Today we celebrate Constitution Day, a new fake holiday the venerable Senator Robert Byrd (right) created in 2004 when he slipped an extraneous rider onto an appropriations bill. Under Byrd’s guidelines, all students and government employees are legally required to set aside some time to reflect on the power of “the foundation and the guardian of our liberties.” Because, you know, they’re not too busy cramming for standardized tests or keeping this old ship running or anything.
At the Law School, however, professors took Byrd’s stipulation at face value; they would discuss the Constitution, but primarily in light of the historical and modern disregard for its laws.
And so, Jack Greenberg, who argued for Brown v. Board of Education back in the day(he’s in his 80’s and yet owns and flaunts a swanky PDA), discussed the legacy of racism in Supreme Court decisions. Sarah Cleveland neatly dismantled the Bush administration’s legal basis for denying Guantanamo detainees habeas corpus. Suzanne Goldberg deplored the state of gay equality, and Katherine Franke, who urged the assembled students to become section 1983 lawyers with her, noted that while New York and national crime rates have fallen, the number of reported cases of police brutality has skyrocketed. As far as what changes in Washington and the Supreme Court could bring in the near future, Prof. Greenberg commented, quoting Humpty Dumpty and then shaking his head, “we’ll just have to stay tuned.”