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Erwin Chemerinsky Discusses Supreme Court and Civil Rights Issues with Upper School

14 December 2012 admin 2,657 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

By Kelsey Patch, Grade 12

On Monday, December 1, the Upper School students were honored to have Mr. Erwin Chemerinsky, a prominent constitutional law scholar, lawyer, and founding dean of University of California Irvine Law School, come to speak in the Performing Arts Center on the matters of cases that have, or are about to be, presented in front of the Supreme Court. His message was that these Supreme Court decisions will affect the lives of all students in the coming years.

Mr. Chemerinsky is a lawyer who has argued cases in front of the United States Supreme Courts and specializes in constitutional law and federal civil procedure. With a wealth of knowledge and experience as both a practicing attorney and a constitutional legal scholar, Mr. Chemerinsky talked about the current cases that are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and the impact that these legal issues will have on our lives. He mentioned topics such as national health care, affirmative action, and marriage equality as the civil rights issues of our era.

For students of Headmaster Marcus D. Hurlbut’s constitutional law class, Mr. Chemerinsky’s presentation was especially relevant. “It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and discuss previous and upcoming Supreme Court issues, but through Mr. Chemerinsky’s talk it really gave me a new perspective about how such decisions will personally affect my life,” said senior and class member Madisen Clanton.

Mr. Chemerinsky’s talk was relatable to students in more ways than one, he spoke to students about his background and experiences attending a small private high school, much like St. Margaret’s, providing yet another tie to the students.

According to Mr. Chemerinsky, he was inspired to go to law school by the civil rights lawyers of the 1950s and 1960s and how they transformed society. He believes strongly in the legal foundations of our country and law as the most powerful vehicle for social change.

Something that struck many students was Mr. Chemerinsky’s expert opinion that a person’s rights cannot be voted on and that this could be a key factor in the upcoming Proposition 8 and gay-rights issue that will appear in front of the Supreme Court. Though many have differing opinions on this subject it was nice to hear the viewpoint of a prominent constitutional law scholar to bring a new light to the heavily loaded subject.

Overall, Mr. Chemerinsky’s talk emphasized the personal relations such Supreme Court cases have to our lives and even though we may not be involved in them, being knowledge affects us as these are the decisions that will stand. The decisions made by nine human beings that came from such schooling backgrounds as ours now hold the reins for decisions that alter our country’s working. One thing Mr. Chemerinsky recognized is that these justices are only human, meaning they do, and have, made mistakes just like the rest of us.

For those who had the privilege to attended his speech, Mr. Chemerinsky’s passion for the law was clearly evident and his insights were provocative as he brought the legal field alive and relatable to the St. Margaret’s community. Mr. Chemerinsky is passionate about the topic law and at times he has been a lightning rod for controversy. He is not afraid to tackle controversial topics and defend unpopular topics in the name of jurisprudence, because he is, above all, a legal scholar and defender of our constitutional rights.



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