In this second part of a series of columns, GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers how the United States, and indeed the world, would shift substantially to the right with a Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Buchanan explains not only what might change, but how we can expect that change to come about, as well.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses the controversy over the so-called “independent investigation” into Ohio State’s football coach Urban Meyer’s handling of domestic violence allegations against one of his longtime assistant coaches, Zach Smith. Amar explains that the investigation is hardly “independent” in any sense of the word when it is funded by the very organization (the university) who has the greatest interest in its findings, and he uses the paradigm of the political system to propose an alternative, truly independent option.
Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, comments critically on a letter by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano suggesting that Pope Francis resign because he knew about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abusing seminarians and did nothing. Hamilton points out that bishops across the United States have been complicit in, or have covered up, countless acts of abuse, and if suddenly now one bishop is calling for everyone who played a part in cover-ups to resign, then it logically follows that the entire Church hierarchy must go.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb describes the recent trend among professors to give “trigger warnings” prior to discussing sensitive materials with students and explains why she has chosen not to provide such warnings to her students. Colb points out that there is no reliable evidence that the warnings work as advertised; rather, they might actually do more harm than good. Colb concludes that an education necessarily means encountering ideas and theories that do not sit well with what one already believes, and students should not have the right to skip days or receive warnings when professors will be talking about unwelcome facts or theories.
Alan Brownstein, an emeritus law professor at UC Davis Law, comments critically on the sole opinion—a dissent—US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has written about the Second Amendment. Brownstein points out two critical fallacies of Judge Kavanaugh’s position with respect to Second Amendment challenges to gun regulations articulated in that dissenting opinion.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the recent allegations that Asia Argento—an alleged victim of Harvey Weinstein and vocal #MeToo advocate—committed statutory rape against then-17-year-old Jimmy Bennett. Wexler argues that if the allegations are true and Argento is what is known as a “complex victim,” society should judge Argento neither more harshly, by virtue of the female perpetrator’s violation of traditional gender roles, nor less harshly, simply because she is also a victim, than other complex victims.
GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the notion of a completely “free” market is nonsensical and argues that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed Accountable Capitalism Act would make capitalism in this country work better. Buchanan points out that there is not a baseline of “no rules” in any society; rather, the government has already simply set certain rules, and those who disproportionately benefit from those rules do not wish them to change.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recently publicized memorandum Brett Kavanaugh wrote in 1998 in the course of his work for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, who was conducting the investigation of President Bill Clinton. Dorf points out that the sexually explicit questions Kavanaugh proposed in his memo should have been ruled inadmissible under applicable procedural rules. Inspired by Kavanaugh’s own line of questioning, Dorf concludes by proposing a question that he calls upon a senator to ask Judge Kavanaugh during his nomination hearing.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies describes the ways in which the United States has changed (and remained the same) in its approaches to national security, from President George W. Bush to President Barack Obama to President Donald Trump. Margulies refers to a column he wrote in January 2017 predicting the trajectory of national security under President Trump and points out that many of his predictions have come to pass.
GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is a false equivalence to say (as some journalists have said) that while Republicans have embraced increasingly extremist positions, so too have Democrats. Buchanan argues that true capitalism does not mean lack of rules altogether but simply a collection of rules that promote competition and fairness.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why the norm of not asking a Supreme Court nominee about his specific views about specific cases does not make sense and renders the hearing unhelpful in evaluating him as a potential justice. Amar explains the distinction between promising to rule in a certain way and predicting how one might rule, and he debunks some of the reasons often given for the norm of not asking (or answering) these types of questions during the confirmation hearing.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb explains the controversy over a proposed (but failed) law in Austria that would have regulated the consumption of Kosher and Halal meat in Lower Austria, one of nine states in that country. Colb points out that the law could not have achieved its purported purpose, to promote the welfare of animals, because it would have permitted animals to be slaughtered at all. Rather, it would have required that religious Jews and Muslims register with the government—just as they were required to do under Nazi rule. Colb also observes that while the law invidiously targeted religious Jews and Muslims, no one seemed to consider that the intended targets could avoid the law altogether by becoming vegans.
Thomas Greaney and Samuel Miller—both adjunct professors at UC Hastings College of the Law and former attorneys with the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice—describe how antitrust law in the United States no longer operates as a legal sword to keep markets competitive, but as a shield to protect large companies from competition. Greaney and Miller call for a renewal of the antitrust enterprise using the best of current economics informed by a realistic appreciation for how markets actually work in the real world.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf describes why he chose not to join the 72 other former law clerks of Justice Anthony Kennedy who signed a letter urging the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Dorf explains that the letter is at best misleading, and he argues that while a norm of deference may be preferable, that norm no longer exists, and deference to the president’s choice in this age of extreme polarization would amount to unilateral Democratic disarmament.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the #ChurchToo movement, a campaign arising from the viral #MeToo movement, that seeks to raise awareness of sexual assault in the specific context of churches. Wexler describes the similarities between the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, as well as some key differences, and explains that any meaningful change must come largely from within these communities due to challenges in church doctrine and philosophy, particularly with evangelical churches.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on two decisions from the US Supreme Court’s 2017–18 term in which the Court notably overruled two longstanding constitutional precedents by 5–4 votes. Amar discusses the doctrine of horizontal stare decisis—the Court’s respect for its prior rulings—and focuses on three questions in particular these two cases present.
GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses why the recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is considering a unilateral tax cut for the rich would be a political gift to Democrats. Buchanan describes what the tax cut would do and explains that no one thinks that such legislation could pass, which is why Trump’s people are talking about this executive workaround.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman discusses the findings of a recent USA Today investigation that reveals that maternal mortality rates in the United States are rising, even as they fall globally. Grossman explains that some states, such as California, have put substantial resources into investigating the causes of maternal mortality and implementing changes to address it, while other states, such as Texas, are adhering to ideologically driven policies that endanger infant and maternal health.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb considers some of the self-described pro-life feminists’ arguments against abortion rights and argues that an anti-choice position on abortion is not only not feminist, but contrary to feminism. Colb argues that a zygote—a mere collection of cells—is not a child and would have no claim to the inside of a woman’s body even if it were; thus, a full feminist would recognize these simple truths and would be pro-choice.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why the FDA’s recent announcement that it intends to restrict the word “milk” on food labels may present First Amendment issues. Dorf points to the US Supreme Court’s decision last year in Matal v. Tam—which rejected the Patent and Trademark Office’s denial of a trademark to a band on the ground that the name was offensive—as evidence of the Court’s skepticism about the government making ideological judgments in the grant or denial of rights to exclusive use of a word.