November/December 2010

A Term of Blockbuster Decisions

On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to sign the newly drafted U.S. Constitution. Every year, to celebrate that momentous date in liberty’s history, the Cato Institute hosts a daylong conference. This year marked the ninth, and coincided with the release of the 2009-2010 Cato Supreme Court Review.

The conference, “The Supreme Court: Past and Prologue: A Look at the October 2009 and October 2010 Terms,” featured panels of legal experts discussing the most important cases of the last term and what we can expect in the near future from the Supreme Court.

James Bopp Jr., the country’s leading campaign finance attorney, addressed the landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Alan Gura, who argued before the Supreme Court in the Heller gun rights case, talked about his latest groundbreaking case, McDonald v. Chicago, which extended the Second Amendment right resurrected in Heller to states and localities.

Constitution Day closed with the annual B. Kenneth Simon Lecture, with a distinguished legal scholar presenting a paper to be included in the next year’s Supreme Court Review. This September, the lecturer was William Van Alstyne, professor of law at William and Mary Law School. Drawing an analogy to the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Van Alstyne said, “The function of the Supreme Court is not that of the applauding crowd, that wants to see the emperor as suitably dressed in an adequate raiment.” Rather, “if the emperor lacks for suitable clothing — if Congress lacks the authority to deal with certain problems” — then it is up to Congress either to amend the Constitution or to act within its authority.