Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs
Programs and Events 2011 - 2012
By Arthur D. Wolf, Director
The Legislative Institute had a busy fall semester. Among its many programs were Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, the 16th annual Supreme Court Review Conference, and a seminar on the newly reformed alimony law in Massachusetts.
In 2004, Congress renamed “Citizenship Day” as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” to be observed on September 17, the day the framers, in 1787, completed their work on the United States Constitution. For the first time this year, we focused on the citizenship side of the holiday. With the dedicated assistance of Officer Luis Chaves of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States Department of Homeland Security, we held a naturalization ceremony in the J. Gerard Pellegrini Moot Court Room. Fifty applicants from 30 countries around the world swore allegiance to the United States. Federal Magistrate Judge Kenneth Neiman presided, as it was an official session of the United States District Court.
After the swearing in, Judge Neiman welcomed the new citizens. State Senator Gale D. Candaras ’82 was the keynote speaker for the ceremony. She joined Judge Neiman in congratulating each new member of our polity and noted the dedication it takes to become a citizen and an active member of our society. Senator Candaras spoke of her father, who had come to America from Greece many years ago with very few worldly possessions. Through his hard work and love of this country, he became a successful owner of a small business, married and raised a family, and served in the United States Army during World War II. He, like the people in the Moot Court Room, had become an American citizen through naturalization. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Dean Gaudio hosted a reception for the new citizens and their families and friends. It was filled with much celebration and tears of joy.
On Friday, November 11, the Institute hosted the 16th Annual Supreme Court Review Conference, focusing largely on the Supreme Court’s October 2010 Term. For the first time, it was held on a Friday (rather than the usual Saturday). The program began with a panel discussion of the constitutionality of the federal health care law, officially entitled the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.” Professor Jennifer Levi moderated the panel comprised of Professors Leora Harpaz, Bruce Miller, and Art Wolf. The panelists focused on the individual mandate provision that requires everyone to participate in the program. The lower federal courts have disagreed on the validity of the statute under the Commerce Clause. The statute is now before the United States Supreme Court for review.
Following the panel discussion, Professor Harpaz presented the First Amendment decisions of the past term. Professor Giovanna Shay discussed the criminal law cases, including important cases from the current term of the Court. Professor Miller concluded the program with decisions addressing federalism, the business orientation of the current Court, and related themes.
The Joint Committee on Transportation of the Massachusetts Legislature conducted a hearing at the School of Law in January. Senate Chair Thomas McGee, Senator Gale Candaras ’82, and other members heard testimony from transportation, business, and resident stakeholders who rely on safe, reliable, and affordable transportation in western Massachusetts. The Economic Development Council, the Pioneer Valley Transportation Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, and patrons of public transportation, among others, testified at the hearing. The witnesses agreed that a major problem is that western Massachusetts does not receive its proportionate share of state funding for public transportation.
After the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) last March, the Institute convened a panel of constitutional experts to discuss the oral argument, the issues raised, the strategy of the parties, and how the Court would decide the case. With Professor Sudha Setty serving as the moderator, Professors Leora Harpaz, Bruce Miller, and Arthur Wolf examined the four key issues. The panelists explored (1) the Tax Anti-Injunction Act; (2) the individual mandate in the statute; (3) severability; and (4) the statutory mechanism for expanding Medicaid coverage in the states (the 10th Amendment issue). The panelists agreed the Court should uphold the individual mandate, the central issue, based upon the precedents under the Commerce Clause.
As it turned out, the Court focused on issues (2) and (4). No one predicted that Chief Justice Roberts would write the majority opinion upholding the individual mandate, not based on the Commerce Clause, but upon the taxing power. Indeed the majority limited the reach of the Commerce Clause.
In the spring, we also hosted the Sixth Annual Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference. Drawing 250 persons, it was our most successful iteration of this popular and widely-attended annual event. Professor Sheryll Cashin delivered an exceptional keynote address, which set an uplifting and energetic tone for the Conference. At Georgetown University, Professor Cashin teaches Constitutional Law and Race and American Law, among other subjects, and writes about race and inequality in America. Her current work in progress is a book about the future of American race relations and multiracial coalition building.
Finally, in April, we cosponsored the appearance of Attorney Odette Wilkens, the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Alliance, a non-profit organization that is seeking to repeal the Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (“AETA”). The AETA restricts the freedom of speech and assembly for social justice activists who share the ideology of animal welfare. It unfairly brands as terrorism any activities that interfere with the operations of an animal enterprise or of any entity that deals with one. Such activities may include website posts, peaceful vigils, nonviolent civil disobedience, undercover investigations, and whistle-blowing. Attorney Wilkens discussed the AETA and its deleterious effect on our civil liberties.