Notable Supreme Court cases to be discussed at Rehnquist Center Constitution Day Program on September 21.

Notable Supreme Court cases to be discussed at Rehnquist Center Constitution Day Program on September 21.

Whenever I mention Constitution Day, some legal wag is bound to contact me to remind, “But Tim, every day is Constitution Day!”

To that I say, huzzah for your enthusiasm. But accuracy compels me to remind in return: Constitution Day falls in September every year, your eager patriotism notwithstanding.

For the truly eager (and patriotic), I recommend to you the Constitution Day program planned at the Rehnquist Center at the University of Arizona College of Law. It will be held next Monday, September 21, from 1:00 to 4:30 pm.

Registration (free!) is here.

Last year, I was able to attend in person. (No such luck this year.) Here’s my story from that compelling panel discussion.

As organizers describe next Monday’s event:

The panel discussion features legal experts who will review some of the major cases decided by the United States Supreme Court during the 2014 term.

Panelists include:

The moderator will once again be the law school’s Professor David Marcus.

Hosted by the William H. Rehnquist Center in the UA James E. Rogers College of Law, the event will feature a panel of legal experts reviewing notable cases decided by the United States Supreme Court during the 2014 Term.

What will they discuss? Here are some of the seminal decisions they’ll cover:

  • King v. Burwell, in which the Supreme Court upheld a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that offers tax credits to individuals who purchase health insurance through federal exchanges.
  • Horne v. Department of Agriculture, a takings case involving the Fifth Amendment and the government’s responsibility to pay just compensation when it takes personal property.
  • Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the court held that same-sex couples’ right to marry is guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment.
  • Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, in which the court found that Arizona voters have the right to transfer redistricting power from the state legislature to an independent commission.

As always, if you attend and take any photos or decide you’d like to write a brief summary of the highlights, I’d be happy to chart about a guest blog post. Write to me at

Constitution DayIn case you hadn’t made your Constitution Day plans yet, I recommend to you a great video that includes a retired Supreme Court—and Arizona—jurist.

The National Association of Women Judges has launched a public service announcement (in separate video and audio). In it, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor discusses the value of free and fair courts.

And what is more constitutional than that?

Here is the video:

Fair and Free – Full Film – featuring Sandra Day O’Connor (EN) from Informed Voters Project on Vimeo.

Below is more background from the association (and a hat tip to Francine Walker of The Florida Bar for putting me on this very cool trail!)

“In honor of Constitution Day, September 17, the ‘Informed Voters Project’ sponsored by the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ), has released a new :30 second TV public service announcement and a :60 second radio announcement featuring retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The PSA campaign’s message is a reminder that politics and partisanship have no place in the courts of the United States of America.”

“The National Association of Women Judges ‘Informed Voters – Fair Judges’ project is a non-partisan voter education project developed to increase public awareness about the judicial system, to inform voters that politics and special interest attacks have no place in the courts, and to give voters the tools they need to exercise an informed vote in favor of fair and impartial courts.”

More details c­­an be found here.

L to R: Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute;  Professor Melissa Murray, UC-Berkeley School of Law; and Judge Neil V. Wake, U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

L to R: Clint Bolick, Goldwater Institute; Professor Melissa Murray, UC-Berkeley School of Law; and Judge Neil V. Wake, U.S. District Court in Phoenix.

Constitution Day was celebrated at the University of Arizona Law School as it has in the past—with a panel of smart people discussing compelling cases from the recent U.S. Supreme Court Term.

Due to conflicts in my schedule, I was unable to attend. Happily, a law student—who also is a great writer—offered to summarize the afternoon’s conversation.

The scribe’s name is Logan Rogers, and here is his background:

“Logan Rogers has a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in U.S. history. He is a 2L student at the University of Arizona College of Law and a member of Arizona Law Review. He can be reached at

What follows is Logan’s reporting. If other lawyers and law students would like to contribute guest blog posts, please contact me at Together, we may be able to cover a state’s worth of legal happenings.

