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Law and Government News & Events

Each year, the program sponsors lectures by leading scholars, officials and lawyers who not only study but shape public law as well as short courses. The program draws on a wide range of scholarly perspectives—legal, political, historical, philosophical and economic—that bear on the study and practice of public law in the United States and abroad.

2017-18 Events

Makan Delrahim A Conversation with Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division

March 27, 2018
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Flynn Auditorium

Makan Delrahim will discuss his work as assistant attorney general in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in a conversation moderated by Professor Rebecca Haw Allensworth.

Delrahim has served as Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division since Sept. 27, 2017. He had previously served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy White House Counsel. Delrahim’s extensive background in antitrust law covers the full range of industries, issues and institutions touched upon by the work of the Antitrust Division. A former partner in the Los Angeles office of a national law firm, he served in the Antitrust Division from 2003-05 as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, overseeing the division’s Appellate, Foreign Commerce and Legal Policy sections. During that time, he played an integral role in building the Antitrust Division’s engagement with its international counterparts and was involved in civil and criminal matters. He has served on the Attorney General’s Task Force on Intellectual Property and as chair of the Merger Working Group of the International Competition Network. Delrahim was also  a commissioner on the Antitrust Modernization Commission from 2004 to 2007. Earlier in his career, Delrahim served as antitrust counsel, and later as the staff director and chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. 

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served. Sponsored by the Program in Law and Government, the Law and Business Program and the Vanderbilt Law School Dean’s Office.

Erie Meyer Government in the Age of

March 19, 2018
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Renaissance Room

Please join the Program on Law and Government as we welcome Erie Meyer to talk on the topic of "Government in the Age of" and share will-be war stories about technology in government and strategies for transformation.  

Erie Meyer is on the Code for America leadership team as senior director of the National Network, working to strengthen a network of volunteers, governments, and tech leaders making government work for the people and by the people in the 21st century. Meyer was the a founding member of the United States Digital Service (USDS), a team working from the White House to transform how the federal government works for the American people. Before joining the United States Digital Service, she was Senior Advisor to the U.S. CTO at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where she worked on the President’s Open Data Initiatives, and standing up USDS.

Meyer previously helped stand up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with now-Senator Elizabeth Warren, where she was a member of the founding Tech + Innovation Team. She worked to create a system to collect consumer complaints about financial products and services, such as student loans and credit reporting, and then to publish the complaint data. She also launched one of the first known open source websites in government, for the Ohio Attorney General. She has also been part of the strategy team at Blue State Digital, working on student loan issues and campaigns like She Should Run, a nonpartisan effort to get more women in elected office.

Franklin Foer Event Poster

Mark Zuckerberg's War on Free Will: How Big Tech Threatens the Individual

February 16, 2018
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Flynn Auditorium

Franklin Foer is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, a New America Foundation Fellow, former editor of The New Republic, and author of World Without Mind. Foer will be discussing "Mark Zuckerberg's War on Free Will: How Big Tech Threatens the Individual" at noon in Flynn Auditorium.

"Foer’s latest book, World Without Mind, delivers a blistering polemic against big tech, taking on the titanic companies that seem to run our digital age. While corporations like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google boast that they are changing the world for the better, Foer explores the darker side of Silicon Valley, addressing how these very companies are undermining liberal values and violating laws that protect our privacy and intellectual property. Tracing the history of computer science—from René Descartes, to Alan Turing, to Steve Jobs—Foer concludes that we are now facing an existential crisis in the face of technology monopolists, and proposes how we can begin reining them in."  -Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau

Rep. Ted DeutchA Candid Conversation With Representative Ted. Deutch (FL) and Prof. Brian Fitzpatrick

October 6, 2017
2:30-3:30 p.m.
Bennett Miller Room

Co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt Law School Program in Law and Government, American Constitution Society, and Federalist Society, we welcomed Congressman Ted Deutch to Vanderbilt Law School. Professor Brian Fitzpatrick spoke with Representative Deutch about the state of politics in Washington, as well as a wide variety of legislative issues.

Congressman Ted Deutch represents Florida's 22nd district, home to communities throughout Broward County and southeastern Palm Beach County in sunny South Florida. Now serving his fifth term in the 115th Congress, he is the Ranking Democrat of the House Ethics Committee and a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he serves as the Ranking Democrat on the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee.

