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2012 John P. Frank Lecture: Erwin Chemerinsky

March 14, 2012

The 13th annual John P. Frank Memorial Lecture took place Feb. 20. The event featured Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and distinguished professor of law in the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine. His remarks were focused on the use of "states' rights" arguments against progressive social change.

"Some of the most contentious social and constitutional issues today – the constitutionality of Arizona's SB 1070, of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and of prohibitions of marriage equality for gays and lesbians – are ultimately being fought over as issues of federalism. This is not unusual for the United States," writes Chemerinsky. 

"Throughout American history, crucial questions have been argued over in terms of states' rights. This is because federalism arguments give opponents of progressive change a way to challenge it while not arguing the merits. But these challenges should be no more persuasive today than they were in opposing the abolition of slavery, the New Deal, or the end of segregation."