Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on three writings by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that he finds himself most drawn to. Amar describes these writings as addressing ideas central to our form of democratic government, namely popular sovereignty, equal voting access, and judicial deference to Congress on policies involving the entire nation.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan examines the flaws in the theory that Republicans’ support for Trump is about judges and tax cuts. Rather, Buchanan argues, they support his bigotry and his efforts to dismantle our democracy.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case the U.S. Supreme Court will consider this term that presents the question whether the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment prohibits sentencing a juvenile offender to life without the possibility of parole. Colb considers the wisdom and constitutionality of imposing such a sentence on a person who was under 18 at the time of his crime.
In honor of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton and former clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, reflects on our country’s first two female Supreme Court Justices and their similarities and differences. Hamilton points out that a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose abortion in at least some circumstances and the right to contraception and warns the President and the Senate to think long and hard before they replace Ginsburg on the fly with a someone who is a threat to abortion and contraception.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies explains why the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week should invigorate the left into seeking lasting change through the legislative and executive branches of government. Margulies points out that the myth of the Court as the ultimate defender of underrepresented minorities and the poor is, for much of the Court’s history, just a myth. He calls upon people everywhere to vote and make their will known, and he predicts that the Court will not stray far from the popular will.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on some of the questions commentators and analysts are, or will soon be, asking—specifically why we have bar exams for legal licensure, and, assuming we retain them, what they should look like going forward. Amar observes the limitations of the so-called diploma privilege advocated by some and suggests that states adopt greater interstate uniformity in their bar exams, shift toward more performance (as opposed to memorization) exams, and move away from being so time pressured.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit sitting en banc, in which the court upheld Florida’s Section 0751, by which the Republican-controlled state legislature gutted a voter referendum that would have restored the right to vote to ex-felons in the state who had served their time. Dorf points out that the court’s vote was split based on the party of the President who appointed them and argues that the majority exhibited an attitude of “petty sticklerism,” invoking formalistic and reality-denying reasons to rule as it did.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a divided three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit holding that a Texas vote-by-mail law that prefers people who are 65 or older does not violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the federal Constitution. Amar explains why the decision is “deeply misguided” and runs counter to the clear words of the Constitution.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—argues that Attorney General William Barr erroneously characterizes the families of victims of violent crimes as a homogeneous group unified in their support of the death penalty. Sarat points out that, in fact, some families of victims oppose the application of the death penalty (for a variety of reasons), so by trying to justify the reinstatement of the federal death penalty as bringing closure to victims and their families, Barr and his political allies are simply using these victims and their families to support his political ends.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on philosopher Kate Manne’s recent book, Entitled, in which Mann tackles “privileged men’s sense of entitlement” as a “pervasive social problem with often devastating consequences.” Wexler praises Manne’s work as “illuminating” and calls upon lawyers and law scholars to ask how such entitlements might best and safely be challenged and reallocated, and how new more egalitarian entitlements might be generated and enforced.
UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin describes the legal landscape after the U.S. Supreme Court’s July 2020 decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, in which the Court took an expansive view of the ministerial exception. Griffin describes two recent decisions by U.S. Courts of Appeals ruling in favor of an employee and against a religious employer, demonstrating that ministers still have a chance (albeit a small one) of winning their antidiscrimination lawsuits.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the case for occasionally including status—“who you are”—in assigning blame in criminal matters. Colb explains that generally, our penal system prohibits “status offenses,” but sometimes, such as in the case of psychopaths, we are comfortable deciding how to punish a person based at least in part on who they are.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman debunks a tweet by Texas Senator Ted Cruz about childbirth and abortion. Grossman describes how, contrary to Cruz’s claims, pregnancy is dangerous, Mifeprex has only minor potential side effects, and the risk of dying from childbirth is many times greater than the risk of dying from an abortion.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies comments on an essay by John J. Lennon, who is serving time in New York for murder, and a response by the sister of the murdered man responding to Lennon. Margulies points out that exceptional stories like Lennon’s set the bar too high, at the expense of the many who are ordinary.
Neil H. Buchanan—UF law professor and economist—dispels some common misunderstandings about the future of Social Security but explains why President Trump’s recent comments are cause for concern. Buchanan explains why, contrary to claims by reporters and politicians, Social Security is not at the brink of insolvency, but points out that if Trump were to permanently eliminate payroll taxes, that would doom the program on which tens of millions of retirees depend.
In response to the news that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned due to health reasons, Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on Abe’s efforts to amend Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, which was imposed on the country by Supreme Allied Commander Douglas MacArthur after World War II. Dorf describes one bad reason and two good reasons that have been offered for a change in Article 9, but he argues that the case for retaining Article 9 is stronger.
Cornell law professor comments on a recent opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit holding that requiring men but not women to register for the draft is constitutional under mandatory U.S. Supreme Court precedents. Specifically, Colb considers what the U.S. Supreme Court should do if it agrees to hear the case and more narrowly, whether the motives of the plaintiffs in that case bear on how the case should come out.
Marci A. Hamilton—a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars—argues that the biggest threats to herd immunity against COVID-19 are federal and state religious liberty statutes and religious/philosophical exemptions. Hamilton describes how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and its state-law equivalents came to be in the United States, and she calls upon legislators at all levels to amend RFRA so that once we have developed an effective and safe vaccine, we might as a country develop herd immunity and prevent more unnecessary deaths.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies describes a few of the ways in which America has failed its people—its inability to feed, house, and provide water for its poor, while at the same time finding tools to support and enrich its wealthy. Margulies paints a bleak picture of the number of Americans who will go hungry, be evicted, or lack indoor plumbing and access to clean, affordable water. In contrast, Margulies points out that the stock market—in which 84% of all stocks owned by Americans are held by the wealthiest 10%—has fully recovered.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—explains why the 2020 Democratic National Convention was unlike any other political gathering in American history for reasons beyond its virtual platform. Sarat argues that the future of American democracy lies in the balance, and when we vote in November, it will be up to us whether democracy lives or dies.