Supreme Court Preview 2017 Supreme Court Preview

October 31, 2017
12:00 p.m.
Flynn Auditorium

Join Vanderbilt Law Professors Paul Edelman, Brian Fitzpatrick, Sara Mayeux, and Karla McKanders as they review some of the major cases before the Supreme Court this year. This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served. This annual event is sponsored by the Vanderbilt Program in Law and Government, the American Constitution Society, and the Federalist Society.


U.S. News: Trump move on healthcare religious freedom prompts discrimination fears
The Trump administration moved to protect healthcare workers who refuse aid on religious or moral grounds. James Blumstein, university professor of constitutional law and health law and policy, is quoted.

NPR: As states legalize weed, feds eye crackdown
Robert Mikos
, professor of law, was a guest on On-Point to discuss Jeff Session’s marijuana decision. National Review featured a related article.

NBC: Justice Department’s policy shift may slow booming pot industry
In his memo Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t directly order a federal crackdown on pot enterprises. But it was vague enough to leave that possibility open. Robert Mikos, professor of law is quoted. PBS and Scientific American featured related stories.

ABC News: How the impeachment process works - November 17, 2017 - Democrats have been calling for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, with varying levels of seriousness. Here is a breakdown of the presidential impeachment process. Suzanna Sherry, professor of law, is quoted. 

New York Times: Our Constitution Wasn't Built for This - September 16, 2017 - Professor Ganesh Sitaraman's column focuses on the theme of his new book, “The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic.”  It appeared in the Sept. 16 Sunday Review section of the New York Times.

Salon: Trump’s threat to withdraw from NAFTA may hit a hurdle: The US Constitution - September 4, 2017 - Tim Meyer, professor of law, discusses the constitutional limits hindering Trump’s ability to withdraw from NAFTA.

Associated Press: Lawyer: Marijuana prohibition laws unconstitutional - July 17, 2017 - A Connecticut lawyer is hoping his arguments in a drug case eventually are used by attorneys across the country to fight marijuana charges and bans on pot possession. Aaron Romano says many state laws criminalizing marijuana were based on the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which essentially criminalized marijuana by imposing harsh financial penalties. He argues the federal law was rooted in racism and bigotry against blacks and Mexicans and therefore was unconstitutional, as are the state bans based on the law including Connecticut’s. Robert Mikos, professor of law, is quoted.

Huffington Post: Can American democracy survive the era of inequality? - April 19, 2017 - Inequality is not the breakdown of an awesome machine. It is a political crisis one that threatens the very foundations of American government, according to a startling new book by Vanderbilt University Law School Associate Professor Ganesh Sitaraman. In The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, Sitaraman argues persuasively that the American Constitution requires a robust middle class to operate, and will break down in the face of prolonged, severe economic inequality. Sitaraman is quoted in the article and interviewed on a podcast embedded in the article.

Tim Meyer Testifying CSPAN3 (National), CSPAN2 (National) and ABC News (National) aired live confirmation hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominated for a position on the Supreme Court. Timothy Meyer, professor of law, who clerked for Judge Gorsuch from 2007 to 2008, was interviewed as a member of the witness panel

The Atlantic: Can the country survive without a strong middle class? - March 22, 2017 - In his new book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution, Ganesh Sitaraman, associate professor of law, argues that the Constitution doesn’t merely require a particular political system but also a particular economic one, one characterized by a strong middle class and relatively mild inequality. A strong middle class, Sitaraman writes, inspires a sense of shared purpose and shared fate, without which the system of government will fall apart. In this article Atlantic writer Rebecca Rosen interviews Sitaraman about the book.

The New York Times Book Review: It’s not just unfair: Inequality is a threat to our governance
President Obama labeled income inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” But why exactly? And why “our time” especially? These questions are at the heart of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic, a new book by Ganesh Sitaraman, associate professor of law. The book is reviewed by Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize winner and professor emeritus at Princeton. A related article about the book appeared on .

WNYC interviewed Tim Meyer, professor of law and former clerk for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, about the judge’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The segment was broadcast to NPR affiliates across the country

Bloomberg: Gorsuch’s goal in high court confirmation: Hearing: don’t mess up - March 20, 2017 - Starting Monday, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch goes before a Senate committee to win confirmation to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court. Gorsuch’s mission is straightforward: Don’t mess up. Brian Fitzpatrick, professor of law, is quoted.

