2008 Annual Student Symposium

The People and the Courts

On November 7, 2006, Michigan voters strongly embraced the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (“MCRI”), a ballot initiative that amended the Michigan constitution to prohibit the state from granting preferential treatment based on race or sex in public contracting, employment, or education.  The proposal, which passed with 58% of the vote, effectively repudiated the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), which upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s use of race as a criterion in admissions.  Grutter spawned significant controversy both in Michigan and throughout the country, and the success of the MCRI created a controversial blueprint for “overturning” unpopular judicial decisions.

What role “We the People” retain in our constitutional order is not just a question for academics; the increasing number of popular referenda and ballot initiatives addressed to voters on election day has made it a debate with real consequences.  The breadth of that debate is not limited to affirmative action, though that remains a lively issue.  “The People” may also play a role in circumscribing a state’s powers of eminent domain and deciding just who has the right to marry.

Perhaps more importantly, the way ordinary people live their lives might help give meaning to our law.  Because our legal system often takes its cue from tradition, it is critical to decide just when a judge should defer to customary practice—both when interpreting the Constitution, and when fashioning the rules of private law that govern our most ordinary interactions.

The University of Michigan Law School and its Federalist Society chapter are honored to host the 2008 Student Symposium.  Our society has long been interested in questions related to “the People and the Courts,” and we are thrilled to expand this discussion to students from coast to coast.  Anyone who has attended past Federalist Society Symposia knows to expect the highest degree of respectful and cordial debate.  We hope that each of you will approach our panels with insightful questions and will debate with each other what you learn over the course of the weekend.  Thank you for joining us. 

–Symposium Committee, University of Michigan Federalist Society

Friday, March 7 

6:30 p.m.
Welcome and Introduction - Audio/Video

  • Mr. Craig Chosiad, University of Michigan Law School Student Chapter President 
  • Dean Evan Caminker, University of Michigan Law School

6:45 p.m.

Judicial Interference With Community Values - Audio/Video

  • Prof. Richard Garnett, University of Notre Dame Law School
  • Prof. Roderick Hills, Jr., New York University School of Law
  • Prof. Douglas Laycock, University of Michigan Law School
  • Prof. Amy Wax, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Moderator: Justice Maura Corrigan, Michigan Supreme Court

8:45 p.m.

The Merits of Electing Our Judges - Audio/Video

  • Chief Justice Tom Phillips, Baker Botts LLP, retired from the Texas Supreme Court
  • Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, Michigan Supreme Court
  • Moderator: Mr. Leonard A. Leo, Executive Vice President, The Federalist Society

Saturday, March 8

9:00 a.m.

Kelo, Grutter, and Popular Responses to Unpopular Decisions - Audio/Video

  • Prof. Sherman Clark, University of Michigan Law School
  • Mr. Ward Connerly, Founder and Chairman, American Civil Rights Institute
  • Prof. Marci Hamilton, Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University
  • Moderator: Justice Robert Young, Michigan Supreme Court

11:00 a.m.

The People's Common Law: Is Law & Economics Anti-Democratic? - Audio/Video

  • Prof. Robert Ellickson, Yale Law School
  • Prof. Brian Simpson, University of Michigan Law School
  • Prof. Henry Smith, Yale Law School
  • Moderator: Prof. Adam Pritchard, University of Michigan Law School

2:00 p.m.
Speech and Commentary

An Originalist Judge and the Media - Audio/Video

  • Justice Stephen Markman, Michigan Supreme Court
  • Prof. Richard Primus, University of Michigan Law School
  • Mr. Pete Williams, NBC News
  • Moderator: Judge Sean Cox, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

3:45 p.m.

Tradition and the People's Constitution - Audio/Video

  • Prof. William Eskridge, Yale Law School
  • Prof. Thomas Merrill, Columbia Law School
  • Prof. Reva Siegel, Yale Law School
  • Prof. Keith Whittington, Princeton University
  • Moderator: Prof. Joan Larsen, University of Michigan Law School

7:00 p.m.
Banquet, Presentation of Bator Award, and Keynote Speaker

Bator Award Presentation - Audio/Video

  • Prof. Saikrishna Prakash, University of San Diego School of Law 
  • Introduced by: Miss Carina Cilluffo, University of Chicago Law School Student Chapter

Keynote Speaker - Audio/Video

  • Judge Janice Rogers Brown, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 
  • Introduced by: Mr. Eugene B. Meyer, President of the Federalist Society