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Georgetown Legal Scholar Explores "The Constitution as a Living Document"
FOR RELEASE: August 29, 2008
CONTACT: Rosemary Harty, 443-716-4011
Is the United States Constitution a document that should change with the times, or a static document that must be strictly interpreted in that light? Peter Edelman, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Joint Degree in Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University, will explore these sharply different views in a lecture at 8 p.m. Friday, September 12, at St. John's College. The lecture, to be held in the college's Francis Scott Key Auditorium, is free and open to the public.
Two competing perspectives on how to read our Constitution have claimed legitimacy from the beginning of our nation's history," Professor Edelman says. "Some claim with Chief Justice John Marshall that the Constitution is a 'living' document which was intended to change as times change. Others say, as Justice Scalia put it so evocatively, that it is 'dead39; and means only what it meant at the time it was ratified.
"Imprecise phrases like 'equal protection' and 'due process' have come - controversially, in some instances - to include content that is not specifically enumerated in the document, and even the meaning of enumerated rights like those of speech and religion is often not evident on the face of the text," says Professor Edelman. "The current Court is deeply divided on the very most basic question of how to approach constitutional interpretation. Its very direction is hanging in the balance at the present moment, with enormous implications for the nation."
Professor Edelman joined the Georgetown law faculty in 1982. He took leave during President Clinton's first term to serve as Counselor to Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and then as Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Professor Edelman has been Associate Dean of the Law Center, Director of the New York State Division for Youth, and Vice President of the University of Massachusetts. He was a Legislative Assistant to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and was Issues Director for Senator Edward Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1980. He is the author of Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope: the co-author of Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men, and the author of many articles on poverty, constitutional law, and issues about children and youth.