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New Constitutional Society Hosts Kick-Off Event

Titled "Taking Back the Constitution," the program, which took place at the UNC School of Social Work, featured speeches from a number of prominent attorneys, including the society's founder, Peter Rubin, counsel to former Vice President Al Gore in the two Florida election cases heard by the Supreme Court.

Other speakers included Walter Dellinger, former acting U.S. solicitor general; Theresa Wynn Roseborough, a former attorney with the Department of Justice; and Lisa Brown, Gore's former chief counsel.

"There's been incredible excitement about, thirst for, desire for, an organization like this," said Rubin, ACS founder and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. "And we're very excited about what's happening tonight."

The ACS, formed in 1999, is a national organization of law students, law professors, lawyers, judges and others that seeks to revitalize and transform legal debate from law school classrooms to federal courtrooms, Rubin said.

The organization works through local chapters of law students, faculty and attorneys to promote its values. "We have over 40 (student) chapters nationwide so far, and there are over 40 more that are in the planning stages," Rubin said.

Rubin spoke positively about his organization's two newest chapters, saying he has high expectations for both. "I hope that the Duke and UNC chapters will be bulwarks of the American Constitution Society," he said. "It's certainly true that North Carolina has a great, great, great and nationally important progressive tradition, and we hope that they would be really leading lights.

"It's great that they're working together -- usually they're just eyeing each other suspiciously across a basketball court."

Ashley Huffstetler, president of the new UNC chapter, said she understands the importance of getting the chapter up and running.

"We were all excited by the kick-off event that happened at Georgetown this summer, and we had decided that we really wanted to build a very strong foundation (at UNC)," she said. "I think the most important thing is that people know what we are, what we do."

Rubin said an important goal of ACS is to foster debate about differing ideologies. But he and the other speakers also used the event to promote the liberal, progressive ideology that led to the society's creation.

"In area after area ... there is this pervasive conservative tilt, and we're hoping to correct that and shift things back to where they really ought to be and where the founders of our country -- I think -- put them," Rubin said.

"In the law itself, particularly the law created by judges around the country, most of whom were appointed by presidents Reagan and Bush, there is a pervasive conservative orthodoxy that is not consistent with the text of our Constitution or with the purposes underlying our Constitution."

The ACS, he added, is "dedicated to restoring to their rightful -- and traditionally central -- place in American law the values of respect for human dignity, protection of individual rights and liberties, genuine equality and access to justice."

Brown also said the organization fills a gap in the legal and political world. "We don't know what tomorrow's issues are going to be," she said. "What I do know is that we need a group like ACS."

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