625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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
Welcome and Introduction - Audio/Video
Saturday, March 8
Speech and Commentary
Banquet, Presentation of Bator Award, and Keynote Speaker