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Noted constitutional scholar presents John P. Frank Memorial Lecture

portrait shot of Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
February 16, 2012

"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 – are ultimately being fought over as issues of federalism," says Erwin Chemerinsky, noted constitutional scholar and founding dean and Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine. "This is not unusual for the United States."

Chemerinsky continues: "Throughout American history, crucial questions constantly 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."

This topic will be at the heart of Chemerinsky's remarks at 7 p.m., Feb. 20, when he presents ASU's 13th annual John P. Frank Memorial Lecture, titled "States' Rights in the 21st Century: Immigration, Health Care, and Gay Marriage." The event is scheduled to take place in Neeb Hall, on ASU's Tempe campus, and is free and open to the public, though seating is limited to 300. 

Inspired by U.S. civil rights lawyers of the 1950s and 1960s and how they transformed society, Erwin Chemerinsky says he pursued a law career with the belief that law is the most powerful tool for social change – a belief he still holds today.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, he served on the law faculties at DePaul, USC and Duke before joining the University of California, Irvine School of Law, in 2008, where he was determined to build from the ground up a law curriculum for the 21st century.

Chemerinsky holds expertise in Constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties, and appellate litigation. He has written seven books, most recently "The Conservative Assault on the Constitution" (Simon & Schuster, 2010), and nearly 200 law review articles. In addition, Chemerinsky writes regular columns for California Lawyer, Los Angeles Daily Journal and Trial Magazine, and is a frequent contributor to and commentator on legal issues for national and local media.

He regularly argues criminal and civil appellate cases pro bono in the Supreme Court, federal courts of appeals, and state supreme courts. In his early career Chemerinsky served as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Washington firm of Dobrovir, Oakes & Gebhardt.  

One of the signature lecture series in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the John P. Frank endowed lectures honor the memory of John P. Frank (1917-2002), a leader in the Arizona legal community and one of our nation's great legal minds. Frank is recognized as part of the team that represented Ernesto Miranda before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966 – the case in which the High Court ruled that suspects must be advised of their right to legal counsel. Frank wrote or delivered arguments for numerous First Amendment and desegregation cases and made important contributions to the historical brief for Brown v. Board of Education. He is remembered as well for his expertise in civil procedure and standards for judicial disqualification. A lawyer, constitutional scholar, historian, author and mentor, his opinion was sought by presidents and Supreme Court justices and he was influential in shaping public policy in Arizona and the nation.

The series, which is sponsored by Justice and Social Inquiry in the School of Social Transformation, honors Frank's lifelong commitments to justice, scholarship and law, and has been made possible through the generosity of Frank's many friends and admirers as well as the Phoenix law firm of Lewis and Roca, which Frank joined in 1954.

To learn more about the Feb. 20 John P. Frank Memorial Lecture, contact Jennifer Brown in the School of Social Transformation at 480-727-8714.