Who Wins? Professors Argue Supreme Court Cases in WLA Debate

4/11/2014  - 

 

2014WLA Debate Kobil Beattie
Professors Beattie and Kobil.

2014WLA Debate Cordray Gilles
Professors Cordray and Gilles.

2014WLA Debate Looper Friedman
Professor Looper-Friedman.

How will the United States Supreme Court decide Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores? Does the Sixth Circuit understand the ripeness doctrine? Can a City Council open its session with prayer? These were the questions that Capital Law School faculty hotly debated on Monday April 7, 2014 at the WLA annual constitutional law debate.

The faculty, students and staff who packed the standing-room only room 242 first heard Professor Strasser argue Hobby Lobby’s position – that for-profit corporations do have first amendment religious rights. “Nonsensical,” responded Professor Looper-Friedman (arguing for the government): it makes no sense to say that a corporate entity has a “conscience.” The audience peppered both professors with questions: Did it matter that Hobby Lobby was a closely-held organization? How would the Court likely rule? 

 The next debate – between Professors Kobil and Gilles – featured Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus . An Ohio case, that challenges Ohio Rev. Code § 3517.21(B) which punishes false factual statements made to affect the outcome of an elections. Professor Kobil (for the Susan B. Anthony List) asserted that the case was ripe for review and that the First Amendment precluded Ohio from criminalizing knowingly false statements made in a political campaign. “After Alvarez, you can’t gag debate, simply by labeling it false,” Kobil argued. “Wrong x 2,” declared Professor Gilles, pointing out that the case was not ripe for review and that intentional lies in a campaign could and should be punished.

The debate could have gone on forever – but Professor Cordray stepped in as moderator, silenced the two professors, and turned the stage over to Professor Beattie to discuss Town of Greece v. Galloway. “Imagine you are before the Supreme Court and stand up,” commanded Professor Beattie, who proceeded to re-enact the prayer at issue in the case. “Was there coercion?” he asked. “Did the words of the prayer matter?” These are the very issues that the Court must decide in City of Greece and the result, Professor Beattie predicted, would turn on Justice Kennedy’s vote.

When the debate adjourned, but students were left wondering just how would these cases will come out. Just wait until June for the Supreme Court’s decisions--- and if you missed this year’s WLA Con law Debate – just wait until next year for another lively debate.