Here’s Logan:

Voting rights, same-sex marriage, and consumers’ access to class action lawsuits were among the issues dissected on Monday at the James E. Rogers College of Law.

Con Law enthusiasts gathered at the University of Arizona to hear an expert panel discuss recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions during the 15th Annual Constitution Day program, sponsored by the William H. Rehnquist Center. Four controversial rulings provided the panelists with plenty of grist for a lively discussion.

The panel consisted of moderator Professor David Marcus, a specialist in international law and civil procedure at Arizona Law; Clint Bolick, an award-winning litigator who currently serves as Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix; Judge Neil V. Wake of the U.S. District Court in Phoenix, an alumnus of Arizona State University and Harvard Law School; and Professor Melissa Murray of UC Berkeley School of Law, a family and constitutional law expert and former Yale Law School classmate of Prof. Marcus.

Rehnquist Center Director Sally Rider

Rehnquist Center Director Sally Rider

Marcus argued that Shelby County v. Holder “demolished” the Voting Rights Act. The Court’s decision specifically invalidated § 4(b) of the Act as unconstitutional. That section used a formula to identify jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices. Another section of the Act required these jurisdictions to get federal pre-clearance before changing their election laws.

Bolick and Wake contended that Marcus overstated the ruling’s damage to the Voting Rights Act. They emphasized that other sections of the Act still protected racial minorities from discrimination. Bolick agreed with the Shelby County ruling, and contended that § 4(b) unfairly punished jurisdictions for discrimination that took place several decades ago, despite that fact that voter turnout has reached racial parity in many of these jurisdictions. Wake and Bolick emphasized the financial and administrative burden the preclearance requirement imposed upon state and local governments.

Marcus countered that the progress toward voting equality in these regions was in large part due to the Voting Rights Act, including § 4(b). Murray agreed with Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, which suggested that recent actions by officials in some of these jurisdictions had discriminatory intent. She argued these facts demonstrated the necessity of upholding § 4(b).  Marcus emphasized that Congress renewed the Act several times, including as recently as 2006. He stated that the Court engaged in “judicial immodesty” by overturning part of the Voting Rights Act.

The panel discussed the Court’s two big cases involving same-sex marriage, United States v. Windsor, which invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and Hollingsworth v. Perry, which declined to rule on a California initiative banning gay marriage because the parties lacked standing.

Marcus called Windsor a “doctrinal mess” because its rationale for overturning a federal ban on same-sex marriage contained disparate elements of federalism, equal protection, and substantive due process. Bolick said he personally supported same-sex couples’ access to marriage (although he emphasized that this was not an official position of the Goldwater Institute), but he thought the opinion was a poorly reasoned “mish-mash.”

Marcus said that although Windsor provided “no immediate aid” for same-sex couples in Arizona, the opinion paved the way for an eventual Court ruling striking down state bans on gay marriage. Both Murray and Marcus thought some supporters of same-sex marriage on the Court tried to avoid legalizing it across the U.S. in this opinion. Murray suggested these justices feared a backlash if they got too far ahead of the public on the issue.

In Hollingsworth, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs had no standing, because only California state officials could defend the initiative that banned gay marriage, but they refused to uphold the law, leaving the private citizens who supported the initiative as the only possible litigants. The California Supreme Court held that grassroots proponents could have standing to defend initiatives in court, but the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed.  Because the Court refused to take action in the case, a 9th Circuit court ruling that invalidated the initiative banning gay marriage on 14th Amendment grounds remained in effect. Therefore, same-sex marriage remains legal in California.

Wake and Bolick agreed that the Hollingsworth decision on standing was incorrect, in part because it allows state government officials to ignore the public’s wishes by refusing to enforce initiatives. Wake called this an “affront to the initiative process,” which he argued is an essential part of democracy in western states such as Arizona.

Murray said the fourth case, American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, had less obvious appeal to people interested in “social justice” issues, but she said its importance had been underestimated by the national media. Marcus characterized the ruling as one of many examples of the pro-business leanings of the Roberts Court. The opinion upheld a contract containing a class-action waiver in the form of a mandatory arbitration clause. Marcus said this waiver made it difficult for consumers and small businesses to sue large corporations, because without the option of a class-action suit, the costs of litigation are often prohibitive for these parties.

