BYU Law celebrated the Constitution’s 230th birthday by hosting law students, undergraduates, and visiting attorneys at its Annual Supreme Court Review. This year’s event included a keynote address by constitutional scholar Justin Collings, a panel addressing the future of the Supreme Court, and a review of the Court’s last term.
Justin Collings—a BYU Law professor whose scholarship focuses on constitutional law and history and comparative constitutional law—spoke about constitutional judgment and collective memory, the topic of his upcoming book, “Scales of Memory: Constitutional Justice and the Burdens of the Past.” Professor Collings explained that group identities are often formed by shared or collective memories. These collective memories are seen in constitutional history. To highlight differences in collective memory, Professor Collings contrasted the United States’ parenthetical approach to the post-Civil War reconstruction amendments, which treated slavery and its vestiges as an “aside,” with the preamble to South Africa’s Constitution, which openly recognized the injustices of the country’s past and the duty of the nation to correct those wrongs. According to Professor Collings, this recognition reflects both redemptive and transformative strands of constitutional memory.
Following Professor Colling’s keynote address, BYU Law Professors Lisa Sun, John Fee, Aaron Nielson, Michalyn Steele and Elizabeth Clark discussed the significance of newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch to the future of the Court. The professors took turns discussing Justice Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy generally and his philosophy with respect to four areas of substantive law: property rights, administrative law, federal Indian law and church-state law. Professor Sun described Justice Gorsuch as a self-proclaimed textualist and originalist. As she and Professor Fee, a former Scalia law clerk, both noted, Justice Gorsuch is “shaped in the mold” of the late Justice Scalia. Like Justice Scalia, Justice Gorsuch searches for the original meaning of the Constitution and believes that text is the best indicator of lawmakers’ intent.
To close out the event, visiting experts Stephanie Barclay of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Douglas Spencer, Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Connecticut Law School, joined BYU Law Professors Clark Asay and Carolina Núñez to review decisions from the most recent Supreme Court term.. The panel considered the Court’s decisions in Matal v. Tam, Sessions v. Morales-Santana, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, and Cooper v. Harris. While discussing the expression, citizenship, church-state relationship, and voting rights implications of these decisions, the panel highlighted upcoming cases and trends that students and attorneys should look for in the 2017 term.