In this second of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the facts and law giving rise to Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a North Carolina voter ID case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that the case highlights the importance of the legal procedure of certification and suggest that if the Court’s decision falls back on the traditional model of singular executive-branch representation embraced by the federal system and that of other states, the North Carolina legislature will have only itself to blame.
In response to the leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the likely ramifications of the Supreme Court’s overruling Roe v. Wade, the seminal case recognizing the constitutional right to seek an abortion. Professor Dorf argues that the language and reasoning of the draft suggest that this emboldened Court with a super-majority of Republican appointees is also preparing to overrule Lawrence v. Texas (recognizing the right of consenting adults to engage in same-sex sexual conduct) and Obergefell v. Hodges (recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry).
UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on Monday’s oral argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which presents a question about the intersection between the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, and government speech jurisprudence. Professor Griffin describes how various Justices approached the case and what we might learn about how they are inclined to vote.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on three recent Supreme Court decisions in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the dissent, demonstrating that he does not carry sway in decisions on central issues such as a woman’s right to choose, voting rights, or protecting the environment. Mr. Aftergut points out that how the Justices vote in the upcoming decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will reveal whether the Roberts Court can preserve the core principles of judicial restraint in constitutional adjudication and stare decisis—or whether it is more appropriately called the “McConnell Court.”
In light of the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why judges across the ideological spectrum embrace the judicial philosophy of originalism. Professor Dorf points out that today’s version of originalism leaves judges and justices substantial room to make judgments based on their values.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat explains how the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Ramirez v. Collier demonstrates how the conservative Justices prioritize religious freedom over all other values, even speedy executions. Professor Sarat points out that the decision is just the latest waystation on the Court’s determined journey to put religion at the center of American life.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on two cases the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided that involve the “state secrets privilege.” Professor Dorf argues that the cases demonstrate that the executive branch (regardless of whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat) will go as far as the courts allow with the public secrets privilege, so it falls to Congress to rein it in.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that Chief Justice John Roberts is, perhaps surprisingly, on the left of the current Court partly because of the Court moving far to the right in recent years and partly because of Roberts’s evolution as a jurist. Professor Dorf explores why Roberts has shifted, noting that he seems simply to adhere to a principle that historically liberals, moderates, and conservatives all agreed upon: don’t lie about the law.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow Alabama to execute Matthew Reeves, an intellectually disabled death row inmate, by lethal injection rather than by his preferred method of nitrogen hypoxia. Professor Sarat explains why giving death row inmates a choice over their “preferred” method of execution is perverse and argues that the words “humane” and “execution” do not belong in the same sentence, no matter what method is used.
In light of the news of Justice Stephen Breyer’s imminent retirement, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf reflects on Justice Breyer’s career. Professor Dorf observes that Justice Breyer lacks a distinctive legacy largely for two reasons: (1) he was junior to O’Connor, Kennedy, and Ginsburg for their time on the Court together and thus did not get key liberal assignments, and (2) as a pragmatist and compromiser, his reasoning relied more on nuance than on bold strokes.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the devastating short-term impact of eliminating federal constitutional protection for abortion which the U.S. Supreme Court seems likely to do imminently. Professor Grossman observes that even now, while constitutional protection for abortion exists, many pregnant women already face significant barriers to abortion care, reminding us that we need to work towards a future that is more protective and more equal rather than just trying to claw our way back to the bare minimum provided by Roe v. Wade.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut point out that in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Department of Labor, the conservative majority continues the right-wing assault on knowledge and expertise. Professor Sarat and Mr. Aftergut argue that the conservative attack on regulatory agencies and the expertise they represent is a classic indicator of creeping totalitarianism—the blurring of the distinction between fact and fiction.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf asks whether we can trust that Justice Neil Gorsuch—who was the sole Justice not to wear a mask during oral arguments last week—was unbiased in considering two challenges to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates. Professor Dorf argues that Justice Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a mask indicates that he either does not believe the public health guidance or thinks he should be free to decide for himself whether to follow it—both of which possibilities undercut public confidence in the basis for his votes in the vaccine cases.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb praises Ruth Marcus’s 2019 book, Supreme Ambition, about Brett Kavanaugh’s rise to power and the events that took place after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault. Professor Colb notes that the book is engaging even for someone who closely followed the events as they occurred, and reflects on the trauma of living (and reliving) through that disillusioning period in our nation’s recent history.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why the concern expressed by Justice Sonia Sotomayor in her dissent in the Texas abortion case (Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson) that other states will follow Texas’s example and employ “private bounty hunters” is well founded and legitimate.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the abortion cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court—one challenge a restrictive Texas abortion law and another challenge to a plainly unconstitutional Mississippi law. Professor Grossman argues that safe-haven laws—which Justice Amy Coney Barrett in particular asked about during her line of questioning in oral argument—play no role in the law or policy of abortion.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on last week’s oral argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the Court will consider whether to overturn the right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases. Specifically, Professor Dorf analyzes statements and questions by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, particularly in light of statements he made during his confirmation hearing.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comment on a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments that gives the Court an opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and related cases recognizing a constitutional right to abortion. Sarat and Aftergut point out that if the Court abandons Roe, that will ultimately spell the end of abortion rights in all states.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explores the meaning of a question Justice Clarence Thomas asked during the oral argument in New. York State Rifle. & Pistol Association v. Bruen about the interpretation of the Second Amendment: “should we look at the founding, or should we look at the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, which then, of course, applies it to the states?” Professor Dorf argues that the question exposes a weakness of Justice Thomas’s originalist philosophy and affirms what we already know about arguments rooted in original meaning: they typically serve a rhetorical function, and Justices invoke them to justify decisions taken on other, ideological, grounds.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why Democrats’ proposed tax on billionaires does not violate any part of the Constitution, despite claims to the contrary. Professor Buchanan argues that the U.S. Supreme Court, in normal times, should recognize that there is no constitutional barrier to the proposed tax, but this ultra-conservative majority Court could defy text and logic and create a new law from whole cloth, as it has done before on other issues.