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    09.28.17 Brooklyn Law School Marks Constitution Day with Preview of SCOTUS Term
    Constitution Day Program 2017

    Faculty and students at the Law School recently celebrated Constitution Day, the annual commemoration of the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, with a preview of notable cases to watch in the upcoming term of the Supreme Court of the United States and a discussion of current constitutional issues. Professors William Araiza, Joel Gora, and Susan Herman, president of the ACLU, led the event, with each highlighting cases that may have significant legal and societal implications.

    Herman noted that the ACLU has five cases before the Court this term, which is remarkable considering the Court hears oral argument in only about 80 cases annually. She spoke about Carpenter v. United States, which raises the question of whether the government violates the Fourth Amendment by accessing an individual’s historical cell phone locations records without a warrant. She also touched on International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, which argued that selective vetting based on religion and status is unconstitutional. Herman went on to discuss several concerns the Justices had about the travel ban, primarily the issue that there had been an exception made for Christians fleeing Muslim countries.  “The order was believed to violate the Establishment Clause, because the government was preferring one religion to another, and coming down on that side of things,” Herman said.

    Gora highlighted Gill v. Whitford, which will examine whether a 2011 Republican-created voter redistricting plan for Wisconsin used partisan gerrymandering that made it virtually impossible for Democrats to win a majority of state legislative seats, despite a larger overall vote total. The Supreme Court case comes from an appeal made by the State of Wisconsin, challenging a lower court ruling that the 2011 redistricting plan was unconstitutional. The Republicans claim this was all speculation, that they won because they had better candidates and issues, and that the lower court was just trying to make it easier nationwide for Democrats to win over Republicans. Regarding the case, Gora said, “The ripple effect on politics and our democratic structures will be quite potent,” mentioning Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comment that the case “may well be the most important case on the court’s docket this term.”

    Araiza spoke about Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, another case involving the ACLU that centers on whether a creative business can refuse service due to its First Amendment rights of free speech and free exercise of religion in light of public accommodation laws—particularly by refusing to provide creative services for same-sex marriage ceremonies on the basis of one's religious beliefs. “We have very, very compelling anti-discrimination arguments on the one hand,” said Araiza, “[yet] we have equally compelling First Amendment arguments on the other.”

    Dean Nick Allard closed the event by telling the audience that there has never been a more important time for lawyers and students of the law—as defenders and protectors of the constitution.

    “Presidents come and go, lifetime appointments of federal judicial officers are extremely contentious and are very important because they have a long-lasting effect,” said Allard.

    Watch the video

    Read Professor Gora’s remarks