• Jonathan Dusza

Constitution Day at Canisius

Canisius celebrated Constitution Day Tuesday with a panel of Constitutional experts discussing three of the landmark Supreme Court decisions that the Court released last summer.

The event was hosted by Phi Alpha Delta, the Political Science Department and the Frank G. Raichle Pre-Law Center, and it featured attorney Barry Covert, federal prosecutor and professor Paul Campana and Raichle Pre-Law Center Director Robert Klump as speakers.

To begin the discussion, Campana discussed Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade and made it possible for abortion to be criminalized. Campana, in explaining the reasoning behind the decision, made an effort to separate personal passions from the Court’s legal thought process. “Without context, we’re going to be inflamed by our passions,” he said. He went on to describe the logic behind the Court’s opinion, first of all saying that, in the view of the justices who agreed with the ruling, the judicial branch's job is not to legislate, second of all saying that the original Roe v. Wade case was made on a very interpretive view of the Constitution, rather than the strict textual view that the ruling was based on. Campana went on to say that for future abortion cases, “all that matters is who’s on the court.”

Next in the evening, Covert discussed the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which declared a New York State law that added higher requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit unconstitutional. Covert discussed the wide-ranging ramifications that the ruling would have on future Second Amendment debates. Previously, Covert said, the Court had a “means test” to decide whether or not a gun law was constitutional. This ruling, however, ended that, replacing the “means test” with a different test to see whether or not new gun control laws have historical precedent. The new test is very complicated, Covert said, admitting “if your mind is fogging over, welcome to the club” and calling the ruling a “full employment act for lawyers.” He concluded by saying that many gun control laws that have become standard could be subject to new challenges, and that there will likely be many more gun cases before the Court in the coming years.

Lastly, Robert Klump discussed West Virginia v. EPA, a case which said that Congress did not grant the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from already-existing power plants. Klump first delved into the history of the EPA and the challenges to its power to regulate from when it was first created in 1970 to the present day. West Virginia v. EPA served as a culmination of all those debates, finally ruling that Congress did not give the EPA the powers it claimed. Klump then discussed some of the criticisms of the case, one of the main criticisms being that the justices who concurred with the ruling subscribed to a statutory interpretation of the case. This goes against their usual textual interpretations, like the one that looked at the Dobbs case and the right to abortion in the U.S. Despite the current ruling, if Congress explicitly gives the power to the EPA that the EPA argued it had, the EPA can go back to how it was regulating before the Court stopped them.

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