Constitution Panel Discussion
Articles,  Blog

Constitution Panel Discussion


– Good afternoon. Hello, my name’s Owen Young. I would like to welcome you to our Constitution Day Program, presented to you by the
Office of Student Activities, and co-sponsored by
Queensborough Mock Trial Team. I am one of the captains from last year’s Mock Trial Team, and I’m
also the current president of QCC Mock Trial Association. I will be today’s moderator. We are fortunate to have with us a panel of assistant professors from the Business Department,
each of whom is an attorney who will discuss our
nation’s Constitution. At this time, I would
like to introduce to you the members of our panel. Professor Ted Rosen, Professor Steven Hamill, (audience applauds) Professor Linda Meltzer, (audience applauds) Professor Leslie Francis, (audience applauds) Professor Kathleen Larkin, (audience applauds). Constitution Day, September
17, which this year is observed tomorrow, September 16, commemorates the formation and signing of the United States
Constitution of 39 men on September 17, 1787. They recognized all whom, whether by being born in the US,
or by naturalization, are citizens of the United States. The law establishing a
holiday for Constitution Day was created in 2004 by passage of an amendment by Senator Robert Byrd to the spending bill of 2004. Before this law was passed, the holiday was known as Citizenship Day. In addition to renaming the
holiday Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, the act requires that all educational institutions
receiving federal funds provide an educational
program on the history of the American Constitution on that day. In 2005, the US Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind. Aside from being required by federal law to have such programs, as this, it is important to us
all living in America to study and learn about the Constitution. This amazing document
written 224 years ago has been, and continues to be, the foundation for our government and the supreme law of the land. Although the United States in 2011 is far different than the United States back in 1787, the document remains the ultimate authority for our government and for our laws. It is therefore important
that each one of us be familiar with this document, which has exerted such a major impact on our society and each of our lives. At this time, I would
like to ask all questions be held until we have heard
from all of our speakers. Our first speaker, Professor Ted Rosen, he is a graduate of Queens College and New York University Law. Professor Rosen is a member
of the Bar of the State of New York, and various federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. He has practiced law
for more than 38 years. Most of his work has been in the field of commercial litigation with both the state and federal courts. He has substantial
experience in arbitration, particularly in the financial industry. Having served as arbitrator
for more than 25 years for the New York Stock Exchange, NASD, and more recently
for the financial industry regulatory authority. Professor Rosen began
teaching at QCC in 2000 as an adjunct and became
full time in 2006. He teaches Business Law
and Principles of Finance, as well as faculty advisor
to our Mock Trial Team. Professor Rosen will discuss
the Constitutional Convention, and give us an overview
of the Constitution. (audience applauds) – Thank you, all. On May 15, 1776, the Convention
in Williamsburg, Virginia, which was acting as the
de facto governing body for that colony, instructed
Virginia’s governors to the Continental
Congress in Philadelphia to introduce a resolution
declaring the United States to be free and independent. That eventually led to the
Declaration of Independence, which was issued on July 4, 1776, a fact that most of us know. What most of us probably do not know was that, is that it was not until some 11 years later that the
Constitutional Convention was convened. During that period, the
country was governed by the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation
were initially adopted in 1777, but not completely
ratified by all states until 1781. During this period of time,
there was no Constitution aside from the Articles of Confederation on the federal level, but every state had their own Constitution. They all shared certain basic principles. The state Constitutions had the republican form of government, meaning
there was no monarch. There was no king. They embraced the consent of the governed as a principle. They embraced the concept
of inherent rights, and they also stood for
popular control of government. But, they had problems. There was excessive trust
in the legislative branch of the government. There was limited, and in some cases, no checks and balances. Governors were typically elected
by the legislative branch, and the lines between
statutes and Constitutions were, in many cases, blurred. We signed a peace treaty
with England in 1783. At that time, we were essentially 13 separate state governments. There were significant problems with the Articles of Confederation. The Continental Congress
had no power to task, had no power to regulate commerce. The federal government had to depend on contributions from the states. Requests for money were often denied. There was no money to pay soldiers for their service in the Revolution. Other countries of the world that had signed peace treaties, or
treaties with the United States doubted whether the United States would meet any obligations
under those treaties. There was economic
discrimination between states. The country was not prepared
to defend itself for war. Rhode Island passed a law that essentially eliminated all private debts, and was well on their way to pass a law that would redistribute property on a 13 year cycle. Daniel Shay was leading a
revolution in Massachusetts to get relief from debts. In February of 1787, the
Continental Congress, then the governing body,
called a convention in Philadelphia to meet
in May of that year to devise such further provisions that shall appear to
be necessary to render the Constitution of the federal government adequate to the existing
needs of the Union. In May, the delegates met. They met on May 25, and one week later, George Washington was elected
President of the Convention. They established rules,
principally, complete secrets. They were not allowed to
discuss the proceedings. Four days later on May 29,
they got down to business. Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia introduced what came to be
known as the Virginia plan. This called for a strong,
national government. Both houses of the legislative branch would have their membership determined based upon population. The national government
would have the power to legislate all cases
where the separates states called were incompetent,
and included a proposal that the National Council of Revision would basically have veto power over acts that were passed
by state legislatures. This was greatly opposed,
this plan, by smaller states. It was opposed by those who did not want a stronger federal government. In June, the New Jersey
Plan was introduced. The New Jersey Plan limited federal power. It created no new congress, but enhanced the existing Continental Congress. The delegate from New
Jersey, William Patterson, who introduced it, made it clear that the smaller states,
including New Jersey, would oppose any plan that did not give the smaller states equal voting power in the legislative branch of government. From June through September, 1787, the delegates broke out
a series of compromises. In these compromises, Congress was to be granted powers to regulate the economy, to establish currency, and to
provide for national defense. The provision that was
in the Virginia Plan that the federal government
would have the power to veto the state laws was rejected. Most importantly, the
Connecticut Compromise was put forward. This came to be known
as the Great Compromise. This provided that
representation in the House would be based upon population, and in the Senate, each
state would have two votes, equal votes in the Senate. It also rejected election of the executive by legislature. It also did not give us the popular vote for the President. It came through with what we now know as the Electoral College,
which has subsequently been amended by a
Constitutional amendment. In July, a committee on detail was formed to actually draft the Constitution. In the last weeks of the
Constitutional Convention, there was sectional differences that threatened to disrupt
the entire process. Southern states were strongly
against taxing exports. They wanted to protect slavery. The Constitution does
not use the word slavery. Southern states wanted
to protect slave trade. In late August of 1787, the Convention agreed to ban taxes on exports, and they reached a compromise
on the slave trade. They agreed that no law would be passed to outlaw slave trade
for 20 years, until 1808. That’s in the Constitution. On the very first day
that it could be passed, on January 1, 1808, a law was passed prohibiting the slave trade. In determining representation in Congress, the first article talks about
counting all free persons, specifically for excluding slaves, who were not free persons. Slaves were also to be
counted, but not one for one, three fifths of all
the slaves were counted in determining apportionment in Congress. There’s a provision in the article that basically provides, and doesn’t say in this language, that if the slave escaped to another state,
the laws of the state to which that slave
escaped could not be used to render that person
free, but upon demand of the slave owner, would be
returned to the original state. Some delegates were
solely against slavery, but there was a fear that if they pushed hard for slavery,
the southern states would pull out, and would
not adopt a new Constitution. In September, all the
compromises were made. Final revisions were
made September 8, 1787, the Committee on Style was appointed to polish up the language
