The Constitution in the Financial Crisis

Michael McConnell is one of the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars, especially on the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses. Until recently, he was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. In 2005, McConnell was frequently mentioned (including by us) as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
McConnell resigned from the federal bench last year to teach at Stanford law school and to direct its Constitutional Law Center. The Center’s goal is to return constitutional law scholarship to the most fundamental questions of consitutional order, especially the allocation and control of governmental power through law. As an alum of the law school, I’m proud that Stanford has become a force for the serious study of the constitution and against the various fads and frivolities that sometimes seem to dominate the field.
Next month, the Center will present a conference on “The Constitution in the Financial Crisis.” It will take place on November 11-12.
The government’s response to the financial crisis certainly poses broad constitutional questions about the government’s role in the American economy and about how its decisionmaking power is allocated between branches. The panel topics reflect these questions. They include: “The Executive in Crisis: Constitutional Capabilities and Constraints,” “Bankruptcy and the Rule of Law,” “The Federal Reserve in Our Constitutional System,” “The Government as Shareholder: The Implications for Corporate Governance,” and “Rule and Standards Revisited: Discretion in the Financial Crisis.”
Several friends of Power Line are among the distinguished participants. They include Todd Zywicki, Kenneth Anderson, John Steele Gordon, and Prof. McConnell himself.
By the way, Prof. McConnell tells me that he is participating in the case of ACLU v. TiZA, where he is representing, pro bono, the parents of the students attending an Islamic charter school. Scott wrote about the case here, taking the side of the ACLU, which contends that the school’s operation on public funds is illegal. This is also the position I’d probably take if I knew enough about the facts, and had given the case sufficient thought, to take a position.
Prof. McConnell says he became involved in the litigation for two reasons. First, he believes the litigation is a stalking horse for a broader assault on charter schools that have curricula or requirements that appeal to religious families. Second, he believes that it is important to encourage Muslim Americans to be, and to become, partriotic Americans without thinking they have abandoned their faith. McConnell understands that TiZA is trying to accomplish this.
Presently, the case is on appeal to the Eighth Circuit, where the issue is whether the parents can intervene in the litigation. The district court refused to allow them to do so.
We’ll keep an eye on this case which, like so much else of what matters these days, arises from Minnesota (in this instance, St. Paul). Meanwhile, I’ll be wishing I could attend the Stanford conference, and keeping an eye on the internet, where the proceedings will be made available.


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