February 9, 2011
For two days last month, legal scholars from around the country met in Colorado to discuss “Popular Constitutionalism and the Uses of History in Constitutional Argument.” The occasion was the 18th annual Ira C. Rothgerber Jr. Conference, organized by the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law. In the middle of the all-day conference on Friday, January 28th, participants were pleasantly surprised by a visit from Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper, CU President Bruce Benson, several CU Regents (including Michael Carrigan ‘XX and Kyle Hybl ‘XX) and dozens of University supporters.The Rothgerber Conference kicked off on Thursday evening at the Law School with a Keynote Address given by Jill Lepore, the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. Professor Lepore’s speech, titled “The People and the Parchment: Or, What Happens When the Constitution Shakes Her Fist,” skillfully combined photographic images and stories from modern political movements and the political debates of our nation’s founding. On the morning of January 28th, the Conference continued with a series of panel discussions held in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. More than 100 students, lawyers, law professors and judges joined the event.The first panel, titled “Is the Tea Party a Constitutional Movement?” included presentations by Jared Goldstein from Roger Williams University and Christopher Schmidt from Chicago-Kent College of Law. The panel was moderated by CU Professor Ahmed White and University of Denver Professor Alan Chen. After the first two panelists had spoken, the participants were joined by dozens of CU representatives and supporters who were at the Capitol for CU Advocacy day, as Governor Hickenlooper made an appearance to exhort the crowd about the importance of CU and higher education for Colorado. The conference continued with two additional panels. Discussing popular constitutionalism and civil rights, Columbia Law Professor Jamal Greene and White Center Director Melissa Hart were joined by moderators Dean Marty Katz and Professor Tom Romero, both from DU’s Sturm College of Law. In the afternoon, Professor Jed Purdy of Duke Law School and Rick Collins, of CU Law School, spoke about different aspects of “experiencing constitutional interpretation” on a panel moderated by CU Law Professor Helen Norton.The conference was sponsored by the White Center together with the Denver University Law Review, and the Keller Center for the Study of the First Amendment.