and to arrange the articles. During this process,
George Mason of Virginia argued for the adoption
of the Bill of Rights. This was rejected. It was not passed. It later reemerged during
the ratification process of the Constitution. Delegates eventually got down to voting. Each state had one vote. If a state delegation was evenly split, it could not vote for adoption. And, on September 17, the day which is now celebrated as Constitution Day, there were 42 of the
original 55 delegates left at the convention. 13 had gone back to their states. Of these 42, 39 voted for adoption. Three did not. This was just enough to win support from each of the twelve states that were then in attendance. There was never a delegation
from Rhode Island, as Rhode Island opposed the convention. This led to the language
of the Constitution, which appears at the end of the articles and before the amendments,
“Done and conventioned “by the unanimous consent
of the states present “on,” and it goes on to indicate the date. After there was a signing
ceremony on September 17, most of the delegates
went into the city tavern in Philadelphia where,
according the George Washington, they, “dined together
and took cordial leave “of one another.” After the signing, each state held a Constitutional Convention
to ratify the Constitution. There was very strong opposition
throughout the states. In New York, the Federalist
Papers were published. These were written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, and they argued for
adoption, and to this day, are used by lawyers, scholars, and judges in matters of interpretation
of what the Constitution means. In September 1788, the
Constitutional Congress, the Continental Congress resolved that the new Constitution
be put into effect. By that time, all but eight states, all but two states had ratified and approved the Constitution. North Carolina followed in 1789, and Rhode Island, which
did not participate in the Convention, adopted
the Constitution in 1790. In April of 1789, Washington
was sworn in as President. Implicit in the campaign to gain adoption, the Federalists who
were supporting adoption promised that once the new
government took effect, it would be an adoption
for the Bill of Rights to protect, specify, identify, and protect individual liberties. That took place in 1791. James Madison was the author. We’ll hear more later on
about the Bill of Rights. Let me in my remaining time give you a very general overview
of the Constitution. Two big themes in the Constitution. There’s a federal form of government. The federal form of government is a union of sovereign states, and
throughout our history, there’s always been
contention and conflict between the powers of
the federal government and the powers that are
reserved to the states. That’s something that continues
through the present day. The second big theme in the Constitution is checks and balances. The founding fathers
were very, very fearful of the concentration of
power in any one branch of the government. They saw what happened in England with the power of the king. So, they put in a very elaborate system of checks and balances. The structure of the Constitution. There’s a preamble, seven articles, the a power of certifying the signing, and finally 27 amendments. The first 10 of those amendments, the Bill of Rights, was adopted in 1791, shortly after the adoption
of the Constitution. The next 17 were adopted
over the next 200 years. Article one, let me just
give you a fast rundown of the articles. Article one describes the Congress. It describes the manor of election and qualifications of Congress. It describes the powers of Congress. It also basically has language in there to say that Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall
be necessary and proper, the carriage and execution
of forgoing powers, and all other powers
vested by this Constitution and the government of the United States and any department or officer there of. Later on, in the early
part of the 19th century, the Supreme Court determined that to mean that Congress had other powers besides the powers that
were expressly stated that belonged to Congress. We’ll go through all the powers,
the very important power, however, is the commerce course. Congress regulates interstate commerce, commerce between states,
and between states and other countries. It means between people in one state and another state or people in one state and another country. Taxing and spending, Congress taxes. Congress controls the purse strings. Article one provides things that Congress is not allowed to do, and it also provides limitations on
the rights of the states. Article two creates an executive. It sets forth the qualifications. The President must be 35 years old, a resident of the United
States, a natural born citizen, and has been recently discussed with regards to a certain
California governor. Succession, it provides a succession to the office of the President. It’s since been modified
by the 25th amendment. It provides for pay. It also, in section four of article two, provides for removal of the President and other federal officers. Article three provides
for the judicial power of the federal government. Interestingly, the only court that is specified in the Constitution is the US Supreme Court. It provides all such other courts as Congress shall determine. Congress, then, has the authority, which it has done, to
create other federal courts. The Constitution goes on to
provide the jurisdiction, the original jurisdiction,
of the Supreme Court, cases that can start in the Supreme Court, and to provide that the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction. Article four deals with the relationship between states, and the relationships between states and the federal government. It talks very importantly
about the full faith and credit. Basically, one state has to
give full faith and credit recognition to the acts, public records, acts, records, and court
proceedings of the other states. You drive in New York with
a New York drivers license and you go to New Jersey, you don’t have to get a new drivers
license in New Jersey. Full faith and credit recognizes, New Jersey recognizes
your drivers license. Privileges and immunities. One state cannot discriminate against citizens of other states. Extradition between states. It also provides for
travel between states. Now, you may say this is given, and to us today it is, but back in the Articles of Confederation days, travel from one state to another was not an automatic given. Article five deals with process
to amend the Constitution. Article six deals with ratification. I’m sorry, article five
deals with amendments, and article six deals
with federal Constitution, federal treaties, and federal statutes are the supreme law of the land. Finally, article seven
deals with ratification, and it provided that the Constitution was to take effect once
nine states adopted it, and it was to be binding
only on the states that then adopted it. So, when it came into
being, and became effective, it was only by those
states that adopted it, and subsequently, of course
the other states did as well. As we said, after that, the 27 amendments. The first 10 are the Bill of Rights, and the other 17 have been passed in subsequent years
over the last 200 years. My colleagues will be talking more about the amendments to the Constitution. Thank you. (audience applauds) – Thank you, Professor Rosen. Our next professor,
Professor Linda Meltzer. Professor Linda Meltzer has been teaching business courses, notably, business law, finance, business
organization and management at QCC since joining
the Business Department in the spring of 2009. Professor Meltzer received her JD in 2006 from New York Law School, and was admitted to practice law in 2007. Obtaining her law degree
added to Professor Meltzer’s Master of Business Administration, or MBA, from Baruch College in 1987. Most of Professor Meltzer’s career has been spent in equity analyst working on Wall Street
for two investment banks, notably Drexel Birmingham,
Lambert, and UPS. Professor Meltzer will discuss certain portions of the Bill of Rights. (audience applauds) – Thank you. Very hard to follow up
after Professor Rosen, who’s quite a scholar. All of us here are covered
by the Bill of Rights, and I wanted to spend some
time talking about it. As Professor Rosen just said, it was ratified after the US Constitution in 1791, just a little bit after. It represents the first 10 methods. I’m only going to be
talking about one of them. My colleague, Professor Hamill, will do the other pieces. It covers all of us, all
of us who are here today. Essentially, the 10 amendments
address the prohibition of the federal government from imprinting on the individual freedoms,
providing safeguards for the accused, the right to bear arms, and powers reserved for the states, including the 14th amendment, the states may not interfere with these rights. A common mistake folks make
about the US Constitution is that it limits both the
action of our government, but it does not limit the
actions of private employers. I wanted to talk about
the first amendment, which is 47 words, and you can pick up any of these US Constitution
little booklets. I see some of you have it. They’re either free or very little money at the bookstore. I get commissions on these. The words of the first amendment are among the most profound
powers given to us individually. It covers freedom of
speech, freedom of religion, press, association, freedom to assemble, and the right to petition the government for our grievances, our complaints. These rights together are referred to as our freedom of expression, which is in its entirety, among our
most fundamental rights, like our right to vote. This amendment is more than 200 years old, and has been tested over and over, and especially during
times of national stress, wars, social unrest, not unlike what we’re going through today. Our rights have evolved from a time when it was a crime to speak
