School of Law Takes the United States Constitution to the Community

Lexington, VA Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Washington and Lee University School of Law has initiated a new community outreach program designed to provide a forum for exploring Constitutional issues currently at play in society and the courts. The series of programs, called "Breakfast with the Constitution", will take place several times a year at different locations in the Lexington-Rockbridge area, including at the School of Law. These programs will be open to the public unless otherwise noted.

"Many Americans are intensely interested in constitutional issues because those issues play such a large role in our national identity, public policy, and law," said Dean Rod Smolla, who will conduct the programs. "One does not have to be a lawyer or an expert on the Constitution to have a keen interest in these central questions about our nation and our laws. This series is a way in which the W&L Law School can contribute to the cultural and intellectual life of our surrounding community." 

Dean Smolla requests more time for oral argument from the "Chief Justice".

The first such program occurred November 28 at Rockbridge County High School and focused on the separation of church and state in public schools. At issue were two fictional cases, one involving a high school student who on religious grounds refused to cut his dreadlocks in order to participate on the basketball team, and one involving a science teacher who included a survey of creation stories from various religions along side her evolution instruction.

During the program, Rockbridge High seniors served collectively as Justices of the Supreme Court, and Dean Smolla, a prominent constitutional law scholar and litigator, presented oral arguments for both sides of the two fictional cases before the Court. Just like the real Justices, students peppered the Dean with questions throughout his oral arguments and then debated the issues amongst themselves before voting on the outcome.

Two more Breakfast with the Constitution programs are scheduled at this time, and both are open to the public. On February 6, 2008, the W&L School of Law will host a program exploring freedom of the press, examining a number of current issues relevant to the ability of journalists to obtain information on government activity and the protection of the confidentiality of journalists' news sources. Then on April 9, 2008, the Kendal Retirement Community will host a program examining the roles of the President, Congress and the Supreme Court during decisions to declare or end war.

The next two programs will follow the same format as the Rockbridge High School program, with the audience serving as Justices of the Supreme Court. A light breakfast will be served beginning at 8:00 a.m., and the programs will commence at 8:30 a.m. More information will be available on the Law School web site as the events approach.

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