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Rosenthal Lecture Scholars Discuss Contested Elections

Samuel Issacharoff and Pamela S. Karlan, constitutional law scholars and experts on voting rights and election law, will address contested elections in the United States and abroad during Northwestern University School of Law’s Julius Rosenthal Foundation Lecture Series March 27 to 29.

Issacharoff, Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law, and Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School, will present “Law of Democracy,” a series of three lectures, at the School of Law, 357 East Chicago Ave.

One of the principal programs supported by the Julius Rosenthal Foundation, the lecture series is free and open to the public. The series has assumed a preeminent position in the legal world, and publication of the lectures has made a notable contribution to legal literature and scholarship for more than 70 years.

The lectures include “Taking Politics Religiously” (by Karlan at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 27); “Fragile Democracies” (by Issacharoff at noon Wednesday, March 28); and “Contested Visions of Democracy” (by Karlan and Issacharoff at noon Thursday, March 29).

Karlan and Issacharoff are coauthors, with Richard H. Pildes, of two leading casebooks “The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process” and “When Elections Go Bad: The Law of Democracy and the 2000 Presidential Election.”

A pioneer in the law of the political process, Issacharoff has published more than 70 scholarly articles, which have appeared in every leading law review as well as in leading journals in other fields. He also is a leading figure in the field of procedure, the rules that govern the obtaining of legal redress, and serves as the reporter for the newly created Project on Aggregate Litigation of the American Law Institute.

Prior to joining the faculty at New York University, Issacharoff taught at Columbia Law School and the University of Texas School of Law. A 1983 graduate of Yale Law School, Issacharoff spent the early part of his career as a voting rights lawyer.

Karlan is founding director of the Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, through which students litigate live cases before the court. One of the nation’s leading experts on voting and the political process, she has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission and as an assistant counsel and cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Karlan is the coauthor of three leading casebooks on constitutional law and related subjects, as well as more than four dozen scholarly articles.

Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1998, she was a professor at University of Virginia School of Law and served as a law clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Abraham D. Sofaer, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Rosenthal Lecture Series was established in 1919 in memory of Julius Rosenthal (1827-1905), an eminent and beloved member of the Chicago Bar.


The Julius Rosenthal Foundation Lecture Series

Law of Democracy

Tuesday, March 27, at 4 p.m.
Taking Politics Religiously (Pamela Karlan)

Wednesday, March 28, at Noon
Fragile Democracies (Samuel Issacharoff)

Thursday, March 29, at Noon
Contested Visions of Democracy (jointly delivered)

This year’s Rosenthal Lecturers Samuel Issacharoff and Pamela Karlan will address the contested terrain of elections both in the U.S. and abroad. The lectures open with a core constitutional challenge to how we think about the political process. Since the breakthrough cases of the 1960s, most notably Baker v. Carr, legal engagement with the “political thicket” has assumed the centrality of the individual rights paradigm. By contrast, in the equally contested field of religion under the First Amendment, the Court has understood that the right of individual free exercise is only part of the equation, with the equally important structural prohibition on establishment shoring up the enterprise. The first lecture will address the absence of an “establishment clause” in the law governing the political process.

The second lecture will shift to the international plane, where religion also plays a critical role in defining new assaults upon democratic stability. Focusing on how democracies respond to antidemocratic groups that use the electoral arena to agitate, mobilize and, at times, seize power, the lecture will trace a history from the Nazi seizure of power in Weimar Germany to the present efforts of religious parties to mobilize in India, Israel, Turkey, and branching out to efforts of repudiated fascist or communist parties to remobilize electorally. At the heart of this lecture is the question whether the American law of “clear and present danger” can be safely extended beyond the American setting.

Finally, the lectures will turn to the issue of the precarious state of legal doctrine in the law of democracy, beginning with the observation that few areas of American law are so deeply unsettled at their core doctrines. This is evident from the central themes in the area: campaign finance, Bush v. Gore, racial representation, partisan gerrymandering, etc. The second part of the lecture ties the doctrinal morass to deeper uncertainty about how responsive democratic institutions are supposed to be to the body politic. The final conclusion will then turn on the core difficulty of confronting process failure on an applied, case-by-case basis when the underlying conflict draws from deeper structural wellsprings.


Posted: March 20, 2007