Saturday, October 27, 2018 12:10 pm - 1:15 pm
Alison Gash / University of Oregon
Few at the Founding could have ever imagined the Supreme Court becoming one of the most powerful policymaking institutions in the United States. Yet today, the Court has the power to sidestep public opinion, upend federal legislation, constrain state governance, and even bring down the President. Professor Alison Gash will take us back to the Court's humble beginnings, charting how the Court amassed its power. As we walk through the Court's history, meandering through landmark decisions, she will use her research on law and social policy to highlight the importance of understanding the Court not only as a legal actor but also as a significant source of policy innovation and paralysis. Through this lens, Professor Gash will demonstrate why the Court's makeup–its personalities and its relationships–can make or break American public policy.
Professor Gash will also discuss in some detail the recent hard fought confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and whether the politics of Kavanaugh's and other recent Court nominations may well end up eroding the "checking" capacity of the Court. Professor Gash will discuss the Kavanaugh nomination within the context of increasing partisan discord over Supreme Court nominations and the implications of this increased partisanship on the Court's ability to "put politics aside" when adjudicating over specific cases or upholding "the rule of law." As she will discuss, the founding fathers went to great lengths to insulate the federal judiciary from the passions of partisanship and majority will in order to preserve its power to hold politics accountable to a more durable set of principles and values. To what degree will this be damaged if Court nominations and nominees become vulnerable to the same partisan strife that characterizes the political world? If that happens, who will check politics?
Alison Gash is a political science professor and a member of the Provost’s Teaching Academy at the University of Oregon, where she has received several fellowships and grants for her teaching. She was recently awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Award. Professor Gash has also taught at Berkeley, where she received the Commendation for Excellence in Teaching two years in a row. She is the author of “Below the Radar: How Silence Can Save Civil Rights.” Her work has appeared in Newsweek, Slate, Politico, and Washington Monthly.