against our government, to public malicious, scandalous,
or even false writing, and it begun in a time when
there were no telegraphs, no radios, no phones, no
internet, no Facebook, no founding fathers. So, how can it apply to us in 2011? We’re the boundary. There’s some 20 to 25 landmark cases decided by the US Supreme Court which help to shed light
on judicial interpretation, and they are updated for our change in customs and traditions. Regarding the freedom of speech, there are no absolute protections. There are essentially
three levels of protections from freedom of speech. Those protected areas will
regard protected fully, those that are restricted areas of speech, and speech that is largely unprotected. What is speech? Well, there are two kinds. There’s essentially the pure speech, which are words, books,
newspapers, rallies, and so forth, and then symbolic speech, non-verbal communication
which include gestures, or what’s printed, for
example, on t-shirts. Those are protected areas. Where it gets a little shady, or at least in the gray area, are
commercial speech, for example. There it depends. For example, corporate advertising, any form of corporate advertising, must be legal and serve
a government interest. Vocal words or gestures
may not make the cut. There are four unprotected
areas, areas where most of the challenges have been
heard in Supreme Court. One is defamation, where false words could hurt another person’s reputation. The second area, largely
restricted is obscenity. However, it may pass a multi-part test that considers whether
the obscene expression is of artistic, scientific,
or literary value. On the other hand, no child
pornography is protected. Among the areas that probably
get the most attention are hate speech and fighting words. Those are clearly unprotected. As I mentioned, there
are 25 landmark cases that told us where the holes are. Cases that have to
protect you, or at least receive protection once it made its way through the Supreme Court, that dealt with Nazi rallies, the
burning of the flag, use of offensive words to convey messages, all have received Court protection. About 100 years ago, one
case coined the phrase you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater. You can’t incite actions
which are harmful to others. When I teach Constitutional
law to my students, one case I share is one that I think relevant to us all, is
Tinker verses Des Moines School District. It was decided in 1969. The time of the case was
during a controversial Vietnam War, which
essentially pinned students against their teachers
in school officials. The case tested for the first time whether students, not yet adults, had freedom of schools,
freedom of speech rights at their schools. What had happened was the
students wore arm bands to protest the wars, and
this was symbolic speech. It violated a no arm bands rule. So, the students that broke this rule were going to be expelled,
which students were. They fought their way
through the court system, and the US Supreme
Court did hear the case, and decided for the students,
saying that school officials cannot punish student speech unless there was substantial disruption
to school activities. There was also a case last year, and I think we may hear more
about it in a little bit, a 2010 case which concerned protests by a controversial church
group holding anti-gay protests at a military funeral. As offensive as that was, the
Court allowed the protest. So, what are some of the hot topics that are likely to be tested? Cyber-bullying, social
media, free expression on Twitter and Facebook,
just ask Anthony Wiener. Just a word of freedom of religion. There are two key clauses. One is the establishment of religion, and the other is free
exercise of religion. Here, the government
must be a neutral party, neither advancing nor inhibiting
the practice of religion, and must not be excessively involved. Where have those controversies been? There has been significant attention to the Pledge of
Allegiance from both sides. One case that was decided, and challenged by Jehovah Witnesses, was
that it cannot be forced to provide allegiance to the flag if your allegiance is only to your god. On the other hand, “under God” might seem like excessive involvement. I’d like to turn it over to my colleague, also fellow Constitutional scholar, Professor Hamill, thank you. (audience applauds) – Our next speaker will be
Professor Hamill, Steven Hamill. Professor Hamill’s a graduate
of Nassau Community College, Hofstra University, and
Touro School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in New York and Connecticut, and in
the federal districts for the Southern and Eastern
Districts of New York. He has practiced law in New York, and has a substantial
experience in real estate, including in particular
title insurance issues, has served as a council to Columbia Title and Abstract Corporation,
and Chicago Title Insurance Company. Professor Hamill began
teaching at Queensborough in 2009, and has taught business law and business organization and management. Professor Hamill is one
of the faculty advisors of the QCC Mock Trial Team. (audience applauds) – Thank you, Owen, for your kind words. I’m not sure how much
time we have per speaker, but I guess you’ll just let me know if I’m running over. Obviously, this is an
incredibly important day to develop your understanding
of the Constitution. We don’t normally speak about these things because it’s simply not a topic you would discuss with your friends and colleagues that often. So, what you pick up
today is really critical to your understanding of the American system of government and our rights that we’re all given in the United States. The founding fathers, who were very wary of us giving up our rights, were somehow losing them in some way. They had a position that they wanted to see all of us be
able to have the ability to speak up to government so that way it wouldn’t be oppression of some people. We are organized as a republic. It allows the people who have very small, minority voices to still be heard. This is really critical. The Bill of Rights, the
first 10 amendments, as Professor Meltzer and
Professor Rosen spoke of, is really unique because when I think of the Constitution almost as a roadmap to the federal government,
but the Bill of Rights is special because it provides protections for each and every one of you. It provides a level of protection from the government in
regard to certain things. These are what’s referred, these first 10 amendments are referred
to the Bill of Rights. This is really the essence of it. Obviously, Professor Meltzer spoke about the first amendment,
freedom of religion and so forth, the press. But, the second amendment,
which many of you may know is the ability
to keep and bear arms. It says basically a
well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall
not be infringed upon. There wasn’t all that much
litigation in this area until ’07, when they had the Partner case, and then the Heller case,
and the McDonald case, which followed pretty
much directly there after. These cases really looked at the question as to whether or not the second amendment was an individual, absolute
right to keep arms, to have the ability to own firearms, or it was simply a right of
the militia to have arms. The Heller case and the
McDonald case were firm that understanding that
it’s sort of both, okay. It is an individual’s right to keep arms, but it is obviously providing
a militia to have arms. It didn’t destroy the
right, reasonable regulation of firearms, but it did
establish the principle that it is the right of every American to own firearms with certain,
reasonable restrictions. The third amendment is absolutely one of the least litigated amendments, however, it deals with an important issue, and that is the quartering of
soldiers within your house. You don’t often see that where a soldier will be knocking on your door to come in and sleep for the night
without your permission, but it did happen during
the Revolutionary times. If any of you go to a
restaurant around here and order a Gin and Jericho, that actually was a
place where the British would sleep overnight. So, it is something that did happen back when the country was founded, and still has its place in history. It was a case in 1982, which was basically one of the only cases I could find on it, but it was dealing with prison guards in the State of New York, whether or not that was a violation of this amendment. Search and seizure, the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment, there’s a lot of litigation on this. I think that my colleague,
Professor Larkin, will be talking about this also. The search and seizure is really critical because it deals with the ability of the authorities to come and either go into your house, go into your car, pat you down on your personage, you know, whether or not you are secure in your private existence
from all the regulated government interference. Basically, the standards
on the fourth amendment, in order to pass the
Constitutional muster, the detention or the action
must be reasonable, okay. Obviously, there’s no
protection in a public forum. If you walk out on the street, you have no reasonable expectation of
privacy on the streets. So, really, we’re dealing with areas within your own personal
zone, like your house, or in your car, you know things that you have in your pockets, okay. So, it’s a different sort of thing. Obviously, without these protections, we would be hard pressed to say listen, I feel absolutely secure,
and you wouldn’t be protected from some kind of overreaching
government interference. The fifth amendment, I’m sure most of you would know the fifth amendment. I take the fifth, the right
against self-incrimination. You don’t have to confess. Again, this is one of these
areas that’s really important. This is a right that’s given to you, okay. In order to be convicted
of a substantial crime, to a felony level, they
have to convene a grad jury. A grand jury’s a fundamental principle of our criminal system. It protects us from double jeopardy. I’m sure many of you are
