PUBLISHED:June 28, 2013

Duke Law and the 2012-2013 Supreme Court term

A Duke Law professor’s leadership of a team that wrote the only amicus brief cited in a landmark Supreme Court opinion was one example of faculty engagement with the 2012-2013 term. Duke Law faculty filed amicus briefs, offered commentary and media analysis, and otherwise informed the Court through their scholarship.

Informing the Court’s opinion

Professor Ernest Young and his co-authors, including Erin Blondel ’09, filed the only amicus brief cited in the court’s majority opinion on United States v. Windsor, which found the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Young and his co-authors filed a federalism-based argument against the constitutionality of the act.

"Justice Kennedy's majority singled out our brief among the many dozens of amici in the case for citation, and many of the arguments in his opinion tracked arguments and examples in our brief," said Young, the Alston & Bird Professor of Law and a leading constitutional law scholar.   

The Court also cited an article by Professor Curtis Bradley in the opinion for Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co, a case in which the court limited the reach of the Alien Tort Statute to hold foreign corporations and people accountable in U.S. courts for human-rights abuses abroad.

Laurence Helfer, the Harry R. Chadwick Sr. Professor of Law and co-director of Duke’s Center for International and Comparative Law, co-authored an amicus brief filed in Hollingsworth v. Perry.  The brief cited foreign and comparative law supporting the legality of same-sex marriage in support of an effort to repeal California’s Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage.

Deborah DeMott, the David F. Cavers Professor of Law, who served as the sole reporter for the American Law Institute’s Restatement (Third) of Agency, noted its prominent citation in the Court’s rulings in both Hollingsworth v. Perry and Vance v. Ball State University, issued during the last week of the term.  In his majority opinion in Hollingsworth, Chief Justice John Roberts quoted the amicus brief  filed by Walter Dellinger, the Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law, filed in support of the respondents on the issue of standing. 

Read more about the Supreme Court’s use of the Restatement in 2012-2013 opinions.

The chief justice cited an article by Professor Marin Levy in his dissent to the opinion issued in Arlington v. FCC.

Analyzing the arguments and results

Several Duke Law professors provided commentary and media analysis regarding  the arguments and opinions from major cases heard by the court.

Guy-Uriel Charles, the Charles S. Rhyne Professor of Law, co- authored an essay in the Yale Law Journal, mapping a contingency plan in the event that the court invalidated provisions of the Voting Rights Act as a result of Shelby County v. Holder. The court did just that, and Charles appeared in television and print stories explaining the effect of the decision on voting rights in states with a history of voter suppression.

Charles, the founding Director of the Center on Law, Race and Politics, also served as a resource for media members parsing the court’s ruling in Fisher v. Texas, a case reviewing the University of Texas’s affirmative action policy.

Young’s amicus brief was a topic of interest for media, and he was a frequent commenter after the March oral arguments in the DOMA case, and again after the Court’s June 26 ruling.

Young and Professor Neil Siegel, who has focused much of his scholarly research and public commentary on the Supreme Court, helped to analyze and explain the ramifications of the court’s decisions in the Windsor and Hollingsworth cases, which involve a morass of sometimes conflicting state local laws that apply to same-sex couples seeking official recognition for various official and legal purposes.

Siegel, the David W. Ichel Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, co-director of the Program in Public Law, and director of the DC Summer Institute on Law and Policy, told CNN that even after the court’s decision, the implications for some same-sex couples are unclear.

Bradley, the William Van Alstyne Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy Studies, also explained the international law and human rights impacts of the court’s ruling in Kiobel to the media.

Dellinger, as he has done in past years, participated in an online review of the Court’s term.


Links to Supreme Court analysis and commentary from Duke Law faculty follow:


Professor Guy-Uriel Charles:

Charles says Supreme Court voting rights decision could provoke partisan politics
June 26, 2013 -  All Things Considered

Charles on Supreme Court civil rights ruling: "This is an historic opinion"
June 25, 2013 -  Minnesota Public Radio

Charles discusses Supreme Court affirmative action decision
June 24, 2013 -  Huffington Post Live

Charles and co-author map a “post-Shelby County” strategy
June 7, 2013 -  Yale Law Journal

Charles: Congress should make Voting Rights Act decision
February 25, 2013 -  New York Times


Professor Ernest Young:

Young comments on effect of DOMA ruling on state marriage laws
June 27, 2013 -  Indianapolis Star

What the Supreme Court's Prop. 8 Ruling Means for Voter-Approved Laws
June 26, 2013 -

Raleigh Gay Rights Activists Welcome Supreme Court Ruling
June 26, 2013 - WUNC

Young discusses DOMA and federalism
March 25, 2013 -  WBEZ

George Will examines Supreme Court amicus brief on Defense of Marriage Act filed by Young and co-authors
March 21, 2013 -  Washington Post

Young and Blondel '09 co-author amicus brief in Supreme Court DOMA case
March 4, 2013 -  The Volokh Conspiracy


Professor Neil Siegel:

Siegel analyzes Supreme Court DOMA ruling
June 27, 2013 -  CNN

Duke Law Professor Niel Siegel on DOMA Decision
June 27, 2012 - WCHL

Supreme Court to issue gay marriage decisions

June 26, 2012 - WTOP


Professor Curtis Bradley:

Prof. Curtis Bradley examines implications of Supreme Court's ruling limiting reach of Alien Tort Statute
April 18, 2013 -  ASIL Insights

Bradley says Supreme Court has "cut back on the vast majority of Alien Tort Statute cases" with Kiobel ruling
April 18, 2013 - NPR