Professor David Marcus, right, and the Constitution Day panel.

Professor David Marcus, right, and the Constitution Day panel.

Wake said that although he thinks class-action lawsuits can sometimes be problematic and excessive, he believes the Court should not have allowed companies to contract their way out of class-action liability without offering other options besides arbitration. On the other hand, Bolick argued that enforcing contracts is “essential to a free society.” He contended that class-action lawsuits are bad for the public because the costs they impose on corporations lead to higher consumer-goods prices.

The event concluded with a discussion of whether the Court is too influenced by politics and popular opinion. Bolick suggested the Court should act on principle, with little concern for political implications, but other panelists emphasized the importance of the Court maintaining its legitimacy with the public.

The panelists disagreed on much, but all would likely agree on the importance of educating the public about the Court and its impact upon key social and political issues. Events such as Constitution Day at Arizona Law help shed light on the often-mysterious workings of the highest court in the land.

Questions and dialogue? Remember to contact Logan at

Rehnquist Center banner logoI do enjoy Monday-morning-quarterbacking U.S. Supreme Court decisions. You too? Now imagine how great it would be if we also possessed deep knowledge to accompany our opinions.

That is kind of the thought behind the celebration of “Constitution Day” at law schools. In recognition of one of our nation’s founding documents, scholars and wise practitioners hold forth on recent opinions.

The University of Arizona Constitution Day event was a high point of my 2012 (and I covered it here). Unfortunately, it’s looking like I will be unable to attend this year’s event, to be held next Monday, September 16.

Is anyone else planning on attending? Would you like to write a blog post covering the highlights? Or do you just want to send photos? Write to me at

Meanwhile, here’s the news:

The William H. Rehnquist Center on the Constitutional Structures of Government will present its annual Constitution Day program at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, featuring legal experts who will review some of the major cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2012 Term.

Date:               Monday, September 16, 2013

Time:              1 – 4:30 p.m. (reception to follow)

Location:        Ares Auditorium (room 164), James E. Rogers College of Law

Address:         1201 E. Speedway, Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona Law logoCLE credit is available. Space is limited, and registration is recommended. Reserve a seat online here. Visitor parking is available for a fee at several parking garages near campus. A visitor parking map is available here.

Panelists include:

  • Clint Bolick, Vice President for Litigation, Goldwater Institute
  • Melissa Murray, Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Hon. Neil V. Wake, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona
  • Moderator: David Marcus, Professor of Law, James E. Rogers College of Law         

Cases to be discussed are (click the names to read the opinions):

For more information about the Rehnquist Center, visit here.

Supreme Court cases and what they mean will again be the focus at this year’s annual Constitution Day panel at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. It will occur this Friday, September 14, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The 14th annual event is once again hosted by the University’s Rehnquist Center.

Constitution Day

(You can read my coverage from last year’s event here and here.)

Panelists include UA Professor Toni Massaro, the Goldwater Institute’s Clint Bolick, U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake, and WilmerHale partner Seth Waxman.

Curious what they’ll cover? The advance materials list three cases:

More detail, include links to panelist bios, are here. And you may register for the free event here.

I will attend Friday and try to tweet out some panelist wisdom. But #ConstitutionDay is so darn long. Why don’t I try #UASCOTUS.

Bob McWhirter

And to keep up in the race to create Constitution Day programming, next Monday, Sept. 17, the ASU Law School holds a lunchtime presentation by lawyer Bob McWhirter. Titled “Are You Talking to Me? Who Are Those ‘People’ in the Tenth Amendment?” the talk is bound to illuminate and amuse, like everything else Bob offers.

As Bob marvels, “Did you know that the original Constitution didn’t protect your vote? In fact, the original Constitution didn’t give you many rights at all? So where do we get them? Let’s look at the 10th Amendment!”

He suggests that we should wonder: “Are you one of “the People” or not?”