familiar with double jeopardy. Once you’re convicted of a crime, that’s a conviction. But, if you’re found
not guilty, that’s it. The government can’t try you again. I mean, wouldn’t it be possible that a government that didn’t like you for one reason, you’re found not guilty, to run you through the system again. Oh, you’re not guilty. Let’s try him again. Maybe we’ll get him on the third try. The founding fathers were worried that the government could somehow exert some type of persecution on the people. So, they instituted this
idea of double jeopardy. You can’t be tried for
the same crime twice. Obviously there is some question about it. When you are found not
guilty at the state level, and then you’re tried for
civil rights violations at the federal level,
there’s a lot of discussion about that, whether or
not it’s appropriate. It seems so far to be. Nonetheless, the general
rule is that double jeopardy, you can’t be tried twice
for the same crime. It also talks about due process, which is your ability
to be treated properly, either you have your
rights, you have substance in due process, which is
being actually locked up, if you have your freedom removed. That’s the removal of your freedoms, and also your procedural due process, which is how you go through the system. You expect to be treated with a trial, with a jury, and this is all part of the fifth amendment, okay. It’s all in there, and
you have these rights because of the Bill of Rights and the vision of the founding fathers. Sixth amendment, right to a speedy trial, being confronted by witnesses. Obviously, this is huge. You wanna have a jury
of your peers, you know, people that are like you, that could understand your case. No matter what the law says, if the jury is gonna say you know what, this law is inappropriate, or your situation is somehow different, your
peer is gonna understand that. That’s written into the Bill of Rights. You have to have an impartial jury. Obviously, you don’t wanna have a jury that’s stacked, because
if a jury’s stacked in one way or another against you, that’s not a fair trial. We have the seventh amendment, which is trial by jury in civil cases. It deals with federal actions. A lot of times, we have diversity
of citizenship questions. You may feel sometimes
in certain situations, that state court doesn’t work. If it falls in certain parameters, then that jury can be
on the federal level. The eighth amendment talks about cruel and inhuman punishment. Obviously we have to punish for crime. That’s pretty much settled. However, the crime and the punishment need to be related to each other. There has to be a balance. It just wouldn’t be right
to set ridiculous bail for some minor violation,
say spitting on the sidewalk. It wouldn’t be right to have bail at $1 million for a crime like that. It just isn’t right. But, it’s in the Bill of Rights. Cruel and unusual punishment, and the idea of reasonable bail. Construction of the Constitution
is the article nine. It talks about certain ways that the way the Constitution
will be construed. The 10th amendment, ratifications. The 10th amendment is huge. If the powers are not specifically reserved to the federal government, then the state government
will retain those rights unless they’re specifically enumerated. The 10th amendment really
gives states rights. Again, it’s that balance
between the federal and the state government system. Do I have time for another one? Just quick, a little bit. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are all dealing with the
reconstruction period, and rights of the people. It talks a lot about slavery. Obviously, Lincoln’s
Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment were going together to try to abolish slavery. However, there was still certain problems that cropped up during this period. So, it took the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th amendments to
really hammer this home. There’s going to be no
impingement of rights for any people, and also 14th amendment’s been in the news lately
as Professor Rosen said, you know dealing with
natural born citizens. Okay, we’re done, okay, thank you. Thank you very much. (audience applauds) – Anybody watch NFL? Okay, we’ll next hear from
Professor Leslie Francis. Professor Francis is a
graduate of St. John’s School of Law. He is admitted to
practice law in New York, Connecticut, and in the federal courts for Southern and Eastern
Districts of New York. After graduation from law school, Professor Francis joined the firm of Green and Flowers, P.C., at which he was the lead attorney on all resolutions of trust, corporations, transactions which the firm handled. Prior to forming his own
law firm on Long Island, Professor Francis was the managing partner at Chapman and Francis,
P.C., which practiced in real estate, commercial litigation, bankruptcy, matrimonial law,
employment discrimination, land use and government procurement for certified minority businesses. He has acted as Commissioner
for US Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also presents seminars
in the New York area on such topics as the purchase
and sale of real estate, formation of business entities. Professor Francis began teaching
at Queensborough in 2010, and teaches business law
and business organization and management. Professor Francis is also
one of the faculty advisors to the QCC Mock Trial
Team, and he will discuss several Constitutional law cases decided by the Supreme
Court this past year. (audience applauds) – Good afternoon. First, let me begin by
saying that the last term of the US Supreme Court in 2010-2011 term was significant from a
historical perspective in that for the first time, three women joined the court. Those women, as you probably know, are Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor,
and Justice Elena Kagan. With regard to the last term, the Court had several first
amendment cases before it, two of which I will talk about. The two that I’m going to talk about were relatively controversial cases. With regard to the two
cases, first amendment cases, both cases showed the Court’s commitment to the notion of free expression of ideas that is embodied in the freedom of speech component of the first amendment. The first case, Brown verses Entertainment Merchants Association,
the Court struck down on first amendment grounds. The California law that
started to bar the sale of violent video games to children. The law would’ve imposed a $1,000 fine per incident on stores that
sold violent video games to anyone under the age of 18 years old. The law also defined a violent video game as those in which the
range of game options includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an
image of a human being. So, with regard to the
target for these games, the games, I’m sure some of
you may be familiar with, games like Mortal Combat,
games like Grand Theft Auto, those types of games. I’m sure none of my students
have played these games. In its seven, two decision, the court ruled that because the
law restricted the content of protected speech, it is
invalid unless California can demonstrate that it
passes a strict scrutiny test, which is one of the most
difficult Constitutional tests. The test states that the law,
in order to pass that test, the law must be justified
enough by compelling the government to reason,
and is narrowly drawn to serve a specific interest. With regard to that test
and the Constitutionality of protected speech, if
there is another alternative to reach the interests that the government is trying to seek to protect, than the law must seek, must do that. With regard to video games
and videos in general, there is now a label
process that basically gives you an indication
of what the content of the game is. The second case, as noted
by Professor Meltzer, is Snyder verses Westboro Baptist Church, where the Court, in an
eight to one decision, upheld an appeals court
ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment won by the father of a dead Marine, who
sued the church members for picketing at his son’s funeral. The son’s name was Matthew Snyder, who died in Afghanistan in 2006. The Reverend Fred Phelps,
the leader of this church, and his family made up the majority of the church membership. They have picketed
several military funerals across the country to highlight their view that US deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God’s punishment for
the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality. Their protests are always replete with offensive slogans and signs. As indicated by Professor Meltzer again, even though these are offensive
to the general public, the signs that they used and slogans, this is also a form of protected speech. When we look at the fact
that things like this are protected, it shows us just how far the Court will go to preserve the sanctity of the first amendment. If the laws will protect
something that’s offensive to most of us, then the law certainly will protect more popular opinions. Writing for the majority, Justice Roberts held that the lawsuit by the father of the dead Marine was failed
because Phelps’s speech was on a matter of public concern. The public concern reference had to do with the ongoing public debate with regard to our military
presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, and also the
other contentious issue of don’t ask, don’t tell. So, based on that important rule in an eight to one decision
that this speech was protected. He also went on to say that in the context of the funeral, this could not transform the speech from public into private because the Westboro protesters were picketing on public land. Justice Alito was the sole
dissenter in this decision. His opinion was a little different from the majority of the Court. He wrote in his decision,
dissenting decision, our profound national
commitment to free, open debate is not a license for the
