by Jason Kaplan, Vice President, American Constitution Society
The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) held its 2010 National Convention in Washington, D.C. this past June and Thomas Jefferson School of Law was well-represented at the Convention, with a total of five students joined by three professors.
The attendees included: Hannah Bingham, Jason Kaplan, and Deborah Cochran, all Board members of TJSL’s Student Chapter of ACS: Jennifer Ruiz-Kohn, an ACS student member; and Professors Meera Deo, Richard Winchester and Alex Kreit who is the president of the San Diego Lawyers Chapter of ACS. Most of the students were given partial or full scholarships to attend the Convention by the National Chapter of ACS and were treated to three full days of highly distinguished speakers discussing and debating some of the most urgent and influential law and public policy issues.
The featured speakers were Senator Al Franken (D-MN), Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Newark Mayor Corey Booker, and Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA). The Convention began with a Gala Dinner and Senator Franken discussing Conservative rhetoric, the dangers and implications of current judicial activism (specifically Citizens United), and his overall displeasure with the current Roberts Supreme Court, all in the trademark Al Franken humor.
The consensus among many was that Mayor Corey Booker stole the show with his address closing out the convention. As many in the audience seemingly forgot about their entrees, and some even got visibly emotional, Mayor Booker captivated everyone with his passionate and heartfelt plea for all Americans to continue their struggle for a fairer and more just society, like those who struggled before us. He described his own hardships both personally and professionally, and spoke of the circumstances he confronted when he took over as Mayor of the crime-plagued City of Newark, New Jersey. After listening to his experiences and successes in Newark, Mayor Booker left the crowd feeling empowered and enthusiastic about what part each of us can play in guiding America’s future.
The Convention consisted of many other highly esteemed speakers and plenary panels discussing a wide variety of important legal and policy issues, such as Regulation in the Age of Obama, 2010 Census and Redistricting, Access to Federal Courts after Iqbal and Twombly, Healthcare after Reform, Environmental Protection, Immigration Reform, and Marriage Equality, just to name a few. On Saturday, all law students attended the Student Leadership Retreat, which included an inspiring discussion with Cruz Reynoso, showcasing his ascent to the California Supreme Court, and the many civil rights issues that he continues to fight against today. Finally, small groups of students attended networking dinners at the private residences of some highly accomplished Progressive individuals. It was a great opportunity to personally meet and interact with a practitioner in the specific field of our choosing. Overall, the Convention offered valuable insight into rapidly evolving areas of law and policy, and also contributed to a heightened understanding of the individual role in the advancement of a Progressive vision of the Constitution.