Justice Scalia promotes book at Georgetown Law

Photo courtesy of Georgetown Law Office of Communications

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia does not believe rocket launchers are covered by the Second Amendment. This revelation was one of many that students and other outside guests learned during a Federalist Society-hosted lecture and book signing that took place in Hart Auditorium on Tuesday, November 20.

While the event was presented by the national Federalist Society organization, members of Georgetown Law’s student chapter helped promote and coordinate the event. The event began with a reception, hosted by the Federalist Society. Dean William Treanor opened the event, introducing Justice Scalia and the Justice’s new book “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” coauthored with Bryan A. Garner.

Scalia spoke about his new book, as well as his philosophy on constitutional law in general. After the Justice spoke time was allotted for questions from the audience. The event was one of many stops on Scalia’s book tour, but the first at a law school. “I told you these questions were going to be new.” Noted Leonard Leo, Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society. “No one is asking about your favorite opera or your favorite pasta here . ”

Instead, law students asked questions including a query regarding the Justice’s preference for bright line rules versus balancing tests. In response, Justice Scalia answered, “My court has used the totality of the circumstances test. That’s not a test. That’s a non-test.”

The Justice also spoke about key decisions of the past, including the controversial Roe v. Wade case, on which he commented “even the people who like the result have acknowledged recently anyway that the reasoning was very, very vague.”

While the Justice did not speak specifically about political issues, he did discuss his philosophy on the role of the Court and his views on textualism and interpretation. As for his colleagues on the Court, Justice Scalia revealed, “I have not discussed law on any profound level with my colleagues in 27 years. They have their own philosophies, I have mine. My hope is for the next generation. That’s what books are for!”

The Georgetown Law chapter of the Federalist Society has hosted a number of events this semester, including a lecture and panel on the topic of French and American perspectives on the burqa and a debate on the recent ACA challenge, hosted last Wednesday, Nov. 28. The Federalist Society is a national organization whose purpose is dedicated to upholding primarily conservative and libertarian values regarding strict textualist or originalist interpretations of the U.S. Constitution .

Alumnus Derek Webb wins Warren Burger prize

Photo courtesy of Derek WebbThe American Inns of Court recently selected Derek A. Webb, a  graduate of Georgetown Law, to receive their prestigious Warren E. Burger Prize for his essay “The Original Meaning of Civility: Democratic Deliberation at the Philidelphia Constitutional Convention.”

Every year, the American Inns of Court bestow this award on one recipient for an unpublished article of 10,000 to 25,000 words on a topic that addreses issues of legal excellence, civility, ethics and professionalism. A committee of law school professors from Boston university, New York University, University of Pennsylvania and the University of South Carolina selected Webb’s article as the top submission. The winner of the Burger Prize receives a cash prize and automatic publication in the South Carolina Law Review. The Burger Prize recipient also formally receives the award at the Supreme Court of the United States, where it is bestowed each year at the American Inns of Court’s annual black tie Celebration of Excellence. The Burger Prize recipient, along with recipients of the three other national awards given out each year, then gives an acceptance speech of five to seven minutes in the courtroom.

In his essay, Webb explored the ways in which delegates to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention reasoned together and hammered out compromise in the face of considerable philosphical, poolitical, and personal differences. He was particularly struck by the importance of what he calls “civic friendship” that prevailed among many of the delegates in Philadelphia. Despite their serious disagreements, at the end of the daily five hours of deliberations in the assembly room, the delegates would typically gather together in cross-sectional, cross-ideological dinner parties at taverns and evening parties teas at delegates’ homes throughout the city that helped keep the Convention form breaking down at critical moments.

Webb said that the origins for the paper came in two classes he took at Georgetown Law; the first was a class on negotiation with Stephen Altman and the second a year-long class on contemporary legal scholarship taught by Gregory Klass and Robin West. Sherman Cohn, a professor at Georgetown Law since 1965 and the first national president of the American Inns of Court for eleven years, presided over the Celebration of Excellence at the U.S. Supreme Court where he met Derek and saw him give his speech.

“Of the eight that got it before him, he is the first law student. That alone is impressive,” stated Professor Cohn.