vicious, verbal assault that occurred in this case. He wrote Mr. Snyder wanted what’s surely the right of any parent who experiences such an incalculable loss would be, to bury his son in peace. Justice Alito continued by saying members of Westboro Baptist Church deprived him this elemental right. Not withstanding that, the majority of the Court ruled this type of speech in context of protest is protected, even as unpopular and
distasteful as it is. Thank you, that concludes mine. (audience applauds) – Last, but not least, last, but not least, our next speaker is Professor Kathleen Larkin. Professor Larkin is a
graduate of Saint John’s University School of Law. She served for five years as
an Assistant District Attorney for Manhattan, in the Manhattan
District Attorney’s Office. Professor Larkin maintains a law practice in Suffolk County, New York. Her practice is a general practice, which includes criminal defense
work for indigent clients. Prior to teaching at Queensborough, Professor Larkin taught
at Saint Joseph’s College in Patrick, New York. She began teaching at
Queensborough in 2010, and teaches business law,
principles of finance, and business organization and management. Professor Larkin will discuss certain Constitutional laws to be decided by the Supreme Court this year. (audience applauds) – Good afternoon. I think I just want to start out by saying that I don’t think we can overemphasize the impact of the United
States Constitution on every aspect of American life. For those of us who were
born in this country, we take much of this for granted. For those of you who are here, and who were not born in this
country, you probably have a better understanding
of what I mean. When I was a junior at Boston College, some thirty-something years ago, I went to a speech by F. Lee Bailey, who, at the time, was a
famous, or perhaps infamous, criminal defense attorney. Not a man a particularly cared for, having been born and
raised in Massachusetts. He was best known for
representing some pretty not too popular people,
including Sam Shepherd, people accused of murdering their wives. Vietnam, I won’t get into. He later then went on
to serve on OJ Simpson’s criminal defense team. But yet, some thirty plus years ago, I recall what he said, and that was the society is best judged by how they treat the least fortunate among them. The Constitution of the United States is here to protect those least fortunate. Most of the cases that
I’m gonna talk about, just a few of them, are pretty much geared towards, or address the
issues in the criminal world, ’cause as I usually tell my students, as someone with a criminal
defense background and a criminal prosecutor’s background, it’s one thing to lose money in a case. It’s quite another thing to lose your life or your liberty. Understand that the
United States Constitution in its original form, as we’ve been told, was written by our fathers,
and they were fathers, not mothers, and they
were like white fathers, not fathers of color. So, without amendments to the
United States Constitution, without legislation drawn
from the United States Constitution, and without Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution, I dare say that three of us up here probably would not be here
today speaking to you. Having said that, I just wanna go through a few of the cases that
are being presented to the, that are going to be heard by the United States
Supreme Court this term, which is 2011-2012. I guess before I say that,
you have to understand that the United States Supreme Court is not an easy place to get your case to. It takes years, probably a lot of money, and a lot of commitment on both the time of both your attorneys and the person who wants to bring the case. The United States Supreme Court basically decides every year which
cases they wanna decide. So, there’s no automatic right. How they do this, I don’t even know, but I would dare say
that some of the things that get you there are
cases of first impression. That is something that
they have never looked at. One of the cases that I have today involves technology. Confusion among the circuits, that is when lower circuit courts of appeal have different decisions
that aren’t, don’t mesh. So, the one circuit is saying one thing on the subject, and the other circuit is saying something else. Lastly, we have what I’ll call sort of an outcry by society, or a change in society’s norms, or
the way people in general think about a particular subject. Lastly, there is equity. Our courts are about the law and equity. So, the Supreme Court can decide if they wanna decide a case because
it just seems so unfair. Okay, a few of them that
are gonna be decided in this term, one is
Florence verses The Board of Chosen Freeholders, which
comes out of New Jersey, and this addresses the fourth amendment, search and seizure. The fourth amendment,
I also have another one that’s fourth amendment, and that is US verses Jones, which comes out
of the District of Columbia. The fourth amendment, as
Professor Hamill told us, addresses search and seizure law. Basically, to simplify,
it’s a real sliding scale in terms of what the government can do. So, we have things like
a policeman stops you on the street. A policeman stops and
frisks you or pats you down. You’re arrested, and there’s a search. There’s a search of your house. There’s a search of your car, and can they go into your trunk, and they
open your glove compartment. At what point do they require a warrant, and when can they search
without a warrant? These are all issues that have gone before the United States Supreme Court. There’s a lot of case law on it, but yet they still seem to be
addressed on a regular basis. In the case of Florence verses The Board of Chosen Freeholders, the question here is whether the jail is permitted to conduct a
suspicionless strip search of every individual who is arrested, even if it’s for a minor offense, and under what circumstances. In this case, again, I’m not gonna go into what I think’s
gonna happen or anything, but suffice it to say, this is a case where a gentleman was driving
his car with his family. They ran his plate or something, found out that he had never paid
a judgment that he was, traffic I’m guessing,
was a traffic judgment, so he pops a warrant. So, he gets arrested for that. He gets transferred to
the Essex County Jail. He’s first gone through the whole thing that they make you, you
know, the spot search to make sure you’re
not a member of a gang, and everything, you know, standing naked in front of a police officer. He’s then later does a
full cavity search of him. The rule, you know, the idea here is that they’re searching for contraband. The question becomes
whether it’s a necessary, whether in that case was
necessary for the government to search him to that extent, whether the government’s interests
override his interest. So, that’s going before the
United States Supreme Court. The other one on warrantless searches is US verses Jones. This is out of the District of Columbia, and this is a case involving putting a GPS tracking device on someone’s vehicle. This person was suspected
of cocaine trafficking. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking. His conviction was overturned
because the local court said that this was a warrantless search. The questions that are raised here, again, Professor Hamill talked about is you have to have an expectation of privacy in the area to be searched. The government here who’s taking the case up to the Supreme Court is first of all arguing that it’s not a search, that it potentially could
give rise to a search, but it’s not a search ’cause it’s just telling us where you are. We could have a cop tailing you. Is that a search? That there’s no expectation of privacy in a public road, but again, the question goes to it’s reasonable, the argument goes towards what is the public’s interest verses what is the private
citizen’s interest, and again, I don’t know
what the Supreme Court’s gonna decide, but the lower court did strike the search down. Well, did say it was a
search, and struck it down. Okay, in terms of equity, as I said, death penalty cases, as
I’m sure you probably know, most death penalty cases,
great efforts are taken. There’s an automatic right to an appeal in a death penalty case. Death penalties are state laws. Some states have the
death penalty, some don’t. The United States Supreme Court has held that it is not cruel
and unusual punishment. They have looked at
methodologies, however, and they’ve looked at all sorts of things. There’s a case now that’s
going to be decided, Maples verses Thomas,
the Interim Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections. That’s out in the 11th circuit. In this case, Alabama obviously
has the death penalty. In this case, there was
a post conviction appeal which was basically disallowed
by the the Alabama courts because of a procedural error. Paperwork was sent to the
attorney that was of record. That attorney had left the firm. It basically was returned to sender, which was the courts in Alabama, who sort of put it in a pile
and did nothing with it. So, the question here
becomes whether or not this criminal defendant who’s
on death row in Alabama, because of a procedural
error, if you will, of counsel, if that procedural default, which Alabama said,
recognized ends everything, you go back to death row,
whether they can address that on the merits. They have decided to take that case. Again, one of the reasons, you know, just my own thoughts on it are that one of the reasons they’re probably doing this is because Alabama, for example, has no automatic right to an attorney on a post conviction appeal
if you cannot afford one. So, they’ll give you an
attorney for the trial, but if you’re convicted, post conviction, they don’t have, as we do in New York, have appellate attorneys for
indigent clients on appeals. So, arguably again, based
on the fairness doctrine, I would suggest that
that’s one of the reasons that they’re going to look at that. A 14th amendment case
