The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences


Public Program: The Roger S. Aaron '64 Lecture - “Constitutional Review and a General ‘Right to Liberty’” with Mark Tushnet

Please join us for the Roger S. Aaron '64 Lecture, “Constitutional Review and a General ‘Right to Liberty,’” presented by Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, in Rockefeller 003 at 4:30 pm this Thursday, January 15.

Also join Mark Tushnet for a student lunch from 12:15 to 1:30 pm on January 15 in the Class of 1930 Room, Rockefeller Center.

Much of today’s political discourse features debate over the scope of government authority, especially as it pertains to regulation of individual liberties. While some believe that government holds the constitutional authority to restrict individual expression and privacy, others contend that these are natural rights that the government cannot regulate. How should our government interpret the scope of its constitutional authority over individual rights in the context of today’s society?



2014 Constitution Day: Celebrate on September 18th at 4:30 pm with a talk by Professor Sargent

The War on Terror - Q&A with Georgetown Law Professor David Cole

David Cole, the Hon. George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law, has been published widely in law journals and the popular press, authoring or co-authoring several award-winning books on the topics of constitutional law, national security, and criminal justice. He has worked as a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights from 1985-90, and has continued to litigate as a professor. He has litigated many significant constitutional cases in the Supreme Court, including Texas v. Johnson, and has been involved in many of the nation’s most important cases involving civil liberties and national security. David has received two honorary degrees and numerous awards for his human rights work, including the inaugural 2013 Norman Dorsen Presidential Prize from the ACLU for lifetime commitment to civil liberties.

Before presenting his talk, “Can President Obama End the War on Terror?”, Courtney Wong ’15 sat down with David Cole for a brief interview.

CW: Where is the future of the war on terror headed?

Can President Obama End the War on Terror? - David Cole, May 1st @ 4:30 pm

As the War on Terror continues to rage on after the passing of its first decade, many wonder if and when it will end. In May 2013, President Obama maintained that our democracy demands an end to this perpetual war. If President Obama does end the War on Terror, what would it mean for our security, our liberty and our future?

David Cole, the Hon. George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law, will be speaking about this nationally pressing issue at the Rockefeller Center for Law Day. He will also address his opinions on controversial topics such as the closing of Guantanamo, the future of drones, as well as mass surveillance and the NSA.

A professor of constitutional law, national security and criminal justice at the Georgetown University Law Center, David Cole has been published widely in law journals and the popular press, authoring or co-authoring several award-winning books. In addition, he is the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation and a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books.

Law Day! American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters

Law Day is a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Law Day underscores how law and the legal process contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share. It also provides an opportunity to recognize the role of courts in this democracy and the importance of jury service to maintaining the integrity of the courts.

Each year, a theme is chosen to spotlight a particular aspect of the rule of law or legal process. As we approach the 50th anniversaries of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, this year’s Law Day theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. This theme is a reminder to every American to reflect on the importance of a citizen’s right to vote and the challenges we still face in ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to participate in our democracy.

Civil Rights at the U.S. Supreme Court: A Career Conversation with Jonathan Miller '00

Civil Rights at the U.S. Supreme CourtCareer Conversation with Jonathan Miller '00
Thursday, May 1st 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.Center for Professional Development Workshop Room 
Join Jonathan Miller ’00, Chief of the Civil Rights Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, for a lunchtime discussion of high-profile matters at the U.S. Supreme Court. His talk will cover last term’s decisions striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, ongoing litigation about the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples, buffer zones around reproductive healthcare clinics, and more. At this session, you can also learn more about the work of the Civil Rights Division, which hires undergraduate interns throughout the year.

Recap: Professor Robin West Calls for a Public Re-conception of Civil Rights

"What is the nature of the rights, jurisdictionally, that the 1964 Civil Rights Act proscribes?" Robin West, the Frederick J. Haas Professor of Law and Philosophy at Georgetown University Law Center, asked at the start of her lecture. Throughout her presentation, West called for a re-conception of how people understand civil rights, and how to view civil rights as a way to argue not just for what the state is doing, but what the state should be doing.

West argued that, presently, we understand civil rights primarily on the basis of discrimination, which means we miss the underlying right. There must be a right to something beyond the right to not be the victim of discrimination. In regards to education, civil rights must affirm our right to an education and not stop at protecting us from discrimination.

West defined civil rights using the writings of 18th-century author and political activist Thomas Paine. Paine argued that civil rights are natural human rights owed to the people by the government based on the very nature of their membership in society. 

MONDAY, Feb. 17: "Toward a Jurisprudence of the Civil Rights Act" with Georgetown Law Professor Robin West


Movements for civil rights have continued to affect changes throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. From LGBT rights to women’s rights to the rights of minorities, each movement has made better futures possible by empowering those historically pushed out by the legal systems that govern civil society. How have these movements been able to gain ground and work with the law to promote the rights of citizens?

In this lecture, Robin West will present a conception of civil rights as rights to participate in the legal regimes that structure civil society, rather than as anti-discrimination rights per se. By outlining the history of the idea of civil rights and the ways in which they have since been protected and advanced, West will explore a number of theories about what it is that makes them so intrinsically important – and thus legally significant.

Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein to give talk, "Free by Default," on 1/23/14 @ 4:30 PM

When is it appropriate to fill in the gaps of incomplete legal contracts with default rules? More importantly, how do personalized default rules compare to impersonal ones? In the fast-paced U.S. economy, contractual agreements are being found to work to the benefit of individuals, in essence ‘freeing’ them, in a number of interesting ways. Find out exactly how next week with Mr. Cass Sunstein.

Law Professor James Fleming to Discuss “The Myth of Strict Scrutiny for Fundamental Rights” on 10/31 at 4:30 PM


In constitutional law, it is commonplace to say that the Supreme Court applies “strict scrutiny” in protecting fundamental rights under the Due Process Clause – almost automatically invalidating any statute restricting such rights. But James Fleming, Boston University Law Professor and incoming Vice President of Law for the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, proposes a new theory, one that shakes the very framework of the U.S. legal system.

Fleming’s lecture, “The Myth of Strict Scrutiny for Fundamental Federal Rights,” will outline this controversy and its effects on the current justice system. He suggests that certain justices are utilizing this misconception to push their own agenda, one that increases difficulty in protecting rights of privacy and autonomy. Fleming argues that opponents of these ideas have yet to realize that they are perpetuates a system of injustice and misconstrued mindsets. The lecture will discuss a new framework: the use of “reasoned judgment” in protecting “ordered liberty.”


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences