Wronging the Rights

The legacy of George W. Bush. What does that conjure? Two wars in the Middle East. Repeated presidential power grabs. Lax financial regulation. The Great Recession. Bad stuff, to be sure. But it might take years and even decades to feel one of W's farthest-reaching accomplishments: constitutional protections dismantled at the hands of his two appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bush appointee and Chief Justice John Roberts is leading the court on a legal rampage, reopening constitutional questions that most legal scholars and judges thought had already been answered. One of the latest? A ruling that gives corporations unlimited spending power in elections (and therefore gives big business more control over public policy that affects everyone). But Bush wasn't the first. Since the 1960s Republicans have brought the courts around to their way of thinking by a strategy of political pressure and appointing as many conservative judges as possible. Erwin Chemerinsky is a legal scholar who has followed these moves. His latest book, The Conservative Assault on the Constitution, details some of the more appalling results of recent high court opinions, including life sentences for shoplifting, rejecting the “actual innocence” of a person who's on death row, and establishing separate and unequal public schools. Chemerinsky, founding dean of the UC Irvine law school, discusses this legacy and its effects with Joel Richard Paul of San Francisco's UC Hastings law school.
Tue., Nov. 9, 7 p.m., 2010

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