Webb is currently in the first year of a two-year academic fellowship at the Stanford University Constiuttional Law Center in Palo Alto, Calif. Before law school, he earned a B.A. in Philosphy from Yale University and a Ph. D. in Political Science from the University of Notre Dame. While at Georgetown, he earned CALI best paper awards in six different classes and along with his moot court partner Rob Silverblatt, won the Spong Moot Court Competition at William and Mary Law School, the longest running constitutional law themed moot court competition in the country. The pair also took home top writing honors by winnin

GULC student’s memo triggers controversy

On Friday, Dec. 16 the Republican Study Committee (RSC ) posted a brief written by Derek Khanna, Georgetown 2E, criticizing the existing copyright systems’ laws and effects. Twenty-four hours later it had vanished. The RSC ’ s director, Paul Tel l e r justified the removal on the bas i s that it had been “published without adequate review.”

Media organizations ant political groups were quick to react. The Huffington Post accused the Republican Party of throwing Derek “under the bus.” Yet liberals were not the only ones voicing their support of Derek’s memo, as the staunchly Republican RedState.org stated that the RSC “should not have pulled the paper.” By all accounts, whichever political affiliation, the memo was overwhelmingly commended for its bold critique of a status quo system that is in desperate need of reform.

The report took an unconventional approach, addressing “three myths about copyright law and where to start to fix it.” It outlined three main fallacies underlying the current system:

  1. 1.       “The purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of content,”
  2. 2.       “Copyright is free market capitalism at work,”
  3. 3.       “The current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity.”

It then outline four possible solutions:

  1. 1.       Statutory damages reform
  2. 2.       Expansion of fair use
  3. 3.       Punishments for false copyright claims
  4. 4.       Drastic limitations on copyright terms.

As to copyright terms, long-lasting copyrights theoretically incentivize investment. But the memo argued at some point gains turn into losses, with old claims stifling new creativity. The memo also generally argued for viewing copyright more as a kind of regulation rather than actual property; an analysis that was called ‘fascinating’ by a reporter at Slate.

The paper was praised as “shockingly sensible” in incentivizing innovation in the area and “perhaps the most insightful and thoughtful piece of scholarship on copyright to come out of a government body in decades.” Why then was its posting so short-lived?

There is still mystery as to who or what exactly forced the removal of the article, but general suspicion points to industry lobbyists who put pressure on the RSC to have it taken down. According to a reporter at the blog TechDirt, the occurrence of the memo caused the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America to go “ballistic and hit the phones hard, demanding that the RSC take down the report.” The two heavyweight groups have proven to wield substantial political power with Democrat and Republican political groups alike.

Two observations can be made: one is cause for optimism, the other much less so. The positive is that it has brought necessary debate to the forefront again. The negative is that a constructive and innovative approach was withdrawn for unbecoming reasons, whether it be the pressure of an entrenched industry or the inability of a policy research organization to even consider an audacious and productive approach for fear of political consequences. In either case, the episode casts doubt as to whether copyright reform can really be achieved.

Georgetown University hosts Thanksgiving meal

Photo courtesy of Philip Chui, LL.M.

by Philip Chui, LL. M.

On Wednesday, November 21, John J. DeGioia, Georgetown University President, invited all Georgetown students to partake in a Thanksgiving dinner that took place in the main campus dining commons.

Many students had already left for destinations all over the United States to join their families and celebrate the special occasion. For others, however, a cursory peek at their exam timetable put all these possibilities well and truly to rest. Fortunately, Georgetown University provided a back-up plan: its annual Thanksgiving dinner.

For those used to the tradition, it provided them with a much needed substitute to celebrating it at home . For those unfamiliar with the tradition it was a perfect time to take in the mood and personally experience this uniquely American tradition.

Held in the picturesque O’Donovan Hall, overlooking the Potomac River, the dinner took place between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. On arrival, the salubrious surroundings were contrasted with a long sprawling line leading up to the food and refreshments. When walking in one was immediately greeted by a gentleman, suited and booted, standing at the door to welcome each and every one of the students in. As it turned out, it was the President of Georgetown University; and he stood there all through the night, greeting every one of the students as they filed in. It was a nice and appropriate gesture that most students appeared to appreciate as many of them asked to have their picture taken with him.

By 6 p.m, the entire hall was packed to the seams with two long queues leading to two identical Thanksgiving buffets. The food included traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, yams, and of course, pumpkin pie. The room being packed there was little space left to be found and some students ended up eating on high top tables.

 As the event came to an end, the pleasantness of the evening was momentarily interrupted as students stepped out to the cold autumn weather, waiting for the bus back to the Law Center. A female security guard and a taxi driver almost came to blows over the taxi driver’s alleged trespassing onto campus territory. The security guard chased after the taxi and whacked it repeatedly with a broomstick (to both the amusement and the horror of many); a full blown fight was only prevented when a number of students stepped forward and stopped the taxi driver from harming her.