Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Yesterday’s constitution shindig

As anyone in the higher ed business (actually in any part of the ed business) probably knows, we are facing an "unfunded mandate" to commemorate Constitution Day, the anniversary of the final meeting of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Bless Robert Byrd’s heart. (Yup, you read that right. Sometimes his constitutional vanity produces good results, though I would be interested in seeing what my higher ed colleagues do to commemorate the day.)

Well, at Oglethorpe we organized a panel discussion on approaches to interpreting the Constitution. Our panelists were two smart attorneys, one a committed "textualist," the other a representative of the ACLU. Both were able advocates for the positions they represented, given the constraints under which I placed them (keep the opening remarks to about 15 minutes each; heck, it takes me that long to clear my throat). Hunter Baker notes the biggest surprise of the afternoon, when Gerald Weber (the Legal Director of Georgia’s ACLU) remembered that there’s an amendment process that those of us who object to the Court’s interpretations of the 14th Amendment could use. Of course, if we took his advice, I’m sure some would argue that we shouldn’t burden the Constitution with particular language, for then it would "partake of the prolixity of a legal code". Ah well, there are some courts in which we can’t win.

Nevertheless, both advocates acquitted themselves well, as did the students in the audience, who asked some pretty darn good questions, if I do say so myself.

Update: Demon textualist Michael DeBow--clearly a scrupulous and excellent teacher--offers his commentary on the afternoon’s event.

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