before them this year is Perry verses New Hampshire. This is a case that went up again through the New Hampshire state courts. The 14th amendment basically says you know that, I believe Professor Hamill talked about no state shall deprive you of life, liberty, or property
without due process of law. This case involves an out
of court identification. Again, having served as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney, it is pretty much well established that some of the worst, well, maybe not the worst, but some of the most unreliable
testimony in a criminal case is identification. So, courts give great
deference to determining pre-trial that the identification
was not unduly suggested. It is established case law
that the cops arrange it. You know, if the state arranged it, and it’s found to be unduly suggested, that it will be disallowed at the trial. This particular case, there was a radio on of a black male in an
apartment building parking lot breaking into cars. A cop arrives at the scene,
finds a black male there. Basically, someone comes down, she goes up to see if she can get an ID. They ID him. He’s convicted, and
it’s going up on appeal because what the question really is is even though it’s not
per se police arranged, were the circumstances still,
it’s two in the morning, it’s dark, he’s of course
the only black male there, whether it was unduly suggestive, and whether or not that is enough to overturn his conviction. That’s it. (audience applauds) – At this time, we will take questions. You’re gonna use the
microphone in the center of the room. For five dollars, my
associate here, Mayor, can come to you with the microphone. Is there any questions? No? Cricket, cricket. Alright. – [Man] I have a question. First of all, I wanna say thank you for giving all the speeches. I just wanted to know whether or not as students, do you feel that as students, you should learn more, if
you find the Constitution to still be as valid
as when it was written? – The answer to the question
is that is absolutely. Everybody, students and non students, everybody who lives in this country, citizen, resident, undocumented person, should know the Constitution, what the Constitution is,
and the original provisions, the amendments, and all the case law. As my colleagues have pointed out, it’s a document that
has a profound influence on our lives, and many
people don’t realize that until they get caught
up in the court system, perhaps in a criminal case, from my vantage point in a civil case. The Constitution and the case law that’s interpreted the
Constitution over the years has tremendous impact on
every aspect of our lives. You do yourself and your family a mistake, you make a mistake if you don’t understand what
those provisions are. Is it something today that’s as valid as it was 210 years ago
when it was drafted? The answer is yes. There’s a big debate
going on among citizens, and judges, and lawyers,
and legal scholars in terms of interpretation
of the Constitution. Some want a lot stricter interpretation, that this is what it says,
this is what it means, this is what we must do. Others argue that it’s a
living, breathing document that the world of 2011 is
very different from 1787. We take these principles, and
we have to interpret them. You have to form your own
opinion as to which view of Constitutional interpretation
you believe is right. It’s not for any of us
here, or anyone else, to tell you which is the right way, but you should understand
this ongoing debate, and you should adopt your own position. Certainly, point number one is this is a very important document that has a tremendous
impact on all our lives. – I would concur and point out the expansion effort,
or, the document itself is meant to be an expansion, and to expand based on our customs, and how our changes in society are. As I mentioned before, it was written before we had communication
abilities that we have now. The most important right we have is the right to be represented. If you don’t know what the rights are, there are many groups who
are willing to represent you. – I would just add the amazing thing about our country and our Constitution is that our Constitution, and the rights and protections that it
gives, gives it to people whether or not they are
citizens of this country or not. As long as you are within
the confines of our borders, you are protected by the Constitution. That is a phenomenal, phenomenal thing. With regard to that, and I don’t know whether or not people
really understand that the Constitution protects
you whether or not you are a citizen or not, and that’s just a profound, profound statement in terms of our position with regards to the rights of man, so to speak, not just man, but the
rights of human beings in being protected. – You know, I’d have to
say, it’s really the only thing we have. You cannot say I don’t think that it’s any less important now. It’s probably more important now. If you look at the Middle East, and what’s been going
on for the past year, and the overthrow of the dictator, what’s one of the first
things they have to do? Write a Constitution. You have to have a foundation
for your government, and for all your laws that come from it. So, you can argue on a
daily basis, we all do, in courts and at the Supreme Court level, and in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, over whether a particular
law is good or bad, but the real argument is
whether it is, you know, flows from the Constitution. All things really go back to that. So, again, as Ted was saying, you can argue that it’s strict
interpretation or not, you know, or elastic, but everything has to be derived in Constitution. – [Man] I have a question as well. Now, you said everyone
should know the Constitution, or know their rights, but how is it, you can know your rights? How can you have access
if you’re a minority, or someone that doesn’t really have the necessary resources
a lot of the times? A lot of the time, that’s what happens. And, you know, I was gonna say also, it’s very difficult, and you see it in the Supreme Court, they can’t really get the actual, I guess,
find out what’s going on? So, how is the average person reading through all that fine print
or legal jargon, so to speak? – If I may, I can give
you two fast answers that’s open to everybody
here at Queensborough. This is gonna sound like a commercial. First of all, every student
at Queensborough I know can take business law. An important part of our
syllabus is Constitutional law. So, you have, and Constitution is taught in other courses as well in this school. So, you have opportunities
here as a student to study the Constitution. This is the commercial part. You can also join the Mock Trial Team, and you’ll learn a lot
about court procedures. Much of that, as my colleague said, depending upon the Constitution, and derived from the Constitution. I don’t accept the fact
that anybody in this country does not have access to resources to learn the Constitution. There are books. We have the internet. You go online, and you do a Google search on the Constitution, it’ll take you years to get through that material. There are libraries. There is public education programs. If a person wants to learn
about the Constitution, the resources are there. I think the importance of
having a program like this is to create an awareness in people that we should be
celebrating the Constitution. We celebrate many different holidays, all which are important,
but our way of life, how many of us really stop and say let’s celebrate the Constitution? I think this is what
this holiday’s all about. Maybe it gives us a moment of pause to say, you know, I should do more to learn about the Constitution. – I just want to add, all of us here, sitting here, have gone to some sort of a New York Bar group. I think I know everyone
to be part the Bar. As part of the Bar, they
have pro bono services, which are free services for those who can’t afford representation. So, if one couldn’t afford legal services, the Bar is always one place to go, after you sign up for Mock Trial Team. (audience laughs) – Just to clarify
Professor Meltzer’s point, by Bar, she does not mean an establishment that serves beverages. (audience laughs) That means that we are all attorneys permitted to practice in New York State. Several of my colleagues are also admitted in Connecticut. That’s what being
admitted to the Bar means. We wanna be clear. – A couple things just
to expand on that point. It really is a critical point. You know, we pass this country from one generation to the next. We have a responsibility
as people of society and as citizens to educate generations that go after us as to the freedoms, to the liberties that we have. It’s not something that you should take for granted at all. Many people that fought for this country have put down their lives in order to preserve all we have here in America. It’s really something quite unique, and it’s quite critical, I think, to become educated, and
that’s why we’re here today. – Let me just add that
when I was in law school, myself and Abraham Lincoln, (audience laughs) there was no such thing as the internet. And, in order to find out and research with regard to law, you had to do it the old fashioned way. You had to go, and go through, sometimes several law books to find what you were looking for. Now, with the advent of the internet, legal research in terms of finding out about specific laws is open to everyone. I don’t know anyone who
still does legal research the old fashioned way. Sometimes it’s nice to just open a book. I have books in my library that some of them haven’t seen much
use because I’m using, yeah, I’m using it on the internet. Yeah, so, to answer your question, in terms of access to legal research, it’s certainly there for you. You can find almost anything
you want online now. – I have one other thing to add to that. I tell a lot of my clients this, particularly the ones
who can’t afford to quit, I do a lot of criminal defense work for indigent clients. If you are accused of a crime