MSNBC included Tim Meyer, professor of law, on a panel discussing Judge Gorsuch and how his personal views may influence his abilities on the Supreme Court.

Bloomberg Law: Trump attacks on 9th circuit spark debate at breakup hearing - March 17, 2017 - President Donald Trump’s recent criticism of the Ninth Circuit was featured at a congressional hearing on whether it should be divided. His comments cast a new light on an issue Congress has considered for decades: whether the circuit is too large to function properly. Brian Fitzpatrick, professor of law, who provided testimony at the hearing, is mentioned. Related stories were published by The Recorder and Cronkite News.

Brian Fitzpatrick testifying KAET-PBS (Phoenix) reported on a Congressional hearing about restructuring the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Brian Fitzpatrick, professor of law, testified at the hearing. The hearing was broadcast on C-SPAN3 .

Trademarks in the Marijuana Industry "Trademarks in the Marijuana Industry," a talk featuring Amanda Conley and Shabnam Malek of Brand and Branch, Oakland, CA.

March 14, 2017
12:10 - 1:00 p.m.
Moore Room

Amanda Conley is a partner at Brand & Branch and Founding Treasurer of the National Cannabis Bar Association. Amanda has a diversified practice focused on intellectual property and legal issues in emerging technologies and in the cannabis industry, including trademark and copyright counseling, enforcement, and litigation; advising on privacy and data security practices; recovering domain names through Uniform Dispute Resolution Proceedings; and representing clients in district court litigation and before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

Shabnam Malek is a partner at Brand & Branch and President of the National Cannabis Bar Association. She advises clients on domestic and international trademark clearance, registration, and enforcement. She also represents clients in disputes, develops worldwide expansion strategies, and negotiates and drafts agreements, including settlement agreements, co-existence agreements, trademark license agreements, and interstate license agreements. In addition to trademark law, Shabnam practices promotions law, privacy law, and all things internet.


Revisiting the Public Utility Conference Revisiting The Public Utility: A Research Roundtable
Friday, February 24, 2017

This event will discuss recent projects that revisit public utility regulation from historical, economic and legal perspectives. Roundtable papers include applications of public utility principles to modern problems in energy, insurance, banking and telecommunications law and regulation:

William Novak , University of Michigan Law School

"The Public Utility Idea and the Origins of Modern Business Regulation"

William Boyd , Colorado School of Law
"The Art of Fixing Prices: Ways of Price Making and the Problem of Markets in Public Utility Law"

Daniel Schwarcz , Minnesota Law School
"Ending Public Utility Style Regulation in Insurance"

Prasad Krishnamurthy , UC Berkeley Law
"Reviving Glass-Steagall?"

Sabeel Rahman , Brooklyn Law School
"Private Power, Public Values:  Regulating ‘Social Infrastructure’ in a Changing Economy"

Christopher Yoo , University of Pennsylvania Law School
"Dimensioning the Proper Domain of Common Carriage: Exploring When Using It Makes Sense and When It Does Not"

2016-17 Law & Government Faculty Workshops

Lawrence Solum , Georgetown University Law Center
August 26, 2016

Jessica Bolman-Pozen , Columbia Law School
October 14, 2016

Bill Marshall , UNC School of Law
March 15, 2017

Nicholas Parrillo , Yale Law School
March 27, 2017

Past Faculty Workshops

Einer Elhauge , Harvard Law School,
"Contrived Threats v. Uncontrived Warnings: A General Solution to the Puzzles of Contractual Duress, Unconstitutional Conditions, and Blackmail"

Neal Devins , William & Mary Law School

Ernest Young , Duke University School of Law

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky , UCI School of Law, co-sponsored with the Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program

Miriam Seifter , University of Wisconsin Law School

2016-17 Events

2016 SCOTUS (P)Review 

SLIDESHOW: Supreme Court (P)Review: A panel discussion on recent and upcoming cases

This annual event is sponsored by the Vanderbilt Program in Law and Government, the American Constitution Society, and the Federalist Society.


