The Courts, the Constitution, and the Disappearing American Dream

The Great Recession of 2008 highlighted a decades-long trend of increased wealth stratification that some say echoes back to America's Gilded Age. The richest 3 percent of families now control more than half the nation's wealth, while the bottom 90 percent control less than a quarter. The Pew Research Center has found that 27 percent of Americans "say the growing gap between the rich and the poor is the greatest threat to the world today." Further, many charge that the Supreme Court has become a defender of business interests at the expense of the individual. What does the Constitution have to say about economic power and inequality and what role can courts play in this debate? How has the ongoing assault on unions impacted wealth distribution, and how can collective bargaining be strengthened? What other policies and legal means can help shore up the American dream of equal opportunity? 
  • Robert Borosage, Founder and President, Institute for America's Future
  • David Bernstein, George Mason University Foundation Professor, George Mason University School of Law
  • Heather Boushey, Executive Director and Chief Economist, Washington Center of Equitable Growth
  • William Forbath, Associate Dean for Research, Lloyd M Bentsen Chair in Law, University of Texas School of Law
  • Sophia Lee, Professor of Law and History, University of Pennsylvania Law School 
  • Ted Shaw, Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law; Director, Center for Civil Rights, University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Ganesh Sitaraman, Assistant Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

Standing Up for the Unpopular: The Perils and Rewards of Representing Disfavored Clients

A lawyer has a duty to zealously advocate on behalf of his or her clients, yet lawyers who represent unpopular clients can be lauded as champions of justice or unfairly vilified as accomplices to monsters. In our adversarial system, how can we guarantee justice for all if fear of reprisal chills attorney participation in controversial causes? In what contexts do criticisms of attorney representations arise, and are there an discernible patterns? What must be done to educate the bar and the public about the principles fundamental to our system of justice: all people and entities are entitled to representation, and such representations are not an endorsement of a client's view or conduct? How can controversial cases enrich a lawyer's practice and does it pose any risks? 
  • Ari Melber, Chief Legal Correspondent and Co-Host of "The Cycle" MSNBC
  • Debo Adegbile, Partner, WilmerHale
  • Pardiss Kebriaei, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
  • Burt Neuborne, Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties, New York University School of Law; Founding Legal Director, Brennan Center for Justice

Skewed Justice: How Money in Judicial Elections is Undermining our Criminal Justice System

A recent ACS report, Skewed Justice, found that the current explosion in spending on television attack ads in state supreme court elections has made courts less likely to rule in favor of defendants in criminal appeals. This influx of money to judicial elections - due in large part the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United - means that judges are under increasing pressure to act like politicians by avoiding damaging attack ads and burnishing their "tough on crime" bona fides at the expense of real people facing criminal prosecution. Coupled with structural inequities that critics claim make it difficult for defendants to obtain real justice, does money in judicial elections threaten the legitimacy of our criminal justice system? What doe the experiences of judges teach us about how to maintain an independent judiciary in the face of these pressures? What role can those who represent the criminally accused play in protecting a criminal defendant's due process rights to an impartial judge?


  • Erica Hashimoto, Allen Post Professor of Law and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Professor, University of Georgia School of Law
  • Hon. Sue Bell Cobb, Former Chief Justice, Alabama Supreme Court
  • Tracey George, Professor of Law and Political Science, Vanderbilt University
  • David Kopel, Research Director, Independence Institute; Associate Policy Analyst, Cato Institute; Adjunct Professor, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Foundations

The Digital Age on the Global Stage: Can the Law Keep Up?

The rapid development of technological innovation continually raises challenging questions for our legal system and policymakers as they seek to regulate actors and actions at the international level.Increasingly, the United States and our allies are at odds, imposing different legal standards across the Internet. What laws and treaties can effectuate law enforcement goals while maintaining various nations' civil liberties regimes in an age of transnational crime and terrorism? What standards should be met for U.S. law enforcement to access information stored in extraterritorial data centers? How can divergent free speech principles in Europe and the U..S. be successfully navigated with regard to hate speech on the Internet? Can European protection of the "right to privacy" and the "right to be forgotten" comport with American standards of free speech? 
  • Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO, National Constitution Center
  • Anupam Chander, Director, California International Law Center; Professor of Law, University of California, Davis
  • Mieke Eoyang, Director, National Security Program, Third Way
  • Orin Kerr, Fred C. Stevenson ,Research Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School
  • Greg Nojeim, Director, Freedom, Security and Technology Project, Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Kate Westmoreland, Non-Residential Fellow, Stanford Center for Internet and Society 

Drawing Lines: The Limits to a State's Redistricting Powers

For the past 50 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly struggled with whether and how to place limits on states' redrawing of their legislative and congressional districts, establishing the "one-person-one-vote" standard and limiting racial gerrymandering, but declining to set standards for partisan gerrymandering. This term, the Court heard two of the most recent disputes regarding redistricting, including a racial gerrymandering claim in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, and a challenge to a ballot initiative that delegated the redistricting process to an independent commission in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In an era of extreme partisan gerrymandering and political polarization, are there new legal strategies and political initiatives to make legislatures and congressional districts more representative and accountable? How will those strategies and initiatives fare under existing redistricting jurisprudence? 
  • Hon. Lynn Adelman, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • Anita Earls, Executive Director, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
  • George W. Hicks, Jr., Partner, Bancroft PLLC
  • State Senator Jamie Raskin, Professor of Law, Director of the Law and Government Program, American University Washington College of Law; Majority Whip, Maryland State Senate; Senior Fellow, People for the American Way
  • Franita Tolson, Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights, Florida State University College of Law