in the State of New York, you have an automatic right to counsel at every step of the way. It’s either from the Legal Aid Society, or every country has what’s called an 18B, sound counsel defense plan. That’s both misdemeanors and felonies, any time you’re arrested. Besides that, family court, you do not need an attorney. I hope you have one,
but you don’t need one. Traffic, you don’t need one, per se. One of the best websites I think in the State of New York for people who wanna find out more
is the New York State Unified Court System website. I can’t give you the exact thing, but you Google New York
State Unified Court System. It goes through everything from where the courts are located, what do I need, forms, court help. They have a section court help, need a lawyer, you know, wanna
proceed without a lawyer, and they walk you through
a lot of different things. I think it’s one of the best sites for a non-practitioner. – I would just add another point. We have been speaking a lot, as we should, today about the Constitution, and the impact of the
Constitution in court cases. But, the Constitution remains the bedrock of our government. It’s very important to understand that. As people who live in a democracy, we should understand the
workings of our government, To really understand it, you have to know the Constitution,
understand New York State government, you have to understand the New York State Constitution, and you should participate
in our government. I’m a member the Board of
Trustees of my building, and twice a month we
meet, and this is truly democracy in action. This is a true town hall meeting. Unfortunately, most of the time, the meetings take place in
a relatively empty room. But, if we have something
on the agenda that night that impacts people, they come down, and they come down sometimes in droves. The point is, you should not wait until something impacts you. You should make it your business to understand the way government works, the way it operates. You cannot understand that unless you know laws and the Constitution, federal Constitution and
the state Constitutions. – [Owen] Any further questions? – [Man] Uh, yes, I don’t think that works. (background chatter) Does the Constitution
protect regular citizens from elected officials, because you hear with elected officials, they always talk about cutting military retirement, cutting this, cutting that,
but you never hear them talking about cutting their retirement, where after eight years, they wanna retire with like what, $160,000 retirement, or any of their benefits. So, if there is in the Constitution, can you tell me where? No, but I think there
should be an amendment protecting citizens
from elected officials. – I just heard on CNN
today, they’re actually talking about that again. I think they finally
caught on that most people are very unhappy with the
money that they’re making. You’re absolutely right. They’re not cutting their health benefits, but they don’t want anybody
else to have health benefits. They’re not cutting their salary, but they’re actually
talking about it at least. I don’t know what that’ll get. Americans don’t even vote. Overall, we don’t vote. – [Man] I think that’s real messed up. Voters are mostly wealthy Americans, and that’s who I guess the Republicans are shooting at ’cause those are the ones who pay most of the taxes, but that’s a different story. My last question is for Professor Rosen. Can you explain to me your opinion, because I respect your
opinion very much, sir, on why the Supreme Court
only looks at cases that they choose to take? – It’s not so much a question, it’s my opinion, obviously. The Supreme Court is one
court with nine justices. We have federal district courts, so 94 of them throughout
the entire country. We have 14 courts of appeals. We have 50 state supreme courts. If the Supreme Court were to hear and decide every case where lawyers are trying to get their
case to the Supreme Court, it would just be an impossibility. The Supreme Court is the ultimate court, and our process appoints, the President appoints these justices. They’re confirmed by the Senate. By definition, they’re supposed to decide the very most important matters. So, I think it’s really a
matter of practical necessity that they can only function that way. We cannot open it up, every
case at once together. We’ve all been in court. We go into trial court, you can go into a New
York State Supreme Court, say on a motion that’s made,
where a particular judge is hearing motions. You can be sitting in a courtroom, not an exaggeration, 120
cases on the calendar, 120 sets of lawyers. Multiply that by all the
courts, in all the states, and all the federal courts. You simply cannot open up all those cases to get to the Supreme Court. So, it’s really a question of necessity. – [Man] I think I said it wrong. I think I heard earlier
that they don’t like to take cases that have
already been decided, and why is that? Is it because of precedent? – Well, and somebody else can jump in, I think certainly they look to take cases of first impression that have never been decided by the Supreme
Court or a high court, but it’s not entirely correct to say that they won’t take cases
that have never been decided. Probably the most famous
case in the last 100 years in American history, American law, is Brown verses Board of
Education of Topeka, Kansas. That was the case that stood for school desegregation. Well, that case was decided 54 years before the Supreme Court decided it. Plessy verses Ferguson. So, they do take cases that
they had previously decided. Revisiting those cases, and perhaps changing those case decisions. There’s a big issue about
abortion in this country today. Abortion has been
decided, Roe verses Wade. Every time someone is
nominated to the Supreme Court, what’s the one issue that
dominates the discussion? What this person’s view is on abortion because there are those
on both sides of the issue that you want, or are
fearful, of another case going up to the Supreme Court
revisiting Roe verses Wade. So, they do revisit cases. – [Man] Thank you. – [Man] Sir, if someone
reports, makes a reporting that is alleged to have
been unconstitutional, who has the right to correct it? (background chatter) – It can’t really be, if you can’t say, that becomes really the law of the land. Then, the only way really
around it, I guess, is through legislation. Again, the systems of checks and balances. You rewrite the law, the tweak the law, you change what part of it
they said was unconstitutional. Or, you put something on a ballot, and have the people
decide during an election. So, it’s a new law, if you will. Then you can start the
whole process again. – [Woman] Oh, sorry. – I guess that’s it. I think we were just gonna say
that the process continues. If there’s disagreement with the law, and that prior decision just goes back to the Supreme Court again,
and then it’s reheard if it’s a huge issue. – [Woman] Professor Larkin
actually dabbled earlier about this a little bit, but I wanted to get some remarks on the importance of voting in light of the Constitution and the
upcoming election season for us as citizens. – I don’t believe that the
Constitution specifically addresses, or obligates, citizens to vote. Maybe it should have. Quite frankly, if you live in the country, and you are subject to its
laws, and subject to its taxes, and have an interest in your environment, I don’t know why someone would not vote. I was telling Professor Larkin a story in regard to my next door neighbor who’s 66 years old, and for
the first time in his life, voted in the last Presidential election, only because I think I shamed him into it. That should not be. With regard to him
actually getting a voter registration card, and took back to the Board of Elections, but that should not be you folks. The young people in this
country in the last election came out in droves, and
you should be interested in the political process. Sometimes it can be a little bit boring, but you should be interested in it. One of the most powerful
things that we have as citizens is our voice. You ask any politician
if they pay attention to consensus in people
calling their office, people sending letters to them, faxing, emails, they
pay attention to that. So, to the extent that you have grievance, or you want something done,
call your local Congressman, your local legislator. Send him an email. You can find who your
legislature is on the internet if you don’t know who it is. Pay attention to those things. – The right to vote is
a fundamental right, but just not having the right to vote caused significant groups
to have a lot of strife. There was a lot of protest. I was just looking up the two amendments that were very important,
and expanded the Constitution was the 15th amendment,
which gave the right to African Americans
to vote, which was then followed by the right for
women to vote in 1920. But, not having that
right was significant. We take that right way too granted, way too much for granted. – Just to follow up on
the importance of voting, many people think it just doesn’t matter. Government is the government. My vote, and everyone’s voting is not gonna make a change. Well, that’s not the case. That’s just not true. We can look at different Presidents over the last 30 years, and we can imagine how different things would have been if their opponents were elected, okay. The Constitution, I
think it’s fair to say, protects the process,
and protects the rights that each of us have in the process. You asked a question
before about pensions, and cutting back on military benefits, and other benefits while
protecting politicians’ benefits, that’s a question of policy. The Constitution doesn’t speak to that. Our elected officials,
even elected officials at the very local level, have
a good deal of discretion. Your right as a citizen
is to vote them out. That’s a very, very important right. Many people think what’s one vote. Well, the fact of the matter
is every vote is important. I’m sure you heard that before. I can tell you that I
know of a local election in Nassau County where
