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Garrett Epps

Garrett Epps is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He teaches constitutional law and creative writing for law students at the University of Baltimore. His latest book is American Justice 2014: Nine Clashing Visions on the Supreme Court.
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No One Knows If a President Can Be Indicted

May 23, 2018 Can the president be indicted while in office? Rudolph Giuliani, at this writing one of President Trump’s lawyers, apparently wants the public to believe that there is a clear answer to that question—the one that by coincidence favors his client. The one thing I am sure of is that there’s...

The Supreme Court Appears Poised to Bless Trump’s Travel Ban

April 26, 2018 “What if the military advisers tell the president that, in their judgment, the president ought to order a strike, an air strike against Syria,” Chief Justice John Roberts asked Neal Katyal from the bench on Wednesday, “does that mean he can’t because you would regard that as discrimination against a...

The Unconstitutional Strike on Syria

April 16, 2018 For a constitutional lawyer, the Trump administration requires a crash course in obscure parts of the document—the Emoluments Clause? The “Inferior Officers” Clause? Really? But equally challenging is the need to keep turning the conversation back to constitutional questions that people are sick of hearing about—and, even worse, have tacitly...

How the Supreme Court is Expanding the Immigrant Detention System

March 9, 2018 A quarter-century ago, in 1994, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, on any given day, was holding somewhere around 5,500 immigrants in “immigration detention.” For fiscal year 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement budget documents projected an average daily population in detention of roughly 31,000. That increase—nearly six-fold in 25 years—made the...

Contempt for Court

February 12, 2018 An old legal anecdote—attributed to such legal notables as Mae West and the Earl of Birkenhead—depicts a frustrated judge asking an obstreperous lawyer, “Are you displaying contempt of court?” “No, your honor,” the advocate responds. “I am trying to conceal it.” I sometimes think simple politeness—a willingness to conceal contempt...

Supreme Court Justices Face a Historic Choice Regarding Presidential Power

January 29, 2018 The case against President Trump’s travel ban, like a lingering illness, seems to have been with us forever, but is just celebrating its first birthday. Now that the Supreme Court has accepted one of the two challenges to the order, the end is in sight. The Court on January 19...

Can Government Officials Have You Arrested for Speaking to Them?

January 16, 2018 If a citizen speaks at a public meeting and says something a politician doesn’t like, can the citizen be arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the hoosegow? Suppose that, during this fraught encounter, the citizen violates some law—even by accident, even one no one has ever heard of, even one...

Will the Supreme Court Unravel Public Employee Unions?

October 10, 2017 In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a 1981 novel by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, twin brothers in a port village stalk and murder a neighbor for the supposed crime of deflowering their sister. García Marquez’s anonymous narrator, tracing the roots of the crime years later, finds that almost everyone...

Trump Doesn't Have the Authority to Attack North Korea Without Congress

August 30, 2017 The North Korean regime "has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior," President Donald Trump said Tuesday morning. “All options are on the table.” One option that should not be on the table is a “preventive”...

How Trump's Transgender Ban Compromises His Military Authority

August 11, 2017 “Our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned,” presidential adviser Stephen Miller told the nation on February 13. Rarely has a prophecy...