Center for American Progress

Attacks on Our Courts: Justice O’Connor’s Warning
Press Advisory

Attacks on Our Courts: Justice O’Connor’s Warning

Hon. Bob Barr discusses the future of the judicial system with a panel of experts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, November 15, 2006 Hon.Bob Barr will be joined by an expert panel to discuss, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s ominous warning about attacks on judicial independence: “it takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.”

There have been continuing verbal attacks against the courts. Some have called for the impeachment of judges with whose rulings they disagree. Others have attempted to intimidate or threaten judges who make controversial decisions. Some studies show that public approval of the courts may be waning. Several ballot measures put to the voters on November 7th were intended to “rein in” judges in various ways. This panel will address these questions and many more in an effort to reveal what could be the future of the judicial system.

Featured Participants:
Hon. Bob Barr
, former U.S. Representative, 1995-2003
Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor,
Caprice Roberts, Associate Professor of Law, West Virginia College of Law

Moderated by:
Melody Barnes, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Program: 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Admission is free.
Lunch will be served at 11:30am

Center for American Progress
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Bob Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, serving as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and as a member of the Committee on Financial Services. Bob is President and CEO of Liberty Strategies, LLC, a firm he founded to assist individuals, organizations, and governments in formulating and implementing strategies to achieve their goals in the public policy arena. Bob was appointed by President Reagan to serve as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia (1986-90), and served as President of Southeastern Legal Foundation (1990-91). He was an official with the CIA (1971-78), and practiced law for many years. He currently serves Of Counsel with the Law Offices of Edwin Marger, with a national and international practice in both civil and criminal law.

Barry Friedman is a prominent constitutional scholar engaged in interdisciplinary research in constitutional theory and judicial behavior. He is also one of the country’s leading federal courts scholars. Over the last several years he has written extensively in these fields, with his most recent work appearing in the Texas Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, Law & Contemporary Problems, and the Columbia Law Review. He is the co-editor of (and contributor to) the recent book, Judicial Independence at the Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Given the interdisciplinary nature of his work, he is a frequent participant at legal history and political science conferences, as well as those in law. He also is a convener of the Annual Constitutional Theory Conference. He has recently presented papers to audiences at the Annual Constitutional Theory Conference, and Stanford Law School. He has been a visiting scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. Professor Friedman has engaged in a range of service activities, including extensive involvement with the American Judicature Society. He presently serves on the Steering Committee of New York University’s Institute for Law and Society, and as Director of the Furman Program, devoted to preparing young scholars for academic careers.

Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor and legal correspondent for where she writes and edits the columns “Supreme Court Dispatches” and “Jurisprudence.” She has covered the Microsoft trial, Bush v. Gore, the John Roberts and Samuel Alito confirmations, and other legal issues. Before joining Slate, she worked for a family law firm in Reno, Nev., and clerked for Procter R. Hug, then-chief judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1996. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, Commentary, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The LA Times, among other places. In August 2004 she was invited to fill in for New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for a month of his book leave. She is a weekly legal commentator for the NPR show, “Day to Day,” and her work appears in The Washington Post’s “Outlook” section every other week. She co-wrote Me v. Everybody: Absurd Contracts for an Absurd World (Workman Publishing, 2003), a legal humor book, and I Will Sing Life: Voices from the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp (Little, Brown & Co., 1992), a book about seven children from Paul Newman’s camp who have life-threatening illnesses. Ms. Lithwick was awarded the Online News Association’s award for online Supreme Court commentary in 2001, and again in 2005 for a torture series she coauthored for Slate. In 2005 she was voted by the readers of Legal Affairs magazine as one of the 20 most influential legal thinkers in America. She received a B.A degree in English from Yale University in 1990 and a J.D. degree from Stanford Law School in 1996. She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband and two small sons.

Caprice Roberts is an associate professor of law teaching courses in Judicial Power & Restraint, Contracts, Remedies, and Postmodern Jurisprudence. During her tenure, the College of Law faculty honored her with the “Significant Scholarship Award,” the West Virginia Law Review selected her for the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for outstanding contributions to the law review, and the law students awarded Professor Roberts the honor of “Professor of the Year.” Professor Roberts’s research interests include remedies, civil rights, philosophy, political science, judicial recusal, separation of powers, and both constitutional and practical issues in the federal courts area. She is currently co-authoring a casebook, Federal Courts. Context, Cases and Problems, to be published by Aspen Publishers in 2008. Her legal career began as a federal law clerk to the Honorable Julia Smith Gibbons of United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. She next clerked on the federal appellate level with the Honorable Ronald Lee Gilman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. After clerking, she joined the Government Enforcement Litigation Section of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C. Professor Roberts graduated Order of the Coif and magna cum laude from Washington and Lee School of Law. She served as Lead Articles Editor of the Washington and Lee Law Review. She graduated cum laude from Rhodes College in 1994.

Melody Barnes is the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress where she coordinates and helps to integrate all of the Center’s policy work, from the policy departments, fellows, and the Center’s network of outside policy experts. From December 1995 until March 2003, Ms. Barnes served as chief counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Sen. Kennedy’s chief counsel, she shaped civil rights, women’s health and reproductive rights, commercial law, and religious liberties laws, as well as executive branch and judicial appointments. Ms. Barnes’ experience also includes an appointment as Director of Legislative Affairs for the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and serving as assistant counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. During her tenure with the Subcommittee, she worked closely with Members of Congress and their staffs to pass the Voting Rights Improvement Act of 1992, which was signed into law. Ms. Barnes began her career as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling in New York City and is a member of both the New York State Bar Association and the District of Columbia Bar Association. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of The Constitution Project, EMILY’s List, The Maya Angelou Public Charter School, and The Moriah Fund. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan and her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she graduated with honors in history.