Constitutional History and the Reconstruction Amendments

– Law professor Kurt Lash
is one of the country’s leading constitutional law scholars. Founder and director of the Richmond Program on
the American Constitution, he has published widely
on constitutional history, theory and law, religious
liberty, and free speech. He joined the University
of Richmond in 2017 as the E. Claiborne Robins
Distinguished Chair in Law. (light upbeat pop music) Kurt, thanks so much for taking
time to sit down with me. – Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here. – You teach and write about constitutional and First Amendment law. In what ways have these conversations in your classroom changed over the years? – For many years after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, students were especially interested in the powers of the president to conduct war in Afghanistan or Iraq and the due process rights
of enemy combatants. These days, students are often interested in talking about the due
process rights of immigrants, about the rights of states perhaps to resist federal immigration law and establish sanctuary cities. These are different topics, but they all involve similar issues of individual liberty,
constitutional federalism, or the separation of powers. So, the basic structural issues have remained the same over these years. – A main area of focus for you are the Reconstruction Amendments, specifically the 14th Amendment. Tell us a little bit about
your work in that area. – My particular area of
research and writing right now would be all three of the
Reconstruction Amendments, which involve the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment,
and the 15th Amendment. And the 13th Amendment, of
course, abolished slavery. The 14th Amendment establishes the rights of national citizenship. And the 15th Amendment banned racial discrimination in voting. The 14th Amendment is
particularly interesting and important to us today because it contains the
rights of due process of law, equal protection of law, and
it speaks of the privileges or immunities of citizens
of the United States. And my work has invested some
time now in investigating the original debates, the
original public debates, that went into the framing and ratifying of all three of the amendments. – Kurt, you’ve taught at a number of really fine universities. What is it about the
University of Richmond that attracted you? – I simply could not imagine
a more wonderful career than teaching students about the law and researching the extraordinary history of the American Constitution. But now, I get to pursue that job in one of the most interesting and beautiful areas in
the entire United States. Richmond is thick with a history of the American Constitution. – Kurt, thanks so much for
taking time to sit down with me. You have a lot of passion
about the work that you do, and we’re fortunate to have you here at the University of Richmond. – Thank you so much. I have the best students in the world. It’s an honor to be here and I’m just so happy to have the chance to teach at this university. (light upbeat pop music)

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