legal history

  • Fighting Racial Bias with an Unlikely Weapon: Footnotes

    Slavery lives on in the law in the form of precedent. A new legal history movement seeks to highlight cases where disputes involved enslaved people and reconsider whether they constitute a fair basis for legal decisions today. 

  • New York State's Lessons on Preventing a Crisis of Judicial Legitimacy

    by Bruce W. Dearstyne

    Forceful activism amid rapid social change results in legislation shot down by the most powerful court, leading to calls for sweeping court reform. This was New York State in the early 20th century. How the State Court of Appeals weathered this storm holds lessons for SCOTUS today, if the Justices and their critics care to learn from history.

  • Wednesday's Arguments Signal the End of Roe

    by Mary Ziegler

    "Today’s oral argument signaled that the Court is poised to reverse Roe outright when it decides Dobbs, probably sometime in June or early July," says a leading legal historian of abortion rights.

  • The Elephant Who Could Be a Person

    by Jill Lepore

    A petition challenging the keeping of Happy, an Asian Elephant, by the Bronx Zoo raises questions about the legal status of personhood. If it applies to protect the property and civil rights of corporations, can it be extended for the protection of the natural world? 

  • An Anti-Democratic Court Is Nothing New

    by David A. Love

    "For most of its existence, the court has not been a moderate, apolitical body, but rather has oppressed marginalized groups and protected White male landowners, the group long considered ideal political citizens."

  • Four Myths of Presidential Power

    by Daniel Farber

    History looms large in arguments about the Constitution these days. But there are widespread misunderstandings of what history tells us about presidential powers, from making war to being impeached. 

  • The Sleeper SCOTUS Case that Threatens Church-State Separation

    by Kimberly Wehle

    "If the plaintiffs win, states and municipalities could be required to use taxpayer dollars to supplement strands of private religious education that many Americans would find deeply offensive, including schools that exclude non-Christian or LGBTQ students, families, and teachers."

  • Critical Race Theory: A Brief History

    CRT pioneers Kimberlé Crenshaw and Mari Matsuda explain how and why they developed critical perspectives on racism in legal scholarship and how little the current debate has to do with their ideas. 

  • Hamilton, Hip-Hop, and the Law (Review)

    by Stephen Rohde

    Lisa Tucker's edited volume of essays uses the musical "Hamilton" as a lens on several significant legal issues ranging from originalism to employment discrimination. 

  • “Gimme an F!” Supreme Court Mulls the Case of the Cursing Cheerleader

    by Garrett Epps

    As the Supreme Court considers whether a school district has the authority ot punish a high school cheerleader for a profane social media rant made off campus, the author wonders if legal arguments about schools' authority are overshadowing schools' obligations to prepare students for citizenship. 

  • When Constitutions Took Over the World

    by Jill Lepore

    Historian Linda Colley's new book examines the rise of written Constitutions as governing documents, and argues that constitiutionalism and democracy don't necessarily go hand in hand. 

  • Originalism’s Original Sin

    by Adam Shapiro

    Liberal critics should understand the ways that Constitutional originalism's practices of reading and resolving conflicts in the text owes a great deal to biblical literalism. Historians of religion can help understand what's at stake. 

  • Palin v. New York Times is a Textualist Land Mine for the First Amendment

    by Richard E. Labunski

    In June, trial will begin in Sarah Palin's libel case against the New York Times. The case appears to be teed up on a path to the Supreme Court, where the current "actual malice" standard for proving a public figure was libeled could be overturned. If this happens, the door will be open to lawsuits aimed at crushing press criticism of the government.

  • Unequal Before the Law

    Sara Mayeux's history of public defenders shows how the liberal reform movement that established a system to provide counsel to the poor buttressed the systemic slant of the justice system against them.