I live that literally was decided some years ago by one vote. The difference was one vote. Every vote is important. – [Man] Should legal
immigrants be allowed to vote? They are subject to taxes. (audience laughs) – You know, I think that’s
an issue to be decided more in the future, but obviously we have to look at what the Constitution says. You can’t just answer that question without looking at the
Constitutional directive, and I see you have your
pocket Constitution. What does your pocket Constitution say about that issue? – [Man] I don’t ask it that. – Oh, okay. You have to, you have to
have some type of rules. But, the point is that if it comes up that the people say no,
it’s not in fact the case, they’ll be a Constitutional amendment, and then that’ll be changed, but that’s what it would take. Anybody else? – No. – I think that’s an issue that we’ve argued about on both sides. I think there are good arguments to make on both sides, and I think each of us here would fall back on our
professorial status, and say well, it’s not for us to give you our opinion because sometimes students think well,
because we’re saying it, it’s the right answer, and it’s not. Each of us may have our
own opinion on the issue. The important thing is you,
and especially the students, to understand the arguments on both sides, and then develop your own
answer, what you believe in, and work towards either changing it, or keeping it the way it is. I think that’s the important thing here. – [Man] I was wondering
if you could tell me why a lot of times folks
do not vote as well because they don’t really
trust the government, as, you know, recent, a
lot of things happening, especially younger adults. They kind of lose that trust factor, and also to make the statement as far as knowing the Constitution
and knowing your rights. Also, a lot of times,
especially in the communities, folks, they get arrested for many things, and they get public aides
and things of that nature. A lot of times that’s not
working on their best interests. Would you say to someone that is going through situations of that nature, how do they, put it like, I once heard that justice is not black
or white, it’s green. Is that true? Or, do you think that’s somewhat true? – Yeah. Um, I think that’s, you know, to say that or to believe that doesn’t
tell you the full story. Justice really doesn’t
swing on whether or not how much justice you could buy. The system is not that callous. Yes, to a certain degree, to the extent that you could hire the best
and the brightest lawyers, you have better representation. That may be what that’s getting to, but in terms of the system
itself, and the outcome, I think that for the most part, judicial outcomes come out the way that they should come out,
and they come out fair and balanced. So, not withstanding whether or not you have a high priced lawyer, or you have an 18B lawyer, I don’t think that really isn’t the way that you weigh on, come to whether or not
you got a right decision. I just don’t believe that. – [Man] If it doesn’t
fit, you must acquit. – Also, if you’re totally
out of the system, if you say I’m not gonna vote anymore because I think the
whole system is corrupt, you think that the system
will get any better by not voting? If you disagree with the system, not voting is not gonna
make it any better, clearly. The only way to get out
there is to speak to people, petition regard, and get
other people to vote your way. They listen to people who go up and speak, and write their politicians,
who send them emails. Sometimes when the switchboard
is overloaded with calls, and the email server is loaded up with emails on a particular issue, you definitely get their attention, and then that’s when you
start to change the system to whatever policy things
you think are correct. – Just a point I want to
make to what your statement was about not trusting the government, it’s the glory of the Constitution that protects you from the government. Nobody trusts the government. This is what protects
you, the Constitution. – Especially the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is really one of the foundations of individual freedoms. – [Man] As educators,
do you think that people that are incarcerated should
lose their right to vote, or do you think that it’s
actually against the Constitution? – Well, felons, right, if you’re convicted of a felony, you’re not allowed to vote. You also give up your right to firearms and some other things. So, if you’re a convicted felon, then you do lose it. That’s just, that’s
they assess of the law. – [Man] But, do you agree? – This is not my opinion. (background chatter) – The loss of those privileges on voting if you’re convicted of a
felony is not permanent. I believe in just about every state there’s a provision to have
those rights reinstated. So, whether you agree or disagree, there’s a punishment,
and there’s an incentive for people, there’s an incentive for
people to reform their lives and win back these rights. So, there’s something to be said to that, whether I disagree or not. That’s not a permanent loss. Yes. – [Man] Recent district
courts have disagreed on individual mandate of the Obamacare. Will this be going
through the Constitution, and how do you guess
this is gonna be decided? – He wants you to comment first. – I think it’s a safe bet. If I were to take a bet, one clear case that will eventually
get to the Supreme Court is this case. How it will be decided is anybody’s guess. – [Man] With your knowledge of the people on the Supreme Court
now, what do you think the drift is gonna be
between these people, the nine folks on the court? – Well, it’s a hard
question to still answer. My own opinion is that
portions of that law may be struck down. I’m not saying that it should be. I’m saying that based
upon present composition of the Court, and I think if there were different people on the Court by the time that case gets up there, the answer may well be different, which is another reason to vote, because you vote for the President. The President appoints the
people to the Supreme Court. That really does impact upon our lives. So, this is very important
to express your vote. I think that portions may be struck down based upon the present
composition of the Court. – Actually, part of what Professor Rosen had taught with respect
to the commerce clause, and states have the
rights for general health and welfare of the police powers. That may reserve some of the
healthcare to the states, and therefore that may help. In my opinion, would abolish
some of the Obamacare, and this comes from
the federal government. – Also, you know the healthcare law, you have to look not
just at the composition of the Court, but the
composition of the law. By looking at the composition of the law, and the way it was structured
in the commerce clause, in relation to the
Constitutional interpretation, it may give an insight on how they’ll rule because the commerce clause is so fluid. – I would agree with Professor Rosen. This law probably is
going to get struck down based on the current
composition of the Court. It doesn’t look as though that composition of the Court is gonna change any time soon because no one on the Court right now is talking about retirement. The only way that a US
Supreme Court justice leaves the court is either
to die or to retire, and I don’t see, well,
die, I guess we can always, that’s always a possibility. Short of someone dying, I don’t think there’s gonna be any
change, any major changes on the Court. – [Owen] Alright, we can
take one more question. – [Man] I just wanted
to ask about you know how lobbyists, they go to Congressmen for them to influence their vote. Like, lobbies, is there
anything in the Constitution about that, like if they’re in business, I think that if there’s
audit in the organization, and you’re not allowed to give gifts, and that influences the decision. So, will the Congressmen
look at the people, or look at the lobbies
when they cast their vote? – There’s nothing in the Constitution that mentions lobbyists. I don’t think they had them. I guess the types of
things that, you know, have to be just statutorily,
like campaign finance reform, you know, how much money can certain organizations, and actually the Supreme Court recently
has eased up on that, and is allowing more
corporate and union money, big business money,
whatever you wanna call it, going to political candidates. Again, without saying
whether it’s right or wrong, it’s pretty much legislative. Again, that’s one of the
areas that gets readjusted, if you will, according to what society, in my opinion anyway is
feeling on that subject. Right now, it seems to be,
from the recent case law, we’re okay with it. – You know, the government
basically operates through special interest
groups applying pressure on the legislative
branch and other branches of the government. That’s just the way it is in a democracy. Are there abuses? Sure. Should laws be passed
to correct those abuses? Should people be punished
who break the law? Absolutely. But, I think a very basic
fact of our system today, you ask any politician, and you can see what happens with any politician, once they’re elected, they turn around and start raising money
for their next campaign. It’s very expensive to run for office. In my opinion, and I’ll
arrest what I said before about giving an opinion, perhaps the real answer here is really
meaningful campaign reform where we take away the
onus of private funding from many of these political campaigns, because as long as we fund
these campaigns privately, we’re gonna have special interest groups providing funds for people that run, and politicians are
looking for the finances for their campaigns. It’s a real problem that
has to be addressed. Then again, it’s also,
perhaps, a violation of free speech that we try to limit. – That concludes our program. We hope you found it informative. (audience applauds) Happy Constitution Day. There’s some refreshments in the back. Thank you.

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