Could there be a more inviting call? Perhaps I’ll see you there, too, to get an answer.

Toni Massaro, Ted Cruz and Linda Greenhouse at the University of Arizona Law School, Sept. 16, 2011

Last week, I wrote about a great UA Law School event held on September 16. That was Constitution Day, and the school held a panel discussion on the topic of current legal cases that are significant and worth watching.

I mentioned that I had tweeted a bit during the presentation by moderator Professor David Marcus, former law school Dean Toni Massaro, lawyer Ted Cruz, former New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse, and U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake.

A few readers who struggled with the hashtag asked me what I had said. So, combining old and new school, I have posted just a few of those tweets below.

Before I get to that, though, I wanted to share a few moments that stand out from the day’s events:

    • One humorous moment occurred during that break, when I walked up to speak with Linda Greenhouse, whom I had interviewed about three years ago. As I re-introduced myself, she began speaking to me as if we had met just yesterday, and informed me that I had an error on my blog. I thanked her, walked back to my seat, and confirmed she was right. She has segued into the law professor role well.
    • I took a foot-in-mouth minute to thank Professor Marcus for the masterful job he was doing herding legal cats. But in complimenting his presentation, I added that the event was enjoyable and invigorating, unlike law school. A gentleman, the law professor smiled and said he would take that as a compliment. (I did not attend UA for law school, which undoubtedly is the reason for my misunderstanding

Linda Greenhouse

Tomorrow, a prestigious group of folks will gather to honor the United States Constitution. Because Friday is Constitution Day, similar (though perhaps less prestigious) groups may be chatting near you; Google it, get out there and constitutionalize!

The event (for which I’m still trying to clear my schedule so that I may attend) is at the University of Arizona Law School. The approach of their William H. Rehnquist Center on the Constitutional Structures of Government is to analyze five high-profile cases—whose resolution may tell us a lot about our nation and the Court.

Among those who will be speaking (full press release below) is Linda Greenhouse, formerly a reporter with the New York Times. She covered the United States Supreme Court and even wrote a book on Justice Blackmun.

In 2007, I had the opportunity to interview Greenhouse. Typically, reporters are not crazy about being interviewed themselves, but our meeting was a pleasure. You can read our Q&A here.

Here is the full press release. I hope to see you there (and if I’m there, I’ll post in various spots; keep your eyes peeled for #UAConstitution on Twitter).

13th Annual Constitution Day Supreme Court Review

The William H. Rehnquist Center will present a review of important cases decided during the most recent term of the United States Supreme Court at an upcoming public program:

Friday, September 16, 2011

1:00 – 4:15 p.m. (reception to follow)

James E. Rogers College of Law

1201 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, AZ

Ares Auditorium (Room 164)

The free presentation will be held in conjunction with a commemoration of Constitution Day, an annual event celebrated in schools and communities nationwide, marking the day in 1787 that the United States Constitution was approved by the state delegations to the Constitutional Convention and signed by thirty-nine of its framers.  The event is sponsored by the non-partisan Rehnquist Center at the James E. Rogers College of Law.  Additional information about Constitution Day is available here.

As space is limited, registration is recommended. Online registration is available here. Those interested in obtaining CLE credit should contact Marlene Cooksey at 530-626-5022 or via email at

Program panelists include:

  • Linda Greenhouse, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, and the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale University;
  • The Honorable Neil Wake, United States District Court, District of Arizona
  • R. (Ted) Edward Cruz, a partner in the law firm of Morgan Lewis, and head of the firm’s U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation Practice, former Solicitor General of Texas, and a former law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist;
  • Toni Massaro, Regents’ Professor, Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law and Dean Emerita of the James E. Rogers College of Law;
  • David Marcus, Associate Professor of Law, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, who will moderate the discussion.

The cases to be discussed are:

The Rehnquist Center was established at the James E. Rogers College of Law in 2006 and is dedicated to encouraging scholarship about, and public understanding of, the separation of powers, the balance of powers between the federal and state governments, and judicial independence.  Information on the Center is available here.