'West Wing Lawyering: The Role of Lawyers in the White House,' a conversation between Michael Gottlieb and Samar Ali"West Wing Lawyering: The Role of Lawyers in the White House," a conversation between Michael Gottlieb and Samar Ali

September 2, 2016
12:00-1:00 p.m.
Flynn Auditorium
Co-sponsored by the Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program, the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society

Media Commentary

Mic: 12 top law scholars say Donald Trump could defy the Constitution his first day in power - December 19, 2016 - To help unpack whether Trump’s conflicts of interest are unconstitutional, Mic consulted with 18 constitutional law scholars, including chief ethics lawyers from the last two White Houses and several leading global authorities on corruption and conflicts of interest in American politics. James Blumstein, University Professor of Constitutional Law and Health Law and Policy, is quoted.

The Arizona Republic (Phoenix): What’s the point of the Electoral College? - December 19, 2016 - In the aftermath of a nasty, emotionally bruising and divisive national election, die-hard Trump foes are trying to sow dissent in the 538-member Electoral College, a compromise forged at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that some argue is an anachronism in today’s political world. Kareem Crayton, visiting professor of law, is quoted.

American Bar Association Journal: Study finds a ‘gavel gap’ between diversity of judges and that of the populations they serve - June 24, 2016 - A study by the American Constitution Society examines demographic diversity in every state’s courts — and finds that most states are falling short. As of December 2014, the researchers concluded, more than half of sitting state court judges nationally were white males. Racial and ethnic minorities are 40 percent of the population as a whole, the article says, but 20 percent of state court judges. Women are 51 percent of the population and have been about half of law students for the past 20 years, the report says. But they’re just 30 percent of state court judges nationwide. Tracey George, coauthor of the study and Charles B. Cox III and Lucy D. Cox Family Professor of Law and Liberty, is quoted. A related story was aired on WSMV , Channel 4 Nashville.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Texas U. admissions can consider race, Supreme Court rules - June 24, 2016 - In a narrow victory for affirmative action, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a University of Texas program that takes account of race in deciding whom to admit, an important national decision that was cemented by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The justices’ 4-3 decision in favor of the Texas program ends an 8-year-old lawsuit that included a previous trip to the Supreme Court, filed by a white Texan who was denied admission to the university. Suzanna Sherry, Herman O. Loewenstein Professor of Law, is quoted.

Bloomberg: Clinton lurks in shadows when sparring with Sanders on banks - May 26, 2016 - The shadow-banking industry is a campaign issue only a wonk could love, ideal for Hillary Clinton’s preference for bulleted policy briefs. But it’s more than just a way to avoid talking about banks. Clinton and Bernie Sanders stand on two sides of an argument among regulators and academics over what caused the last financial crisis and how to avoid the next one. Sanders is focused on how financial institutions are structured. Clinton is looking at how they are funded. Associate Professor of Law Morgan Ricks, who was a senior policy adviser at the Treasury Department in 2009 and 2010, is quoted.

Knoxville News Sentinel (Tennessee): Tenn. task force looks at how best to provide legal representation to the state’s poor - May 20, 2016 - The chairman of a state task force created in the wake of a failed effort to convince legislators to shell out more money for attorneys protecting the legal rights of the poor has already labeled as “dead on arrival” any future bid for funding. Susan Kay, clinical professor of law and associate dean for clinical affairs, is mentioned as one of the members of the task force.

STAT: Scientists fight Obama plan to require patient consent to use blood, biopsies in research - May 16, 2016 - Scientists are warning that a new proposal by the Obama administration could stifle medical research and undermine major initiatives being pursued by the White House. The controversial provision would require researchers to obtain consent from patients to use almost all biospecimens—blood samples, tumor biopsies and organ tissue—even when those samples do not include information that could be used to identify the patients. Ellen Wright Clayton, Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics and professor of law, is quoted.

The Tennessean: How can public defenders refuse cases? - May 12, 2016 - Assistant public defenders in Williamson County have temporarily stopped taking on new cases, but isn’t it their job to represent everyone who cannot afford a lawyer? Though public defenders offices are publicly funded law firms tasked with taking on people charged with crimes who cannot pay for lawyers themselves, experts say those offices are not obligated to take on every case. Terry Maroney, professor of law and co-director of the George Barrett Social Justice Program at Vanderbilt, is quoted.

