University of Mississippi to welcome Supreme Court justices

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Henry Lang-VanDerLaan

Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan are coming to Ole Miss to talk about their careers as judge – two of the biggest names in U.S. government to visit the campus since the  presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Hosted by the University of Mississippi Law School, “A Conversation with U.S. Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan” will be held Monday, Dec. 15 at 10 a.m. in the Ford Center.

The two jurist sit on the highest court in the judicial branch of our government. Over the course of one hour, these two exceptionally accomplished individuals will speak about their careers, past cases, and perhaps their process for deciding which laws are deemed constitutional.

Although no exact itinerary has been given for what each jurist will say, the excitement from the university has been high, especially at the highest levels.

“It would be a great day for the law school and university community if we had just one U.S. Supreme Court justice coming,” said Richard Gershon, dean of the Law School.  “It is truly special to have both Justice Kagan and Justice Scalia at Ole Miss. It is an honor for us to have these outstanding jurists here.”

The more experienced of the two justices is Antonin Scalia, who has been on the Supreme Court since 1986 when he was nominated by President Ronald Regan.

He has served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia, as Assistant Attorney General, and as a law professor at the University of Virginia. He was the first Italian-American ever placed on the Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia has had a steady career of conservative rulings and is known for his strict interpretation of the Constitution. What that means, is that in his ruling, he determines whether something is constitutional or not based on how the founding fathers originally intended in the Constitution.

Justice Elena Kagan, who was put on the Supreme Court in 2010 under Barack Obama, has less of an established particular on rulings, but has had an illustrious career in the field of law.

She has worked as a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and as a clerk for former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. She was also the dean of the Harvard Law School for nine years.

She was nominated and approved to be U.S. Solicitor General in 2009 making her the first female to ever hold that position. During her short time on the court, she has been known to be far more stringent on businesses than most justices on either side of the political fence.

Scalia was valedictorian of his graduating class at Georgetown University, and then finished magna cum laude at Harvard Law School. Kagan graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, received her master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Oxford in England, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.

Most people will never have the chance to sit in on oral arguments of the Supreme Court, but on Monday, Ole Miss students have the opportunity to hear these people talk about their work – work that shapes every American’s life going forward.

Their recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act and its legality will permanently change the way that American medicine operates.  Things such as the future of the Internet, gay marriage, and the legalization of marijuana are in the hands of these two people.

“I like the Supreme Court because the people on it aren’t politicians and rarely have a political agenda,” said pre-law student Mark Sandefur. “People aren’t constantly trying to raise money to be re-elected, so there isn’t corporate influence like the House or the Senate. It is perhaps the only part of American government that is purely about right and wrong for the country. It is the least biased.”

The event is scheduled for the Monday after finals end, so attendance from students was predicted to be relatively low. However, so many students have planned to stay an extra three days before heading home for the holidays that no tickets are available. All 1,250 seats were sold out a week before the event.

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