Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—comments on a recent decision by a federal district judge in San Diego striking down California’s statewide ban on assault weapons. Professor Sarat observes that regardless of the outcome of the appeals in this case, the country will remain deeply divided about things like COVID-19 restrictions and gun ownership while our political leaders and the judges they appoint continue to repeat the underlying antipathies animating these divisions.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and Elena J. Voss, associate general counsel for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, provide a roadmap of how employers can ready their workplaces for post-pandemic life. Professor Estreicher and Ms. Voss describe the importance of employers determining their workplace vision, communicating that vision to employees, defining what a “flexible” workplace means, setting clear policies with definitive maximums and minimums.
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 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.
In light of recent news that Pfizer and Moderna have apparently created safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19, Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether the government can mandate vaccination for people who lack a valid medical reason not to get vaccinated. Dorf briefly addresses issues of federalism and religious objections to vaccination and then addresses the question whether mandatory vaccination might be inconsistent with a right to abortion.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why President Trump’s inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic should disqualify him from even running for reelection, let alone returning to office. Buchanan argues that it is shocking that we cannot predict the outcome of the 2020 election in light of Trump’s failure to address the biggest health crisis in a century and his consistent efforts to undermine the public response every step of the way.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies debunks the notion that the poor are poor because they are lazy, while the rich are rich because they are industrious. Margulies distinguishes the stock market, in which 84 percent of all stocks owned by Americans are held by the wealthiest ten percent of American households, from the general economy and point out that for the poorest half of Americans—roughly 160 million people—the stock market is meaningless.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Boston University law professor Linda C. McClain comment on COVID-19, toxic masculinity, and the state of national politics today. Grossman and McClain contrast President Trump’s reckless bravado that endangers the lives of Americans with the empathy of Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden’s in asking people to be patriotic by doing their part by wearing masks to protect other Americans.
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.
University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton draws upon a strategy used by anti-abortion advocates in suggesting a way to encourage (or coerce) more people into wearing masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Hamilton proposes requiring persons who opt not to wear a mask in public (1) to watch, on a large screen, an adult's beating heart for 30 seconds, and (2) to be read a statement about how their decision unreasonably endangers others.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and rising 2L Elisabeth H. Campbell argues that a liability shield for companies who follow federal administrative guidance in reopening workplaces during COVID-19 will not lead to significantly less litigation, nor will it help ensure workplaces are safe. Estreicher and Campbell explain why the liability shields being proposed would not preclude protracted litigation.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—discusses the crisis the COVID-19 pandemic is having on America’s jails and prisons. Sarat argues that early release is a good start, but it cannot be the only solution, because all people, in and out of prisons, deserve to be treated with dignity.
University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton argues that the President does not have the power to order states to open houses of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamilton discusses the limitations on federal power with respect to states and religious entities and praises the wise members of the clergy who are resisting opening before it is safe.
In this second of a series of columns about the COVID-19 protests, Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies argues, with some caveats, that workers have the moral authority to reopen their businesses in order to sustain themselves. Margulies notes that while he is not advising anyone to disobey the law (and while he personally supports the lockdown orders), business owners facing the impossible decision whether to follow the law or sustain themselves and their families are morally justified in defying the stay-at-home orders.
In this second of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is incorrect in claiming that the reason Democratic-led states are in trouble is that they are providing excessively generous pensions to retirees who worked for state and local governments. Buchanan then examines a workaround, first described by Professor Darien Shanske of the University of California at Davis, that would allow the Federal Reserve to give assistance to states and cities without interference from Republicans in the Senate or the White House.
Austin Sarat— Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on the decision by the conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court halting the state’s stay at home order. Sarat points out that the opinion recapitulates, without acknowledgment, debates in analytic jurisprudence about the distinction between orders and rules, and he argues that while the decision may be good for the Trump campaign, it puts at risk the lives and well-being of Wisconsin’s citizens.
In this first of a series of columns about federal relief to state and local governments, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan provides the economic background to explain how unprecedented these times are and argues that supporting cities and states is essential to surviving this crisis.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone assess President Trump’s suggestion that federal aid to state and local governments might be conditioned on their willingness to abandon their “sanctuary” policies and assist the federal government in immigration enforcement. Although Amar and Mazzone expect those federal spending conditions not to be realized, they use the President’s comment to list and describe some unanswered fundamental constitutional questions in the conditional spending arena.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Stanford law professor Lawrence M. Friedman discuss the implications of COVID-19 restrictions on the execution of wills and marriage. Grossman and Friedman point out that the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates, among other things, how quickly and universally Americans rush into court, demanding from judges legal solutions to ethical, political, and social issues.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the protests that have erupted over COVID-19 restrictions. Margulies argues that because the state cannot (or will not) live up to its end of the social contract by committing to sustain people’s livelihood for the duration of the restrictions, the protests are morally legitimate.