HLS faculty weigh in on recent legal news

A selection of analyses and opinions from Harvard Law School experts.

The First Amendment Should Protect Disfavored Viewpoints

An op-ed by Laurence H. Tribe: The United States Supreme Court has said that “the constitutional right of free expression is powerful medicine.” Powerful and essential, and it needs to be administered to everyone, including physicians and those regulating their practice. Recent decisions by two federal appeals courts suggest, to the contrary, that the doctor’s office is becoming a First Amendment-free zone…Still, both judicial opinions are troubling for the same reason: They broadly paint medical care as “conduct,” not “speech,” and thereby entirely exempt occupational-licensing laws from the usual First Amendment scrutiny.

Continue Reading at New York Times »

How to Deregulate Cities and States

An op-ed by Edward Glaeser and Cass Sunstein: A lot of attention has been devoted in recent years to overregulation at the national level. For many people, though, the regulations that hit hardest come from states and localities. The story of Uber’s fight with overzealous local regulators is only a well-publicized tip of the iceberg. A 2012 study conducted by the Institute for Justice finds that 102 trades and occupations now face licensing requirements in states or cities. The people who suffer most from them are those without a lot of money or advanced education.

Continue Reading at Wall Street Journal »

Who Cares What Economists Say About Immigration?

An op-ed by Cass Sunstein: In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama tried to attract support for one of his highest priorities when he said, “Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits.” He’s right. Economists disagree about a lot of things, but on behalf of immigration reform, there is a professional consensus that cuts across the usual political divisions. Why, then, has reform stalled in Congress?

Continue Reading at Bloomberg View »

US has yet to overcome its tortured racial past (registration required)

An op-ed by Annette Gordon-Reed. For a founding father who usually took a sunny view of his nation’s prospects, it was a darkly pessimistic prophesy. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson argued that if – as he hoped – America’s black slaves were one day set free, the result would be conflict and an inevitable descent into racial war. And in the hours after Governor Jay Nixon imposed a night-time curfew on the Missouri town of Ferguson following the killing there of an unarmed teenager by a police officer earlier this month, it is indeed reasonable to wonder whether a form of war (sometimes hot, sometimes cold) has been waged against blacks in America from Jefferson’s time until our own.

Continue Reading at Financial Times »

James Brady’s Death Isn’t a Murder 33 Years Later

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. The government would have to overcome major legal hurdles to charge John Hinckley Jr. in the murder of James Brady some 30 years after the fact. But if that were the morally right thing to do, it would be worth trying, despite the improbability of success. Is it? The answer is no — but not for the reasons you might think. It doesn’t have to do with Hinckley’s guilt or Brady’s heroism or Ronald Reagan’s presidential status. The reason not to prosecute Hinckley lies in the kind of criminal justice system we want to have: one that doesn’t seek solely to punish the guilty, but rather to punish the guilty subject to the requirements of basic fairness.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

How Maine Saved the Internet

An op-ed by Susan Crawford. Rockport, Maine, population 3,321, is trying to solve the existential dilemma of small-town America: How do you get people like Meg Weston’s students to stick around?…The town’s Internet access connection didn’t have enough room to handle the school’s demands, and private companies would charge too much to be a realistic option. That is, until this week, when Rockport opened its own gigabit-scale municipal fiber optic network — meaning it can transmit a thousand megabits of data a second.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

The Death Penalty Is Incompatible With Human Dignity

An op-ed by Charles Ogletree. I have wondered countless times over the past 30 years whether I would live to see the end of the death penalty in the United States. I now know that day will come, and I believe that the current Supreme Court will be its architect.

Continue Reading at The Washington Post »

Obamacare Has a Scary Day in Court

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, the judges in Washington took another big chomp out of the Affordable Care Act. No, not the Supreme Court — this time it was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a 2-1 panel decision on partisan lines, the appeals court ruled that the tax subsidies for insurance coverage purchased from federal exchanges are illegal. The effect of the decision is to drastically undercut Obamacare by enabling all 36 states that don’t have their own exchanges to exempt millions of people from the individual mandate that they buy insurance. Meanwhile, across the Potomac River, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled the opposite way.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »

The Poor Need Ryan’s Regulation Reform

An op-ed by Cass. R. Sunstein. While Representative Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty plan has provoked significant discussion, little attention has been given to his ideas for regulatory reform. Those ideas deserve separate analysis and also considerable credit. They point in helpful directions, and they suggest the possibility of bipartisan cooperation on some important questions.

Continue Reading at Bloomberg »