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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Party like it’s 1787

Happy birthday, U.S. Constitution, and, for our sake, many happy returns.

That’s right, our own founding document is 222 years old today. But just because the charter turned 21 all the way back in 1808 doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a party — or at least a panel discussion.

The James E. Rogers College of Law will be holding the UA’s official Constitution Day event today from 1 to 4 p.m. in the college’s Ares Auditorium, Room 164.

Noted legal scholars will break down some of the most important cases from the last term of the U.S. Supreme Court at the 11th annual Constitution Day Supreme Court Review.

Panelists include Gregory Garre, a former U.S. Solicitor General, Justice W. Scott Bales of the Arizona Supreme Court and Prof. David Marcus of the College of Law.

The discussion will be moderated by Sally Rider, director of the UA’s William H. Rehnquist Center on the Constitutional Structures of Government.

The Daily Wildcat editor in chief caught up with Rider to discuss Constitution Day and her own experience working under Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Are there any overall themes you’re planning to touch on with this event?

Sometimes the presenters will try to tie the cases together, but they’re pretty disparate. We try to pick cases that will be interesting and educational to the audience.

You served as administrative assistant to Chief Justice William Rehnquist. What was the experience like being so close to those Constitutional processes?

It was very interesting to get to know the Justices as people and see how the institution runs, how the third branch of government runs. It’s run pretty efficiently. The chief, even now, has four law clerks, two secretaries and an aide to the chief justice. It’s a pretty small staff.

Now that you’re in academia, what’s the difference between working for the court and studying it?

The Center is non-partisan, so I’m still pretty careful not to stake positions on issues. Its mission is to educate the public on federalism, separation of powers and judicial independence. We have a lot of programs. We have First Mondays where we go into the high schools and teach students about the role of judicial independence. It’s fun.

Everybody’s aware of the fact that, yes, there is a Constitution, but do you feel like most Americans understand how it actually works?

There’s a recent poll that’s often cited where more American students could name the Three Stooges than the three branches of government. If they can’t even name the branches of government then it’s hard to imagine they understand how the Constitution works …. We need more civics education.

What do you think are the most important Constitutional issues facing the country right now?

Obviously the campaign finance case (the Supreme Court) just heard. That will be very interesting to see whether it’s decided narrowly or broadly. (Chief Justice) Roberts has gone on record saying the court should decide things more narrowly. It will be interesting to see if they write a narrow (decision) or a broad one … Another interesting thing this term will be to see Justice Sotomayor. They say each time you get a new member you get a new court. So we’ll see how that plays out.

Will there be a birthday cake for the Constitution at the Rehnquist Center’s event?

There’s not going to be a birthday cake. But there is going to be a reception afterwards.

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