Institute for Legislative and Governmental Affairs

Programs and Events 2000 - 2001

By Arthur D. Wolf, Director

Fall 2000

Fifth Annual Supreme Court Review Conference

This conference reviewed the recent term decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Topics included the rights of criminal defendants, freedom of speech and religion, privacy and associational rights, and the relationship of state and federal governmental power. School of Law professors who participated included Leora Harpaz, Lenese Herbert, Arthur Leavens, Bruce Miller, Samuel Stonefield, and Arthur Wolf.

Seminar on International War Crime Tribunals

This seminar addressed the International War Crimes Tribunals sitting in The Hague, The Netherlands, and Arusha, Tanzania, created to address the violations of international criminal law occurring during the Balkan and Rwandan armed conflicts.

First Seminar on 2000 Presidential Election

"The decision in Bush v. Gore is so unsettling that we should 'shun' the judges who supported it, in the true New England tradition," so intoned Professor Bruce Miller at the recent Institute-sponsored seminar on the United Sates Supreme Court's presidential election cases. He was so outraged by the decision that he thought lawyers and judges should take whatever steps that can to send a clear message to the justices that "political" decisions of this sort are totally unacceptable

One of several events that the Institute hosted this inaugural year, this seminar addressed the question: "Presidential Election 2000: Where Are We Now?" Professors James Gardner, Taylor Flynn, and Arthur Wolf joined Professor Miller on the panel that explored the range of views regarding the decisions in the Supreme Court's cases involving the last presidential election.

Professor Gardner explored the federalism aspects to the decisions: Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board (Bush I) and Bush v. Gore (Bush II). Noting that this Supreme Court has been especially solicitous of state and local governments, he observed that the Supreme Court was not very deferential to state authority in these cases. For the most part, he noted, state and local officials conduct elections, from registration for voting through the final certified results. Federal responsibility is on the periphery. Here, however, the Court imposed uniform federal standards with respect to counting ballots, a standard that may be impossible to meet.

Professor Flynn examined the constitutional aspects of the decisions, namely, placing the holding on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In Bush v. Gore, she noted, seven justices supported the conclusion that a state cannot order a statewide recount without first having uniform statewide standards by which the recount is undertaken. This follows from the idea of "one person, one vote," which first entered the Supreme Court's lexicon in the reapportionment cases. Relying on the Equal Protection Clause is a very "activist" approach for this Court, Professor Flynn observed. "Whether this decision is sui generis or whether it will serve as an important precedent in voting cases remains to be seen," she concluded.

Professor Wolf spoke to the reform measures that were under consideration in the state and national legislatures. He noted that legislators have proposed reforms in three areas of the electoral process: pre-election day matters (i.e., registration and ballot review); Election Day activities (i.e., voting machinery and disqualifying voters); and post election day conduct (i.e., counting and recounting ballots). As of the day of the seminar, at least Florida, Georgia, and Illinois had made significant changes in their Election Day procedures. All have adopted or will soon adopt optical scanning equipment to reduce the amount of voter and mechanical error in casting and tabulating votes.

Congress is also considering providing financial assistance to state and local governments to upgrade their voting equipment. States are discussing better ways to register voters and make sure those registered are allowed to vote on Election Day. "Don't expect any changes in the electoral college, however," Professor Wolf noted. "Of the approximately 200 proposals made since 1789, only the 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, has passed," he concluded.

Spring 2001

Seminar on Lawyers, Practice, and Professionalism

The Institute cosponsored with the Massachusetts Bar Association to hold a seminar on the recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was held. The distinguished panel included United States Magistrate Judge Kenneth Neiman, Attorneys Susan Fentin (chair), Sandy Dibble, and Alan Katz, and Professor Bruce Miller.

Hearing of the Joint Committee on Health Care of the Massachusetts Legislature

The hearings focused on staffing levels at nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care facilities. They are part of a continuing series in which the Institute invites committees of the State Legislature to conduct their hearings at the School of Law.

Second Seminar on 2000 Presidential Election

Continuation of the first seminar held in the previous term.

Continuing Legal Education Programs

This year marked the beginning of the CLE programs sponsored by the School of Law and the Massachusetts Bar Association. The first topic dealt with the Amendments to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and focused on the rule changes which narrowed both the scope of permissible discovery and the requirement of automatic disclosure of discoverable information to opposing parties. Susan Fentin, '96, convened and chaired the seminar. Other presenters included U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Neiman, Attorneys Francis Dibble of Bulkey, Richardson and Gelinas; and Alan Katz of Katz, Sasson, Hoose, and Turnbull.