absolutely reject the notion that factual truth is just in the mind of the beholder.