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Does the Supreme Court care about your views on abortion, capital punishment and gay rights, or does the court interpret the Constitution in a vacuum?

A panel of distinguished lawyers, historians and political scientists will debate the Supreme Court’s relationship with public opinion at the University of Richmond School of Law, March 24, 3-5 p.m., Moot Court Room. A reception and book signing will follow the program, which is open to the public.

In a keynote address, Barry Friedman, vice dean at New York University Law School, one of the nation’s top constitutional theorists and author of the critically acclaimed and recently published book, The Will of the People, will discuss the Supreme Court’s role in American politics. His address will be followed by commentary from:

Larry Baum, Political Science Department, Ohio State University

Neal Devins, director, Institute of Bill of Rights Law, William & Mary Law School

Woody Holton, History Department, University of Richmond

Corinna Barrett Lain, University of Richmond School of Law

Jack Preis, University of Richmond School of Law, moderator

“This is a great opportunity to hear scholars from diverse academic disciplines discuss a critical public policy issue,” said Lain. “We tend to think — and perhaps even hope — that the Supreme Court is not swayed by the winds of public opinion, but Professor Friedman offers a starkly different account of the court. What he so persuasively demonstrates is that the Supreme Court rarely strays far from prevailing public opinion, and on the few occasions when it has, it is the court, rather than the people, that ultimately falls into line. That is a fairly astounding claim. Professor Friedman’s views are controversial and sure to elicit a spirited debate.”

Lain also said, “Professor Friedman’s book, The Will of the People, is insightful, beautifully written and compelling. It not only makes an important point about the Supreme Court and its role in our democracy, but it is also a great read. The University of Richmond School of Law is fortunate to have one of the nation’s preeminent constitutional law scholars here to discuss issues that cut to the core of our democracy.”