CommunityFDL Main Blog

First Monday Preview: Erwin Chemerinsky At FDL On Monday Discussing Civil Liberties

In our next installment of the First Monday series with Alliance for Justice, we are honored to announce that Erwin Chemerinsky — noted Constitutional and federal procedure scholar — will be here to discuss civil liberties issues. First Monday will be at a special time — 1:30 pm ET/10:30 am PT — on Monday, April 7th, as he’s working us in between courses at Duke’s law school. So mark your calendars!

Prof. Chemerinsky has led a number of public discussions on the Bill of Rights and civil liberties concerns over the last few years, and his work on the overreaches of executive power, in particular, has been superb.

The YouTube at left is one such speech at the UC Davis School of Law. It’s a bit long, but the discussions of Fourth Amendment protections versus the powerful disregard for the individual’s liberty that underlies the "unilateral executive" legal theories is masterfully laid out, and something that everyone on all sides of the political divide would do well to think about as a long-term concern for this country.

Prof. Chemerinsky wrote a piece for Slate back in 2006 on the NSA domestic spying and FISA breach that still holds today on a host of issues. In it, he said:

The Bill of Rights is a constant reminder that the ends do not justify some means. Surely, there would be less crime and more safety if the police could search anyone’s person or property, at any time, without a level of suspicion that meets the legal definition of probable cause. But a society that values privacy and dignity does not accord the police such authority, even when the objective is fighting terrorism….

The core requirement of the Fourth Amendment is that, subject to narrow exceptions, police searches and wiretaps must be authorized by a warrant issued by a judge and based on probable cause. The framers of the Constitution were deeply distrustful of executive power and wanted to make sure that searches and arrests were authorized by a neutral magistrate.

And that is the essence of the fight, not just on FISA but on all of the broad executive power grabs that surround it. One only need look at the theoretical underpinnings of the disastrous Yoo memorandum on torture to see the flaws in the "no oversight necessary" logic writ painfully large.

The need for a third party to have outside oversight in cases of enormous executive power over the citizens it is to protect all of us — because we have a government filled with flawed human beings who make decisions on the fly that can have lasting and harmful consequences or highly petty, egotistical or vindictive underpinnings. And the Founders of this nation knew about disastrous consequences and petty bickering because they lived them through their own actions and those of their fellows, and ingeniously tried to build in checks and balances for this from the start. Those checks and balances are undermined to all of our detriment, as we’ll discuss in more detail with Prof. Chemerinsky on Monday.

Please join us for First Monday on April 7th at 1:30 pm ET/10:30 am PT for a discussion of our civil liberties with Erwin Chemerinsky. This is one that you will not want to miss…

Previous post

DiversityInc's No. 1 Employer Is Against Gender Identity/Expression In Non-Discrimination Policy

Next post

Embarrassment-Free Show Trials

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com