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School’s Undergraduates Gain Insight From One of Nation’s Leading Experts on Constitutional Law

February 10, 2012
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Undergraduate School of Business students had the unique opportunity recently to hear from well-known legal scholar Pamela Karlan as a guest speaker in their business law honors class. Karlan, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford University, discussed the work she does as the co-director of the university’ s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, a program that allows students to argue live cases before the Court.

Considered one of the nation’s leading experts on constitutional law, Karlan is a champion of gay and criminal defendants’ rights, issues she discussed with students, which were at the helm of monumental Supreme Court cases. It is widely believed that she helped author the dissent in the 1986 case Bowers v. Hardwick, which paved the way for its overruling in 2003 by the landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas.

“The social movement outside the Court affected justices’ thinking,” said Karlan, who wrote an amicus brief, a petition translating to “friend of the court,” on behalf of the defendant in Lawrence v. Texas. According to Karlan, the decision rendered in the case was in part affected by the country’s ongoing “culture wars,” which have come to be more accepting of once-considered liberal ideologies, such as gay marriage. “In the long run, generational change will produce marriage equality,” she said.

Karlan graduated magna cum laude and earned her master’s degree from Yale University before attending its law school, where she served as articles and book editor for the Yale Law Journal.  Prior to joining the Stanford Law faculty in 1998, she was a law clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the Supreme Court and Judge Abraham D. Sofaer of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, as well as the recipient of three awards for excellence in teaching.

She also spoke at the university’s School of Law as part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars Program, which brings scholars from around the world to speak to students and faculty members, exchange ideas and facilitate discussions in a variety of fields.

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