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Thursday, February 23, 2006 

I Opened the Door for the Solicitor General

It's true. I did.

I just got back from the Federalist Society conference about the Legacy of the Rehnquist Court. I weaseled my way into the event by becoming a volunteer. I got to attend all of the events, but I also had a few random tasks to accomplish. These included organizing name tags, checking people in, and guarding doors. It was truly the kind of complex work that would require the skills of a college graduate. The door guarding was interesting. During the professors' panel, I stood in the back and shut the doors after people entered and exited the room. For some reason, these doors would not close on their own. It took a rather forceful pull to lock the double doors into a secure position. Anything less than a firm yank would cause the doors to swing open, allowing the noise from the hall to disrupt the event. I hate those damn doors.

The solicitors general roundtable with Paul Clement (for whom I had the esteemed pleasure of holding the door open), Ted Olson, and Walter Dellinger was very interesting. MULS's own Dean Kearney served as moderator and kept things humorous, as the dean tends to do. The discussion took on many of the major legal issues that the Rehnquist Court tackled. Apparently, C-SPAN was filming it, so I'll keep my eyes peeled about that airing. I managed to grab a "souvenir" after the panel. I have former SG Dellinger's Cybershell Kiosk receipt. I guess he had to print his notes before the event.

The professors had excellent remarks as well. I was distracted with door duties during this, but I managed to hear most of it. Prof. McGinnis made some interesting points about the Rehnquist Court (and Rehnquist himself) in regard to societal norms throughout the country. Basically, the Rehnquist Court thought that many areas of regulation (like in the Gun Free School Zones Act) were not areas that should be under federal jurisdiction. In a country this large, things like that should not be legislated "top-down". McGinnis gave an example about the differing views of guns that he saw in Idaho as opposed to New York. I think that this is an excellent and persuasive way to talk about federalism.

Justice Scalia's speech after lunch was great. He gave a firm defense against the claim that the Rehnquist Court was an activist court. When compared to the Warren and Burger Courts, the Rehnquist Court was not overly active in striking down legislation. In fact, the Warren and Burger Courts were more likely to strike down state statutes. Scalia touched on a few cases, including Lucas, Nollan, and Dolan. He discussed the idea that Congress itself has become activist. Perhaps the legislative branch had been overstepping their bounds more and more often, making them accustomed to legislating in areas that they had no true authority. Is it activist for the Court to finally restrain them? My favorite comment came during the short Q&A session. An audience member asked what Chief Justice Rehnquist thought about the Clinton impeachment and his role as presiding judge. After all, the impeachment of a president is a rare event, and Rehnquist got to take part in a historic event. Justice Scalia said that the Chief really enjoyed it. Take that as you will.

I had a great time at the event. I got to hear the views of brilliant legal minds. I got to see notable people in the crowd like Judge Sykes and Judge Randa. I got lunch. It was a pretty good way to spend a morning.

EDIT: Prof. Althouse (who was on the professors' panel and very insightful about federalism) has a post about the conference.

you finished it by saying "I got lunch." Wow that must have taken a college education

The food was good. I felt that it warranted a mention, just not in great detail or in the body of the post.

you check out the update res ipsa lately? you got a bump...

It's nice to read a post on your blog that isn't about a dog dying. I have enough depression in my own life.

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  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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