BY RANDALL ADAMS
On September 11th, the HLS chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS) kicked off the 2007-08 school year with a lecture delivered by Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Once called “the liberal bad boy of the federal judiciary” by The Weekly Standard, Reinhardt broke the modern history of the federal bench into two distinct “judicial revolutions” and ended his remarks with a call for a third judicial revolution to be led by the progressives among the law students who packed Austin North.
Reinhardt described federal courts before the 1930’s as “instruments of privilege,” serving largely to maintain the status quo and to protect business interests. The 1930’s, however, were the beginning of the first judicial revolution that saw the rise of the Warren-Brennan tradition. According to Reinhardt, the judiciary became for the first time “. . . a source for individual rights; protection for people, not just property; and the advancement of justice.”
Reinhardt said this era drew to a close in the late 1970’s as a new generation of conservative lawyers launched the second judicial revolution that culminated in the appointments of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Their ideology, Reinhardt said, values “. . . form over substance, process over justice, and the interests of the few over the common good.”
Reinhardt told the progressive law students in the room to pursue social justice outside of the courts in the short term, especially at the state level, and to see this conservative era as a “detour.” For the long term, Reinhardt encouraged students to begin the third judicial revolution by developing a new progressive legal vision.
Reinhardt was introduced by his former clerk Professor David Barron, who also serves as the faculty adviser for ACS. The event began a busy September for ACS. Next week, the chapter will host a Study Tips session for 1L’s and a Welcome Barbeque on Wednesday and will cosponsor, along with the Program on Terrorism and the Law, a debate between Professor Alan Dershowitz and Professor David Cole of Georgetown on “Prevention in the War on Terror” on Thursday.