When the United States government passed the Bill of Rights in 1791, its uncompromising protection of speech and of the press were unlike anything the world had ever seen before. But by 1798, the once-dazzling young republic of the United States was on the verge of collapse: Partisanship gripped the weak federal government, British seizures threatened American goods and men on the high seas, and war with France seemed imminent as its own democratic revolution deteriorated into terror. Suddenly, the First Amendment, which protected harsh commentary of the weak government, no longer seemed as practical. So that July, President John Adams and the Federalists in control of Congress passed an extreme piece of legislation that made criticism of the government and its leaders a crime punishable by heavy fines and jail time. Liberty’s First Crisis tells the story of the 1798 Sedition Act, the crucial moment when high ideals met real-world politics and the country’s future hung in the balance. Author Charles Slack discussed his latest book and answered questions from the audience.
On June 30, 2015, the Supreme Court decided to revisit whether the First Amendment permits the government to compel its employees to financially support a union by granting certiorari in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, No. 14-915. In Friedrichs, the Court will consider whether to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which held that public employees can be compelled to financially support union collective-bargaining with government, but not union political activities.
The Court’s grant of certiorari in Friedrichs comes on the one-year anniversary of its decision in Harris v. Quinn, where Court criticized Abood’s rationales, but did not overrule Abood after finding it inapplicable to the non-employee Medicaid providers who brought the case. Unlike Harris, Friedrichs squarely presents the issue decided in Abood—whether public school teachers can be required to pay compulsory union fees as condition of their employment.
The Friedrichs petitioners argue that Abood should be overturned because there is no distinction between bargaining with government and lobbying government—both are political speech. The respondent California Teachers Association, however, counters that union bargaining with government is akin to bargaining with a private employer, and that it wrongful for teachers to get a so-called “free ride” on union bargaining efforts.
Is the Court likely to overrule Abood? And what will be the implications if it does?
Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine
William Messenger, Staff Attorney, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc.
Stanford Law School Professor Michael McConnell discusses some of the surprising facts you might not know about the face of the $10 bill.
Hon. Michael W. McConnell, The Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law, Stanford Law School. Director, Stanford Constitutional Law Center. Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution. Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (2002-2009).
In The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America, American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks declares that it’s time for a new conservative movement — one where fighting poverty, promoting equal opportunity, celebrating earned success, and valuing spiritual enlightenment are embraced as universal goals. A movement with a positive agenda to help people lead happier, more satisfying lives. A movement that can speak to voters’ hearts as well as their minds and reunite the country. Capitalism has been the greatest tool to draw people out of poverty around the world. Yet here in America, the conservatives who champion this system are viewed as callous and disinterested in helping the poor. And, ironically, while American-style free enterprise has been changing the developing world, decades of ineffective government policy in the US have left our own “war on poverty” stagnate. Brooks identifies some new canons of conservative thought. Among them are rebuilding human capital to help people succeed, maintaining fiscal conservatism while making “peace” with a safety net for the truly indigent, reforming education, and fighting for entrepreneurship — not for the wealthy, but for those at the very bottom of the income distribution. Mr. Brooks discussed his latest book and answered audience questions on this Teleforum call.
The "Iran Deal" as negotiated by the Obama Administration and approved by the UN raises controversies on many levels. One foundational question concerns whether a president's constitutional Article II power extends to an executive agreement that incurs foreign obligations and implicates international law. The congressional response in the Corker-Cardin review act demurred from challenging whether the nuclear deal was an end-run around treaty Senate ratification requirements by acknowledging the executive agreement classification. Now there are questions as to whether the final deal is sufficiently inconsistent with the anticipated agreement such that the Corker-Cardin bill is undermined. Does UN approval prior to congressional review moot Corker-Cardin? Additionally, as yet unquantified side agreements may have a bearing on congressional posture. Also, some states have sanctioned Iran separately. Since an executive agreement does not carry the federal pre-emptive power as would a treaty, may states continue to act independent of Corker-Cardin, UN, or administration commitments?
Jamil N. Jaffer, Adjunct Professor of Law and Director, Homeland and National Security Law Program, George Mason University School of Law and former Chief Counsel and Senior Advisor, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
David B. Rivkin, Jr., Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP
Prof. John C. Yoo, Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law, University of California Berkeley School of Law