BY DAVINA CARSON
“I am a Democrat,” were some of the first words spoken at this year’s Federalist Society National Student Symposium. President Summers uttered this disclaimer as he delivered the symposium’s opening speech, and it was welcomed by a standing ovation from the standing room only crowd that had gathered in Ames Courtroom on Friday night.
The Harvard Federalist Society’s Dan Kelly and Tessa Platt organized the symposium, with HLS being host to over 800 attendees, representing 109 schools, including two from Puerto Rico. Each year a different law school hosts the Federalist Student Symposium, and this year’s registration more than doubled from that of the symposium held last year. Platt called the Symposium a, “tremendous success with a record attendance [despite the bad weather] and over 900 students, practitioners, professors, and judges registered.” Platt also stated, “It’s been exciting to see the diversity of views in the panels and the Federalist Society in general, [and we] hope to continue the excitement throughout the rest of the year.”
Big name attendees such as Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit and Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit acted as speakers and moderators throughout the event’s six panels. What was the focus of the symposium? “Law and Freedom.” However, as hundreds of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians discussed and debated in panels with titles like, “The War on Terror, Civil Liberties, and the Court,” there were nonetheless some extremists on hand. Dr. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum in discussing concerns regarding the profiling and detainment of Islamic men stated that this kind of treatment of American citizens and non-citizens was merely, “…a price we as a society are ready to pay.” While there were some groans of disagreement, there was also a splattering of applause. But despite the extremists, the panels proved overall to be balanced, interesting, and well-organized.
With the exception of a twenty-minute delay on Friday night as the crowd waited for President Summers to arrive, the symposium overall ran smoothly thanks to the chapter’s many volunteers. The weekend culminated in a banquet at the Cambridge Marriott, where Professor Ernie Young was awarded the Paul M. Bator Award for legal scholarship, and Dean Elena Kagan introduced the evening’s speaker, Judge David B. Sentelle of the D.C. Circuit.