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Presentation celebrates 220th anniversary of U.S. Constitution

September 13, 2007

ASU will celebrate the 220th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution with a pair of special lectures Sept. 17.

Robert J. McWhirter, senior attorney with the Maricopa Legal Defender’s Office and former assistant federal public defender, and Andy Hessick, a visiting professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, will speak on the U.S. Constitution as part of a celebration of the 220th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution from 2-5 p.m. on Constitution Day, Sept. 17. The event will be held at the Great Hall in Armstrong Hall at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Hessick will speak at 2 p.m. on “The Constitution in Action,” outlining several Constitutional cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this term.

McWhirter’s presentation, “How the Constitution Guarantees You a Trial, a Lawyer and a Chamber Pot! A Multimedia History of the 6th Amendment,” will begin at 3:30 p.m.

The event, co-sponsored by University Libraries and the Ross-Blakley Law Library at the College of Law, is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

The cases Hessick will discuss include a case on child pornography, a Texas case in which the president directed the state to reconsider a Mexican national’s habeas petition and the state refused, and another on the “dormant commerce clause,” which deals with state and national regulation of interstate commerce.

Hessick also will discuss the case that struck down all gun laws in Washington, D.C., which the court hasn’t yet accepted, but probably will.

McWhirter said his interactive presentation is one of several he is writing on each of the constitutional amendments as part of an upcoming book.

“The Sixth Amendment is very broad,” McWhirter says. “I cover the confrontation clause, the right to a lawyer and the reasonable doubt standards. I go back to the European trial by ordeal.”

McWhirter jokes that, in addition to legal gatherings, he has given his presentations at the occasional bat mitzvah and wedding.

“It’s dynamic,” he says.

McWhirter, a certified specialist in criminal law with the State Bar of Arizona, defends death penalty and other serious felonies. He received his law degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, served as a clerk for then-vice chief justice Stanley G. Feldman of the Arizona Supreme Court, and was an assistant federal public defender from 1989 to 2007, representing Native Americans and other clients in a broad range of federal cases, including homicide, sexual abuse and bank robbery.

Hessick, who received his law degree from Yale Law School, served as a law clerk for judge Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for judge Reena Raggi of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. After spending a year as a Bristow fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General for the United States, working on a number of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hessick joined Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel in Washington, D.C.

He confesses that his talk will be informative but not funny. He says that’s an area he leaves to McWhirter.

“I’m totally not funny,” Hessick says. “Don’t be fooled by the dormant commerce clause. It may be boring, but it is really important when it comes to the court’s constitutional docket.”