UT Marks Constitution Day on Sept. 18 with Videos, Debate

KNOXVILLE –- Constitution Day is being celebrated at the University of Tennessee on Sept. 18 with a student debate about whether Tennessee judges should be elected or appointed and the showing of two videos featuring U.S. Supreme Court justices.

Constitution Day celebrates the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Congress requires all publicly funded educational institutions to “provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on or about September 17.”

In the College of Law, four students will meet at 12:20 p.m. in Room 135 of Taylor Law Center to debate whether Tennessee judges should be elected or appointed.

The Tennessee Constitution provides for the election of judges, yet Tennessee’s appellate and Supreme Court judges are subject only to a yes-no vote.

The debate — “It’s Your Judiciary. How Do You Want It?” — is open to the public. Third-year law students participating in the debate are Katie Dodd, Scott Griswold, Daniel Headrick and Ian Hennessey.

The videos, produced by Justicelearning.org, will be shown at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in 212 Hodges Library. The presentations are being sponsored by UT Libraries and the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

In “Our Constitution: A Conversation with Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer,” the justices take questions from Philadelphia area high school students. The justices discuss why we have and need a Constitution and explain what federalism is, how implicit and explicit rights are defined, and how separation of powers ensures no one branch of government obtains too much power. This 30-minute video was taped on June 5, 2005.

In “A Conversation on the Constitution: Judicial Independence,” Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor talk with high school students from California and Pennsylvania about why we need an independent judiciary. In this 32-minute video, taped in May 2006, the justices take questions from students and discuss how the Constitution safeguards judges so they, in turn, can safeguard the rights of minorities and those with unpopular views. Length is 32 minutes.

Contacts:
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu