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News Posted on October 19, 2012

Geoffrey Stone Delivers Central Valley Foundation Lecture on ‘The Future of the Supreme Court'

Geoffrey StoneGeoffrey R. Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, delivered the 2012 Central Valley Foundation/James B. McClatchy Lecture on the First Amendment in the Kalmanovitz Appellate Courtroom on October 15, speaking to a full house on "The 2012 Election and the Future of the Supreme Court." Video of the lecture is available on the Law School website.

Geoffrey R. Stone: Central Valley Foundation/James B. McClatchy Lecture video

The Central Valley Foundation and UC Davis School of Law have established the Central Valley Foundation/James B. McClatchy Lecture series to promote discussion and understanding of First Amendment issues.  Professor Stone's lecture was the third in a series of five annual events.

The event began with welcoming remarks from Dean Kevin R. Johnson, who thanked the Central Valley Foundation for supporting the lecture series and enabling the Law School to host Professor Stone, whom he called "one of the leading constitutional law and First Amendment scholars of his generation." Dean Johnson also introduced Steve Boutin '72 of Boutin Jones, who is a past president and current member of the Law School's Alumni Association Board of Directors and a member of the UC Davis Foundation Board, as well as Chair of the Central Valley Foundation Board. 

"It is indeed an honor for the Central Valley Foundation to annually sponsor this First Amendment lecture," Boutin said.  "For those of us who got our legal education right here in this building, we learned the import of the First Amendment.  We learned it is the foundation of our society and the foundation of our legal system." Boutin praised the late McClatchy Company newspaper publisher James B. McClatchy for his commitment to First Amendment ideals, and introduced Susan McClatchy, his widow, with whom he founded the Central Valley Foundation in 1994 to enhance and protect First Amendment rights, enhance academic achievement of English learners in K-12 schools, and enhance and preserve the quality of life in the Central Valley.

Stone's lecture broadly addressed the nature of constitutional interpretation, the current state of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the implications of the upcoming election for future directions of the Court. He talked about the lessening esteem of the Court as measured by public opinion polls, and noted that it is not driven by disapproval of the results of cases but rather by a sense that the Court has become as polarized and partisan as other branches of government, as the conservative majority seems to have been "selectively activist" in favor of groups they are in sympathy with.  The upcoming presidential election could have a profound impact on the Court, Stone said, if President Obama is reelected and has an opportunity to replace one of the conservative justices, or if Republican nominee Mitt Romney is elected and has an opportunity to replace one of the liberals.  In such a case, it's likely that the only judicial nominee who could survive the confirmation process would be a relative unknown with very little track record.

"The future of constitutional law and the Supreme Court will turn on this mystery person, who neither side will be able to predict with any degree of confidence," he said.  "That'll be interesting for the next generation, because that justice will be the one that'll decide everything and yet nobody will know who he or she is at the time they're confirmed."

Geoffrey R. Stone: Central Valley Foundation/James B. McClatchy Lecture video