Legal Commentary - Michael Dorf Archive

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DEBATE OVER AN ABA LEGAL ETHICS RULE UNDERSCORES LAWYERS' COMPETING OBLIGATIONS TO KEEP SECRET AND TO DISCLOSE
FindLaw columnist and Columbia Law School Vice Dean and professor Michael Dorf discusses the debate over one of the American Bar Association's recent changes to its ethics rules -- which expands the circumstances under which an attorney is permitted to disclose client confidences in order to avert harm.
Thursday, Aug. 09, 2001

WHEN AMERICAN STATES EXECUTE CITIZENS OF FOREIGN COUNTRIES: THE CASE OF GERARDO VALDEZ
FindLaw columnist and Columbia law school Vice Dean and professor Michael Dorf describes a striking conflict between the views of the International Court of Justice, and those of the U.S. Supreme Court, on the following question: What should happen when a foreign national who is sentenced to death in the U.S. was never properly apprised of his treaty-based right to seek diplomatic intervention from his home country?
Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2001

THE 2000-2001 SUPREME COURT TERM IN REVIEW, PART I
In Part One of a two-part series, FindLaw columnist and Columbia law professor and Vice Dean Michael Dorf explains the salient themes and significance of the decisions of the recently-concluded Supreme Court term --- emphasizing, in this Part, Bush v. Gore and the series of cases on federalism and on administrative agencies' role.
Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2001

THE 2000-2001 SUPREME COURT TERM IN REVIEW, PART II
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS: HOW THE JUSTICES DEFIED EXPECTATIONS

In Part Two of a two-part series on the recently-completed Supreme Court term, Findlaw columnist and Columbia Law School Vice Dean and professor Michael Dorf reviews the Court's individual rights cases, taking issue with those who contend the Justices' votes are merely a product of political ideology. Dorf details significant side-switching by at least six Justices, across the ideological divide, and contends that were it not for Bush v. Gore, side-switching might have been seen as the hallmark of the Term.
Wednesday, Jul. 11, 2001

"CONFUSING" BALLOTS VERSUS "CONFUSING" JURY INSTRUCTIONS: TWO SUPREME COURT CASES CONTRASTED
FindLaw columnist and Columbia Law School Vice Dean and Professor Michael Dorf contrasts the way the Supreme Court's recent Penry death penalty decision addressed juror coofusion, with the way Bush v. Gore addressed voter confusion.
Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2001

THE SUPREME COURT'S CELL PHONE DECISION: AN UNUSUAL BALANCING ACT BY THE COURT
FindLaw columnist, Columbia Vice Dean and law professor, and author Michael Dorf discusses the Supreme Court's recent decision in Bartnicki v. Vopper, which held that under certain circumstances, the First Amendment allows the broadcast of an illegally intercepted cellphone conversation. Dorf uses Bartnicki as a jumping off point to discuss the evolution of the Court's choice between balancing tests and categorical rules in the First Amendment context.
Wednesday, May. 30, 2001

HOW RELIABLE IS EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY?: A DECISION BY NEW YORK STATE'S HIGHEST COURT REVEALS UNSETTLING TRUTHS ABOUT JURIES
Findlaw columnist, Columbia Law School Vice-Dean and professor, and author Michael Dorf discusses a recent decision of New York's highest court to allow expert testimony on the reliability of eyewitnesses, but only on a case-by-case basis. Dorf explains why circumstantial evidence is more reliable than we think, and eyewitness identification much less so, and discusses the ramifications of the ruling.
Wednesday, May. 16, 2001

WASHINGTON YANKEES IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT: THE SUPREME COURT JOURNEYS TO 18TH CENTURY ENGLAND TO DEFINE THE RIGHTS OF 21ST CENTURY AMERICANS
Michael Dorf -- Vice Dean and professor at Columbia Law School, and co-author with Laurence Tribe of On Reading the Constitution -- uses the recent Supreme Court decision in the "seatbelt case," Atwater v. Lago Vista, as a window to discuss the Court's originalism. Dorf also asks whether Justice Souter, who joined the originalist majority in Atwater, has abandoned his "living constitution" views to become an originalist.
Wednesday, May. 02, 2001

THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCOUNTING FOR TACTICAL RESPONSES TO RULES: A PRINCIPLE THAT APPLIES TO BASKETBALL AND CAMPAIGN FINANCE ALIKE
FindLaw columnist, Columbia Vice Dean and law professor, and avid basketball player and fan Michael C. Dorf offers a careful analysis of the genesis, and possible effects, of the new NBA rules changes, particularly the lifting of the zone defense prohibition. Dorf explains the principle illustrated by the NBA rules -- that when changing a rule, one must account not only for the direct, predictable effects of the change, but also for less predictable, tactical responses to the change by those affected by it. As Dorf shows, this principle should interest not just basketball fans, but also lawyers, and indeed anyone concerned with changes in the law -- for the principle affects subjects like tax policy and campaign finance reform, just as much as it does basketball.
Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2001

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION RETURNS TO THE COURTS: A DILEMMA FOR THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
FindLaw columnist, Columbia Vice Dean and law professor, and author Michael Dorf notes that two recent decisions -- one in which the Supreme Court granted review of a case involving affirmative action in government contracting, and one in which a Michigan federal district judge struck down the University of Michigan's law school's policy of taking race into account in admissions -- have put the issue of affirmative action at the forefront of the national agenda again. Dorf also notes that Bush supporters may urge the Administration to side with the white plaintiffs complaining of "reverse discrimination" in these cases. But the Administration should tread cautiously, Dorf warns; judicial rulings that only color-blind education systems can pass constitutional muster will mean Bush's own education program would likely be struck down, too.
Wednesday, Apr. 04, 2001

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