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Wednesday, February 28, 2007 

My Weekend with the FedSoc

Wow, what a weekend. As I previously mentioned, I made the trip to this year's Federalist Society Student Symposium at Northwestern Law School. Our chapter managed to get 13 students to attend, which is pretty impressive considering that the chapter was barely active until this year. As an officer, I will take as much credit for that as humanly possible (even though I probably deserve very little). I promised that I would take notes, but I didn't. "Do I really want to carry a legal pad with me all weekend?" Nope. I also lost the materials that Northwestern gave me. Fortunately, my memory is pretty good. I also enthusiastically point you to Simon's post about the event. He's even got pictures (I forgot my camera... I wasn't exactly at top form that weekend).

I'm going to take you through my weekend using this schedule of events. Day 1...
3:00 p.m.:
Registration -Thorne Auditorium

5:45 p.m.: Opening Remarks - Thorne Auditorium

6:00 p.m.: Debate - Religion in the Public Square
(Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law)

Featuring: Mr. Kevin J. Hasson - Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Rev. Dr. Michael Newdow - Restore our Pledge of Allegiance

Moderated by: David McIntosh - Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw

7:30 p.m.: Panel - What is Morality? The Philosophical and Theological Foundations of Moral Debate
(Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law)

Featuring: Prof. John S. Baker, Jr. - Louisiana State University
Prof. Randy E. Barnett - Georgetown University
Prof. Robert Burns - Northwestern University
Prof. Michael J. Perry - Emory University

Moderated by: Prof. Richard Garnett - University of Chicago

9:00 p.m.: Cocktail Reception
(Atrium, Northwestern University School of Law)
Northwestern's building is beautiful. At the registration desk, they gave us a sheet of paper with a "walking tour" of the facilities. After about 5 minutes, I had to turn back. I was getting a little depressed and jealous.

The Religion in the Public Square debate was great. I read the schedule a few times earlier, but it never clicked in my head that Michael Newdow was the Michael Newdow. In case you are as dense as I was, he sued over the constitutionality of "under God" in the Pledge. He and Hasson really duked it out. I got to briefly talk to Newdow at the cocktail reception too. That was kind of a surreal moment. I give him credit for coming to a FedSoc event and give credit to the FedSoc for inviting him. It really made for a lively debate.

The philosophical/theological panel was a little above my pay grade. Prof. Perry was unable to attend, so Prof. Garnett pinch hit for him as best he could. I'm a big Randy Barnett fan, so it was cool to see him speak. His discussion of public versus private morality was accessible enough even for a lightweight such as myself. Surreal moment number 2 of the trip: standing at a urinal next to Prof. Barnett.

The cocktail reception was... well, a cocktail reception. I got to meet FedSoc President Gene Meyer. He's a great guy and was very interested in what we were doing at Marquette. Our chapter got a mention in the Federalist Paper magazine for our same sex marriage debate (I lost my copy of the magazine too... I was really in rare form). For those of you who are really curious, they served Miller Lite, Goose Island Honker's Ale, and wine. I was torn by my regional loyalty (a Milwaukee guy needs to support Miller when in a foreign environment) and my taste buds (Goose Island is just a better tasting product). I alternated. If the Rehnquist Court can be described as a "split the difference" court, I can be a "split the difference" beer drinker. Afterwards, I hit the town with a few fellow Federalists.

Day 2...
8:00 a.m.: Breakfast
(Atrium, Northwestern University School of Law)
Missed it.
9:00 a.m.: Panel - Moral Choices and the Eighth Amendment
(Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law)

Featuring: Prof. Ron Allen - Northwestern University
Prof. Michael S. Moore - University of Illinois
Prof. Laurence P. Claus - University of San Diego

Moderated by: Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich
- United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Missed it.
11:00 a.m.:
Debate - Same-Sex Marriage: Marriage, Public Policy, and the
(Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law)

Featuring: Prof. Louis Michael Seidman - Georgetown University
Prof. Amy Wax - University of Pennsylvania

Moderated by: Judge Diane S. Sykes - United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Finally got there. The discussion itself was interesting and probably the best analysis of the issue that I have seen, heard, or read. Prof. Seidman provided us with a line that was on week too late for me. Someone recently asked me what Lawrence v Texas was about. I explained it to them in the very traditional facts, legal issue, majority analysis, dissenters, implications kinda way. If I had gotten the question after the conference, Icould've quoted Prof. Seidman. "Lawrence constitutionalized the one night stand." I feel compelled to mention that Moderator/Judge Sykes, MULS grad and proud FedSoc supporter, was also nice enough to track our chapter down Friday night between panels to visit with us.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch Break

2:00 p.m.: Panel - Government Promotion of Moral Issues
(Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law)

Featuring: Prof. Lillian R. BeVier - University of Virginia
Prof. G. Marcus Cole - Stanford University
Prof. Lino A. Graglia - University of Texas
Prof. Steven Lubet - Northwestern University

Moderated by: Prof. Steven Calabresi - Northwestern University
Prof. Lubet was unable to attend, so FedSoc co-creator Prof. Calabresi stepped in for him on this panel. One of his points concerned people who get morality from the law. There are people out there who think "well if it's legal, it's gotta be okay to do." I never really thought about that before, but it scared the hell out of me. After studying law for a few years, I recognize the jumbled, and at times contradictory, mess that it can be. I don't care where you get your moral code (well, to an extent I care), just don't get it from the law.
4:00 p.m.: Panel - Morality of First Amendment Jurisprudence
(Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law)

Featuring: Prof. Andrew Koppelman - Northwestern University
Prof. John McGinnis - Northwestern University
Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly - Eagle Forum
Prof. Geoffrey Stone - University of Chicago

Moderated by: Prof. Orin Kerr - George Washington University
I went into this panel knowing that it would be good. These are four people that have no problem speaking their minds. The panel focused on pornography and obscenity. Schlafly railed on the Warren Court for gutting obscenity laws. Prof. Koppelman, who is quite liberal, agreed that porn is harmful. I never realized this, but people like Schlafly with strong conservative views often find allies on this issue with very liberal feminists. Koppelman didn't go that far though. He sees porn as harmful but not enough to ban it. Prof. Stone then spoke, sans notes, and proposed a hypo: if there was no concept of obscenity in law, how would we go about creating one and for what purpose? Prof. McGinnis then screamed at us about federalism for a few minutes. If you haven't seen him speak, you don't know what you are missing. This was my second experience seeing Prof. McGinnis and it's always a treat. I agree with his substantive comments and love how animated he is.
6:00 p.m.: Cocktail Reception
(Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile)

7:00 p.m.: Banquet, featuring Keynote Speaker
(Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile)

Judge William H. Pryor, Jr. - Eleventh Circuit
The reception and banquet were fun. President Meyerrecognized the MULS crew as one of the chapters that brought 10 or more students. It was nice to get our name in there with all of those Top 25 schools. Prof. Orin Kerr was presented with the Paul M.Bator Award. The Federalist Society awards this to an academic under 40 for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and commitment to students. Judge Pryor was up next. He spoke about his time as Alabama Attorney General and the Moore/Ten Commandments monument controversy. I haven't been able to track down a transcript yet, but I'm watching the FedSoc site to see if it pops up.

I had a great time at the symposium. It was great seeing such an incredible line up of speakers and meeting so many interesting people. I'm sure that I will be making the trip to the Lawyer's Convention every year post-graduation. I may even go to the Student Symposium again. I met quite a few practicing attorneys there too. Next time, I'll even bring a note pad.

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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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