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    09.21.18 Brooklyn Law School Marks Constitution Day with Program on Direction of SCOTUS
    Scales of justice

    Faculty and students at the Law School celebrated Constitution Day, the annual commemoration of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, with an engaging discussion of critical constitutional issues and the future direction of the U.S. Supreme Court. The event, “The Supreme Court at a Crossroads,” featured Professors Alice Ristroph, William Araiza, Joel Gora, and Susan Herman, president of the ACLU, with each highlighting issues and cases that have significant legal and societal implications.

    Constitution Day  traces its roots back to newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and the 1939 New York World’s Fair, explained Interim Dean Maryellen Fullerton. Since 2004, she noted, the date is also designated as “Citizenship Day,” adding that recently, “maybe in a sign of the times, the citizenship part seems to get dropped from the label.”

    Ristroph spoke about the ways in which the Constitution provides for continuity in the process of selecting Supreme Court justices, a particularly timely topic. Some aspects of the Constitution are hard to change by design, she said: “The article signed 231 years ago didn’t have any amendments… it consisted of a bunch of articles establishing and empowering the federal government …The compromise between strict popular representation in the House and equal representation for states in the Senate has endured.”

    Herman and Araiza spoke about the likely impact that Justice Kennedy’s departure will have on several areas of jurisprudence. “One of the areas that people have been watching most with respect to the Kavanaugh hearings is the future of Roe v. Wade,” said Herman. “When [Kavanaugh] had his confirmation hearings for the appellate judgeship, which he currently holds, he told the Senate that he would not want to overrule Roe v. Wade because it’s ‘settled law.’ But it’s one thing to say that as an appellate court judge, where you don’t have a choice—you must follow what the Supreme Court says, it’s another thing if you’re on the Supreme Court and have the power to vote to overrule [it].”

    “Assuming Kavanaugh—or someone like him—gets confirmed…Chief Justice Roberts is the median at the Court, so when we think about what’s in store for equality law, we need to think about a Court in which John Roberts is at the center,” said Araiza. Affirmative action, he added, “is in serious trouble.”  

    “The myriad protections [of the First Amendment] were basically designed to guarantee, as much as possible, religious freedom and political freedom, and of course we’ve been dealing with those issues ever since,” said Gora. “The Roberts Court is perhaps the most speech-protective Court we’ve had in a generation, maybe ever, in terms of the quality of their concern with protecting rights in the First Amendment, particularly the rights of political expression.”

    Fullerton concluded by reminding everyone that, regardless of the date or any formal celebration, the Constitution remains a constant to protect our country and our freedom: “Every day is Constitution Day,” she said.