Justices Side With Free Speech and Common Sense

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Since 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court first announced some protection for government employees’ free-speech rights against the risk of retaliation, the trend in its decisions has been to cabin and limit that right almost to nothingness. Today the court gently reversed that trend. Its holding — that a government employee can’t be sanctioned for testimony given in court outside his job responsibilities — sounds intuitive and obvious. But under past case law, it wasn’t. The decision is therefore not only a victory for common sense, but also a modest win for the First Amendment in the government workplace.

Bond Vultures’ Bet Against Argentina Pays Off

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Score two for the gamblers. Today the Supreme Court handed a double defeat to the Republic of Argentina in its effort to default on sovereign bonds issued in 1994. That means a double win for NML Capital, that so-called vulture fund that holds $1.33 billion of those bonds bought for pennies on the dollar in the hopes that the U.S. courts would eventually try to make Argentina pay.

Why Care If the Court Splits 5-4?

An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. In many of its most important cases, the modern U.S. Supreme Court has divided 5-4. By a single vote, the court guaranteed the presidency to George W. Bush, upheld the Affordable Care Act and affirmative action in university admissions, and ruled that government cannot prevent corporations from spending money in political campaigns. As the court prepares to issue this year’s most significant decisions, it’s a good bet that several of them will show 5-4 divisions as well. Is this a problem?

Campaign-Finance Reform Has to Be Cross-Partisan

An op-ed by Lawrence Lessig. The vast majority of Americans—more than 90 percent in recent polls—believe it “important” to “reduce the influence of money in politics.” But is the business model of the reformers actually consistent with winning reform? This is the fair but hard question raised by the strategy planned by Senate Democrats this summer to force a vote on New Mexico Senator Tom Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment to give Congress the power “to regulate the raising and spending of money” in elections.

How to Cope With Credit Card Bills After a Family Member Dies

Whether you’re rich or poor, famous or obscure, if you have a will, chances are it says something to the effect of, “pay my debts before you pay my heirs.”…State law offers some protection with what’s called a creditor period – a certain length of time (ranging from two months after the start of probate to five years from the date of death) after which the executor can pay beneficiaries without worrying about creditors’ claims, explains Harvard Law professor Robert H. Sitkoff.

Cronies, corruption and cash: Lawrence Lessig on why we need a super PAC to end all super PACs

This past May, center-right GOP strategist Mark McKinnon and Harvard Law School professor, author and activist Lawrence Lessig announced the launch of what sounded like a real contradiction — a super PAC to end all super PACs. Called “the Mayday PAC,” McKinnon and Lessig’s creation was something of an experiment, an attempt to see if the power of big money in post-Citizens United American politics could be wielded in order to, well, end the post-Citizens United era of big money in American politics…This week, Salon called up Lessig in order to discuss some of the details of the Mayday PAC and the vexing problem of money and democracy in America more generally.

Democrats Griping About False Ads Respond With Deception

Even as Democratic Party leaders denounce billionaire Republicans Charles and David Koch for filling the airwaves with misleading commercials, they’re also playing with the facts…“Harry Reid’s in a difficult position,” said Harvard Law School Professor Larry Lessig, who started a super-PAC focused on campaign-finance reform. “It’s hard to see the difference between what he’s attacking and what he’s doing.”

Review Mixed verdict on Supreme Court in ‘Uncertain Justice,’ ‘Court of One’

The U.S. Supreme Court is majestic, immensely powerful and deceptively fragile. It commands by the power of reason, and its justices are, as the great Robert Jackson once observed, not “final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” And yet Americans today increasingly regard the court in an unfavorable light. In 2001, almost two-thirds of Americans approved of the court’s work; by last year, that number had dropped to less than half. “Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution” takes the measure of the court at this puzzling juncture. The book is full of bright and unconventional wisdom, as one might expect from its author, the venerable law professor Laurence Tribe, here teamed with a young collaborator, Joshua Matz. They portray a court tip-toeing into new areas of constitutional law, divided and without a clear sense of mission or purpose.

How to Take Criticism Well

No one likes getting criticism. But it can be a chance to show off a rare skill: taking negative feedback well…Tempering an emotional response can be hard, especially “if you’re genuinely surprised and you’re getting that flood of adrenaline and panic,” says Douglas Stone, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and co-author of “Thanks for the Feedback.”