Federalist Society Debates Spark Discussion, Exploration

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The University of Tulsa College of Law's chapter of the Federalist Society hosted a series of debates during the 2009-2010 academic year, providing a dynamic forum for several TU law professors and visiting experts to address timely and contentious issues.

Quinn Stine, the 2009-2010 TU Federalist Society president, organized the debates as part of the group’s goal of fostering broad examination of controversial subject matter. The debates also allowed students to hear both sides of an argument before reaching a conclusion.

“We chose issues that were topical and often controversial,” Stine said. “We tried to set the debates up to be as nonpartisan as possible. It is about the issues, not mudslinging or labeling.”

The four debates the Federalist Society hosted at John Rogers Hall were:

• “You Have The Right to Remain Stoned?,” a September 24, 2009 examination of federal drug policy that featured William Otis, former federal prosecutor and Special Counsel to the White House for President George H. W. Bush; and Tulsa defense attorney Jay Ramey.

• “A Health Care System That Works: Is It Within Our Grasp?,” an October 14, 2009 debate of proposed changes to the health care system that featured Gary Allison, TU Vice Dean and Professor of Law; William Niskanen, Chairman Emeritus and Distinguished Senior Economist at the CATO Institute; and Merry Kelly-Rehm, TU Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing and member of the American Nurses Association.

• “Trial and Tribunals: What Do You Think?,” a March 25, 2010 discussion of justice for Guantanamo Bay detainees that featured Lyn Entzeroth, TU Professor of Law; and Michael Lewis, Associate Director of Law at Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit College of Law.

• “Citizens United v. FEC,” an April 19, 2010 review of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding campaign contributions and free speech that featured Tamara Piety, TU Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Associate Professor of Law; and Bradley A. Smith, Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Designated Professor of Law at Capital University Law School.

Each speaker made 15-minute remarks followed by a 5-minute rebuttal from their opponent. After the remarks, participants addressed questions from the audience.

The events were well attended, including two standing-room only crowds.

Entzeroth said the quality and depth of discussion at the debates exceeded her expectations.

“We had good questions from the audience that gave us a chance to dig a little deeper into the topic,” she said. “The format of the debates fit well with the topic of Guantanamo detainees, and the audience stayed involved.”

The Federalist Society is a national organization of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. The group seeks both to promote an awareness of constitutional principles preserving freedom and to further their application through its activities. The TU chapter, which was founded in 1999, currently has almost 40 dues-paying members.

Jimmy Hart