Thursday, September 21, 2017

Constitution Day 2017!

For the second year, the VBA has honored Constitution Day by hosting a panel presentation on the US Constitution, this year at the Vermont Supreme Court.  The presentation carried forward the ABA Law Day 2017 subject: The 14th Amendment.  We were extremely fortunate, and are equally grateful, to have hosted a stellar cast of presenters:  Justices Harold Eaton and Karen Carroll and Judges Robert Mello, Mary Miles Teachout and Timothy Tomasi.  The event was moderated by VBA President Mike Kennedy and hosted by the VBA, complete with delicious refreshments made by our Executive Director, Teri Corsones.  Special thanks also to the Judiciary for the use of the courtroom at the Supreme Court.

President Kennedy cited a statistic that approximately 40% of Americans cannot name one thing that a government “shall not” do, that would hinder protections afforded by the First Amendment.  Too many people are not aware of the importance of the rule of law and the essential role the Constitution plays in our daily lives.  Constitution Day is often celebrated on September 17th, the day of its signing. Many bars highlight the Constitution during events in the entire month of September.  As we noted after last year’s Constitution presentation, Constitution Day should be every day!

Judge Mello kicked off the event with an engaging, stage-setting story of the birth of the Constitution and the ratification of the Bill of Rights and other key amendments, noting the length and complexity of the 14th Amendment.  Next, Justice Eaton gave a thorough primer on the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and highlighted some relevant cases.  Justice Carroll then ran through the emergence of the Equal Protection clause and its application, highlighting the Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate but equal” cases, to the Brown vs. Board of Education cases eradicating that premise, and finishing with same-sex marriage and other contemporary equal protection cases.  Judge Tomasi spoke of substantive due process, calling the Due Process Clause the “Windex” of the Constitution, noting how it is applicable to nearly every situation, and provides an overriding remedy, much like Windex is touted in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Finally, Judge Teachout tied the presentations together, giving countless examples of the relevance of the Constitution in everyday case law and circumstances.

A link to the video will be available on our website soon, which will be viewable by the public.  Last year’s presentation, a general overview of the Constitution, is also available on our website.  The VBA is also pleased to offer pocket Constitutions, along with these videos or written templates, to any lawyer or judge who would like to present to a school or civic group about the Constitution.  Last year, many members mobilized to bring presentations to schools around the state, and the reports were quite uplifting.

Please keep the momentum going and take an hour of your time to educate our youth and the public about this amazing, surprisingly short, complex, relevant and effective document governing all of our civil rights and establishing the rule of law.  You will be spreading wisdom and pride, and you will undoubtedly feel (more) wise and proud for it!

Contact info at vtbar dot org for pocket constitutions and templates.