“There’s a wonderful lightness in the way he goes about doing his heavy and important work. He will just crack jokes in situations, which helps defuse any bad feelings in the room and helps bring the best out of people.”
OLC largely followed its own precedents, or the rule of stare decisis. That and other articles by Morrison respond to scholars such as Bruce Ackerman at Yale, who has argued that in the absence of routine judicial review of their work, executive legal offices like OLC cannot reliably place any meaningful check on presidential power. Morrison argues that such critiques are insufficiently attentive to the subtle but important dynamics of government lawyering, and that offices like OLC can and do provide real constraints on the president. The infamous “torture memos” written by OLC lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee in the years immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Morrison argues, are anomalous abuses, not business as usual, as Ackerman contends. “This is a very high-stakes debate,” says Samuel Rascoff, an associate professor of law at NYU specializing in national security. “What you think about these kinds of lawyers matters for whether you believe the US is practicing national security under the rule of law. The stare decisis article is classic Trevor in that it’s a defense of the best of what the legal profession has to offer.” More recently, Morrison co-wrote with Curtis Bradley an article in the Harvard Law Review titled “Historical Gloss and the Separation of Powers,” which challenges the assumption of courts that congressional silence in the face of an assertion of executive power amounts to acquiescence. Morrison also co-wrote an amicus brief defending the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. In it, he made the argument that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is a tax and falls under Congress’s tax power. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the mandate on that ground. Morrison takes on these sober concerns with a cheerful and energetic spirit. “There’s a wonderful lightness in the way he
Olatunde Johnson goes about doing his heavy and important work,” says Olatunde Johnson, a Columbia Law professor who specializes in civil procedure and civil rights. “He will just crack jokes in situations, which helps defuse any bad feelings in the room and helps bring the best out of people.” Ariela Dubler, a Columbia Law professor who taught a seminar on executive power with Morrison, says: “There’s not an academic thought that I’ve not run by Trevor. He reads everything
OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO BY PETE SOUZA
W W W. L A W. N Y U. E D U
IN THE INNER CIRCLE With President Barack Obama and other advisers in the Oval Office, October 2009.
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