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Our big date: Ian and Kimberly attend a lecture by Constitutional Scholar

KW: Ian and I have been “doing the alumni thing” lately. As some of our readers may remember, we were able to get into an on-campus video screening of the last Presidential Debate at Hofstra, because Ian is an alumni.

Last night, we went into New York City for a special program put on by Ian’s Alma mater, George Washington University. The speaker was wonderful, insightful, engaging, and just funny enough to make the evening fly by.  The speaker was George Washington School of Law professor and political commentator Jonathon Turley.

Some background about Jonathan Turley appears at Wikipedia (my favorite, grassroots, source): “Some of Turley’s most notable non-academic work is his representation of the Area 51 workers at a secret air base in Nevada; the nuclear couriers at Oak Ridge, Tennessee…He challenged Black Bag Operations authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in espionage cases against former CIA officer Harold Nicholson.”

The main topic of the evening was Turley’s proposal to change the Supreme Court from 9 justices to 19 justices. I would say that he convinced almost everyone in the audience, including me, that it would be a good idea. In addition, Turley said that of all the places he presents the idea, lower court judges like it the most, with the implication that they understand the value of it structurally. And, that circuit judges would like more support and efficiency from the Supreme Court. We were treated to a history of the Supreme Court, including the fact that Supreme Court justices used to be required to ride the circuit as judges in the various states to keep themselves in the flow of the law and its application. Turley believes that with more justices, there would be more consistency and less politics; there would be less chance for one over-powerful swing voter; there would be less danger of destablization with each solitary appointment; and there might be a chance for judges to ride circuit again – or at least sit in on some circuit trials.

One of the biggest laughs of the evening was when Turley scoffed at Jefforsonian scholars and asserted the superiority of Madisonians like himself. Turley has studied Madison and his biography intently. It was interesting to hear about how founding father James Madison was such an expert on the structure of government, and wrapped himself in the study of government.

Ian and I hovered in the circle of Turley’s admirers for over an hour after the talk. Some of Turley’s impressions and insights on life in Washington D.C. are just too juicy and speculative to put in writing. Though, I will share some ideas covered over the course of the evening: He is very, very disappointed with Nancy Pelosi and her decision not to impeach; Even though he dislikes Pelosi’s politics, he believes Pelosi probably did the right thing in not giving Jane Harman the Chairmanship of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, based on Harman’s mistakes with FISA; Turley is disappointed with the circle of advisors Obama has around him (though, I think that, if I understood, Turley believes Obama would be a better President…on that note, it was difficult to read him, though.); Turley has grave concerns with the electoral college, and thinks if the Democrats were wise, they would reform or abolish it; He is disgusted with the lobbying in D.C., and seemed to have a “throw them all out” kind of mentality; He suggested that two of the most honorable Congresspeople ever were Ron Paul and a Congressperson from either Illinois or Indiana, whose name I can’t remember.

Ian knew that Turley had made some brave stand in relation to Guantanamo Bay. Turley explained that near the beginning of the Guatanamo Bay legalities, Turley and several other GW professors wrote a letter to the government saying that the military tribunals were so unfair, that they would not participate.

It was a rare treat to hear Jonathan Turley’s candid opinions of the current Supreme Court and the justices who serve and/or served on it. The talk included reflections on many of the court’s customs. It is interesting that some Chief Justices asserted that all decision appear under their name, though there is no mandate for that system. Also, an interesting political/philosophical controversy was discussed about if the court should display unanimity at the final vote – which at times in history, it has required of its members. Turley dislikes the way that modern confirmation hearings have gone-with little to no discussion of real issues. Turley had high praise for well-written decisions, and admired the work of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (I figure that Holmes’ father, the writer/physician simply helped him and or gave him a few good tips.) Turley did not seem to enjoy the swing-vote career of Sandra Day O’Connor. He has a great respect for the work of Justice John Paul Stevens. We were treated to many anecdoctal stories about encounters with Justice Stevens.

It was very exciting to note that Turley has a great respect for third parties. He suggested that the two party system we have is so corrupt, that something drastic needs to be done, and that might mean suporting third parties. Turley is careful with his words and his endorsements, because as a commentator, he must stay aloof on certain matters. Though, Turley noticed Ian’s Green Party, McKinney/Clemete 2008 pin right away, knew what it was, and commented positively on it. So, we will take that as a good sign.

Jonathan Turley makes many radio appearances as a political commentator, including with USA Today.  So, you might see him around. He is worth listening to.

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