The Burden of the Law: Anechiarico '71 Presents First Lecture in Imagining America Series - Hamilton College
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The Burden of the Law: Anechiarico '71 Presents First Lecture in Imagining America Series


Frank Anechiarico '71
Frank Anechiarico '71
Hamilton's Maynard Knox Professor of Government and Law Frank Anechiarico '71 spoke on Wednesday, Sept. 9, to a packed audience of students, professors, and community members about “The Burden of the Law: How the Supreme Court Defines Justice.” This lecture was the first of the season for the Imagining America series hosted at The Other Side in Utica, which aims to create a town-gown relationship between the college and its community centering on the arts and humanities.

Anechiarico’s presentation attempted to provide some insight into what many consider the “perplexing” Supreme Court decisions over the years. He explained that the conflict of ideas between Textualism, supported by Justice Scalia which suggests that judicial decisions should be based on the actual text and original meaning of the law, and the concept of active liberty, reaffirmed by Justice Breyer which focuses on law’s purpose and consequences.

Through a selection of cases beginning with Marbury vs. Madison (1803) to the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the compassionate use of marijuana in California, Anechiarico provided insight on how the court derived and uses its power of judgment. The Supreme Court’s interpretation of important aspects of the Constitution such as the Interstate Commerce Clause and the term “necessary and proper,” as well as the political situation at the time, help to explain the court’s decisions of unconstitutionality toward the Gun-Free School Zones and Deteriorating Violence Against Women legislation.

The talk concluded with a passionate discussion, where attendees discussed the increasing power of the Supreme Court Justices, Justice Kennedy’s pivotal role in 5-4 decisions, and the fluctuation of the law through contradicting court decisions. This discussion was particularly relevant due to the campaign finance case currently being heard in the Supreme Court, which could open the door and allow corporations to play a larger part in campaign financing. The analysis of how the Supreme Court defines Justice left attendees still discussing the topic as they walked out the door.

Dean Joseph Urgo mentioned in his introductory statements that college students are lucky to sample academic discussion on a daily basis. Through this interaction, Hamilton students were able to enhance their learning by receiving an out-of-classroom perspective from local community members. Likewise, the Imagining America series allowed the community to learn and participate in “The Burden of the Law” as well.

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