The Government Shutdown – Another Step towards the Constitutional Precipice

Government shutdowns have occured many times in US history. They are a predictable result of a backdrop of constitutional and public law easily exposed to party polarization. And yet, the present government shutdown represents a new step forward to the precipice on which Trump is taking America’s constitutional democracy, which makes it distinctive for reasons not just of duration.

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Distracting from the Actual Crisis: The Proposed Asylum Ban

On November 9, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice issued a joint interim rule in conjunction with a proclamation from the White House seeking to restrict the eligibility of persons applying for asylum protection in the United States. This interim rule, which is currently stayed by federal court litigation, is yet another attempt by the Administration to remove humanitarian protection for the most vulnerable in direct violation of both domestic and international legal obligations.

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The Census in the USA and Germany: It’s all about sampling

In Germany disputes over the 2011 census have finally come to an end in the “census judgment” by the Bundesverfassungsgericht. In the United States of America, in turn, disputes over the 2020 Census questionnaire are currently before the federal courts that raise related issues of the accuracy of the count. In contrast to the German Grundgesetz, the U.S. constitution requires a census every ten years to determine representation in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. Accurate population data are the underlying goal of the Constitution’s decennial census requirement. We argue that in the twenty-first century accuracy requires modern statistical techniques, including sampling and adequate pre-testing of questions.

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Birthright Citizenship and Presidential Power

The Halloween season is traditionally a time for scares and surprises in the United States. This year, President Trump got in on the act, floating a truly shocking idea on October 30. In an interview with Axios, the President declared that he intended to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship in the United States. Before diving into the law, it is worth pausing to consider what a  breathtaking idea it is that the President could unilaterally determine who counts as a citizen.

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A Pyrrhic Victory? Iran obtains Provisional Measures against the United States

Last week Iran scored what has widely been reported to be an important legal victory over the United States. The International Court of Justice ordered provisional measures that prohibit key elements of the new administration’s efforts to wage economic warfare against Iran. The ruling is noteworthy for the clarity and stringency of its argument, but also because nobody expects it to alter the existing dispute between the parties in the slightest.

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"For the Court, it could be…": Electing Constitutional Judges in the US and Germany

With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump will shape the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. A comparison with the legal framework for the appointment of constitutional court judges in Germany shows the respective weaknesses of the US system in safeguarding judicial independence.

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Is the U.S. President Above the Law?

On June 4, President Trump tweeted that the President has the absolute right to issue pardons, even to himself. The President’s claim came close on the heels of the New York Times’s publication of a letter two White House attorneys had sent months earlier to Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel appointed to investigate links between Trump’s election campaign and the Russian government. The lawyers argued that the President’s firing of FBI Director James Comey could not constitute obstruction of justice, because the President is the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, and can fire the FBI Director for any reason at all. Can it really be the case that the President of the United States is above the law?

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