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Conversation on the U.S. Constitution

USC College symposium on the Constitution and the war on terror features talk by Dean Howard Gillman.

October 1, 2007

Commemorating Constitution Day, which was celebrated nationwide on Sept. 17, USC College Dean Howard Gillman held a “Conversation on the Constitution” with faculty and graduate students during a noon-hour symposium that focused on the war on terror’s implications for freedom, civil liberties and the historic balance of powers among the three branches of government.

Gillman, a professor of political science and history, is a nationally recognized scholar of the Constitution and judicial politics.

During the talk, he outlined recent debates in Congress and the courts concerning efforts to fight terrorism, touched on events in American history when security and personal freedoms came into conflict and asked a provocative question: Are we witnessing a war on terror or a war on the Constitution?

He also emphasized that preservation of constitutional values is as much a matter of politics as law. “When certain constitutional values receive very little support in the political system, people should not expect judges to protect them from perceived abuses,” Gillman said. “Ultimately, the Constitution belongs to the people it is designed to serve and protect. Elections of presidents and senators matter more to the development of constitutional protections than legal precedents.”

The audience at the University Club included about three dozen faculty and graduate students from the departments of political science, international relations and history who engaged in a 40-minute discourse with Gillman at the conclusion of his 25-minute discussion.

Gillman, a leader in the American Political Science Association, chairs the group’s Law and Courts Section. His first book, The Constitution Besieged: The Rise and Demise of Lochner Era Police Powers Jurisprudence (Duke University Press, 1993), received the C. Herman Pritchett Award, one of the highest honors in his discipline.

As an expert on political and judicial affairs, Gillman is frequently quoted by national media. His book, The Votes That Counted: How the Court Decided the 2000 Presidential Election (University of Chicago Press, 2001), is recognized as the definitive scholarly analysis of the Bush-Gore recount. He is also co-editor and contributor to two other books on the Supreme Court as well as more than 30 scholarly articles.