USA Today: Juror’s objection on race leads to new trial - April 27, 2016 - At the start of a trial earlier this month, a juror stood up to tell the judge he did not think that two black men should face a jury without black members. The juror’s words to Judge Cheryl Blackburn of Davidson County Criminal Court earlier this month — confirmed by lawyers and others present in the courtroom — led to the delay of a trial and brought Nashville into a growing national discussion about the diversity of juries. Christopher Slobogin, Milton R. Underwood Professor of Law, is quoted. The story also ran in The Tennessean on April 26.

The Tennessean: When should kids be accountable by law? - April 20, 2016 - The exact legal justification for the arrest of Murfreesboro elementary school students remains hard to understand, especially without specifics in the case, which have not been released by police, experts say. On Friday, Murfreesboro police handcuffed and arrested as many as 10 children ranging in age from 6 to 11 years old on allegations they failed to stop a fight that happened off school grounds. Terry Maroney, professor of law and of medicine, health and society, is quoted. Maroney also is quoted in a related article in the Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro).

BioScience: Will a Supreme Court challenge set back efforts to diversify STEM in academia? - March 10, 2016 - The legality of racial preference in university admissions is in limbo after the Supreme Court decided to rehear Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case that challenged the university’s use of race in determining acceptance. In light of the growing efforts by universities to increase racial and ethnic diversity in STEM fields, will the case set back the progress that has been made? Brian Fitzpatrick, professor of law, is quoted.

On Point with Tom Ashbrook (national) interviewed Mike Newton, professor of the practice of law, regarding President Obama’s plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. LISTEN

Environment & Energy News: Forecast for enviro cases: Murky with a chance of deadlocks - February 16, 2016 - With the Supreme Court having eight sitting justices divided evenly among ideological lines in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, it won’t be easy to secure majority opinions. If the court splits 4-4, it upholds a lower court decision without setting a precedent. But while that might happen in hot-button cases this term dealing with issues like immigration and affirmative action, it’s less clear whether the court will divide evenly along ideological lines in some pending environmental cases. Jim Rossi, professor of law, is quoted.

Associated Press: Scalia’s death means loss of key vote in divided cases - February 15, 2016 - Justice Antonin Scalia’s death deprives conservatives of a key vote that could change the outcome in some major Supreme Court cases, including one in which labor unions appeared headed for a big defeat. Brian T. Fitzpatrick , professor of law and former law clerk for Justice Scalia, is quoted in the article and in a related one in Bloomberg . Fitzpatrick also is quoted extensively in NPR , MSNBC , Business Insider and The Tennessean about what it was like working with Scalia. Also, Suzanna Sherry, Herman O. Loewenstein Professor of Law, is quoted in a Yahoo! News article about what Scalia’s death means for pending Supreme Court decisions.

The Christian Science Monitor: Could Barack Obama become a Supreme Court justice? - January 28, 2016 - At a political event in Iowa, an audience member asked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton whether she would nominate President Obama for a role on the Supreme Court. Clinton responded by saying the president would make a great Supreme Court justice. So, could President Barack Obama become the next Supreme Court justice? Suzanna Sherry, Herman O. Loewenstein Professor of Law, is quoted. Related stories were posted by The National Law Journal (subscription required) and Australia Network News.

Greenwire: Supreme Court’s FERC opinion offers clues about next big case - January 27, 2016 - Energy experts are mining a major Supreme Court decision issued yesterday for clues about what it could mean for another high-stakes energy market case pending before the justices. Both cases hinge on federal versus state management of power markets. Professor of Law Jim Rossi, who coauthored an amicus brief calling on the court to back FERC’s authority, is quoted. Subscription may be required to view the story.

Washington Post: Supreme Court: Life sentences on juveniles open for later reviews - January 26, 2016 - The Supreme Court ruled Monday that those sentenced as teenagers to mandatory life imprisonment for murder must have a chance to argue that they be released from prison. The ruling expanded the court’s 2012 decision that struck down mandatory life terms without parole for juveniles and said it must be applied retroactively to what juvenile advocates estimate are 1,200 to 1,500 cases. Christopher Slobogin, Milton R. Underwood Professor of Law, is quoted.