“Cases and Controversies: Pivotal Legal Questions of Our Times”
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018
As the senior legal analyst for CNN, staff writer for The New Yorker and Supreme Court aficionado, Jeffrey Toobin had a lot to say. On a general level, Mr. Toobin gave a very engaging talk. He’s clearly comfortable in front of crowds and definitely had the audience laughing throughout the talk. Many times that laughter could be attributed to how unapologetic and unrestrained he was in his opinions. (Impromptu third-party rant I’m looking at you). The actual talk served as a quick but fairly substantial history lesson on the U.S. Supreme Court. As a Government major who powered through a semester of Constitutional Law, his content wasn’t really anything new. However, those who have escaped Con Law found it to be both interesting and enlightening. The political leanings of the various justices that have served on the Supreme Court over the last 100 years, and the kinds of effects it had on American political life in general, were the focus.
The “pivotal legal questions” that the title of the talk alluded to are essentially the cases that would be brought under review should any of the Chief Justices, such as Ginsburg or Kennedy, step down during the Trump presidency. Reversing Roe v Wade and lowering restrictions on campaign finance are just a couple of the laws Toobin predicts would come under review in the event that Trump appoints another conservative justice to the court. Part of the reason he focused so much on the history of the Supreme Court was to demonstrate that there are no moderate conservatives like there used to be. Adding a Trump appointed justice would create an overwhelmingly extreme conservative-leaning Supreme Court. It was kind of sobering to be reminded of the things that would change drastically should that occur, and also kind of cathartic because he’s funny.
Overall, the talk didn’t offer any major revelations or change my worldview. However, it was a very entertaining talk from someone who is clearly passionate about the Supreme Court.
Best Moments of the Night
- He most definitely launched into a hysterically passionate rant about why the third party system is essentially pointless. The words “is of no consequence in American political life” were said. It’s worth mentioning twice.
- His genuine consternation that Donald Trump is the president. Same Mr. Toobin, same.
- Saying that California is closer to Puerto Rico than to an actual state. This somehow came from a question about state vs federal power and the legalization of marijuana.
- Crediting Miranda v. Arizona with forever changing the landscape of police procedurals.
- The thought of supreme court justices arguing over the artistic merit of putting the icing on a cake is just too good.
Overall, I was unimpressed by the Salmon. The French Onion soup contained an excessive amount of onion, but the Ath did serve a lovely French clafoutis for dessert, which I now know is a buttery cake with blueberries (or maybe black cherries?). Also, apparently a semester abroad means that I forgot which way to turn my cup at the Ath to get tea.