BY RANDALL ADAMS
This summer, members of the Harvard Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS) attended the ACS National Convention in Washington, DC. The progressive legal organization’s convention featured a weekend of panels, high-profile speakers, and breakout sessions for the hundreds of students, lawyers, judges, and others in attendance over the weekend of July 26 – 28.
With thirteen students at the convention, HLS boasted one of the largest delegations of any ACS law school chapter.
“It was hopeful and heartening to be among such a brilliant pool of progressive legal minds,” said Mercedes Montagnes, vice president of the HLS chapter. “I am so excited to help our chapter become an even more vital part of that community.”
“Everywhere you turned, there were interesting speakers and passionate law students and lawyers. The energy was contagious, and I’m excited for what our chapter can do this year,” added Kristin Bateman, the chapter president.
The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy was founded in 2001 by HLS alumnus Peter Rubin, a law professor at Georgetown. The organization has quickly become the one of the nation’s leading progressive legal organizations, with chapters at 157 of the nation’s law schools and lawyer chapters in 26 legal markets around the country. The national convention, now in its fifth year, is a signature event in the national legal community.
The HLS chapter is one of ACS’ strongest, hosting dozens of substantive and social events each school year. Last year’s events included panels on the theory of the unitary executive, the federal abortion ban, and a moot of Meredith v. Jefferson County, the now infamous school desegregation case.
In recognition for the high quality programming it provides the law school community, the Harvard chapter was honored with a special recognition award at the convention’s closing dinner.
Students were not the only members of the HLS community to participate in the weekend’s activities. Dean Elena Kagan moderated a plenary panel entitled “Congress and the Balance of Power,” and Professor Carol Steiker was featured on a panel discussing racial inequalities in the criminal justice system. Additionally, many of HLS’ notable alumni spoke at the convention, including Representative Artur Davis (D-AL), Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, Duke Law School Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, and Georgetown Law Professor Viet Dinh, among many others.
One HLS alumnus’ remarks at the convention even managed to grab headlines. Senator Charles Schumer ’74, delivering the featured remarks at a lunchtime address, discussed inconsistencies between Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during their confirmation hearings and their jurisprudence as Supreme Court Justices.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Schumer said his greatest regret of the 109th Congress was not doing more to block Alito’s confirmation and went on to say, “[g]iven the track record of this president and the experience of obfuscation at the hearings . . . . we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.”
Representative John Conyers, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also delivered featured remarks at the convention’s closing dinner, and Dean Koh of Yale Law School outlined his constitutional vision in featured remarks at the Friday evening reception.
“What I am urging . . . is that we go back to the future, both in restoring our constitutional principles and in restoring our human rights principles. The future of a progressive public law lies in reviving principles honored in the past, and dishonored since 9/11,” said Koh.
Bateman and Montagnes are already looking forward to the 2008 convention, to be held next summer in Washington, DC, with the exact dates to be announced in the early spring. Featured speakers as past conventions have included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, Senator Hillary Clinton, and Senator John Edwards.