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Peter H. Irons - Emeritus Professor of Political Science at UC San Diego

Friday September 18, 2009
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Crawford Hall - Room 9
Inamori Center
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues,

As TIME magazine reports, “the never-ending march of court cases about church and state sometimes seems so rapid that they blur together.” These cases involve complex technical issues of constitutional interpretation. But they also involve people and passion on each side. There are national groups which turn cases into causes, but also the individuals in each community – a parent, a school principal – who believe their rights are threatened.

In God on Trial: Dispatches from America’s Religious Battlefields, Peter Irons discusses six cases, from communities across the country. For each, he provides oral histories of a partisan on each side of the case. Thus he illuminates both the legal and human dimensions of the judicial politics of religion. Although Irons himself was directly involved as a lawyer in the case against a 43-foot Latin Cross erected in a veterans cemetery in San Diego, the book was blurbed by Jay Sekulow, perhaps the leading attorney in the Christian Conservative bar, as “a book on the struggle for religious freedom that goes beyond the hype and the headlines…a must read book.”

Peter Irons is one of the nation’s leading scholars of the judicial politics of rights. Now Professor Emeritus of Political Science from UC San Diego, Dr. Irons earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1973 and his J.D. from Harvard in 1978. Five of his books have won the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association. Among his books are A People’s History of the Supreme Court; Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases; The New Deal Lawyers; The Courage of Their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court; and Jim Crow’s Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision.

TIME interviewed Dr. Irons after publication of the God on Trial book; the interview may be read at:,8599,1626609,00.html

Our Friday lunch schedule has recently been revised. Please see the revised schedule below. As usual, we will gather in Room 9 of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, on the lower level of Crawford Hall, for free cookies, beverages, and brown bag lunch.

Best regards,
Joe White

About Our Guests

Peter H. Irons is the author of numerous books on the Supreme Court and constitutional litigation, including The New Deal Lawyers (1982); Justice at War (1983); The Courage of Their Convictions (1988); Justice Delayed (1989); Making Law: The Case for Judicial Activism (1991); May It Please the Court: 23 Live Recordings of Landmark Cases As Argued Before the Supreme Court, Including the Actual Voices of the Attorneys and Justices (1993); May It Please the Court; Brennan Vs. Rehnquist: The Battle for the Constitution; May It Please the Court: Arguments on Abortion (1995); May It Please The Court: The First Amendment (1997); A People’s History of the Supreme Court (1999); May It Please the Court: Courts, Kids, and the Constitution (2000); Jim Crow’s Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision (2002), Cases and Controversies: Civil Rights and Liberties in Context (2004); War Powers: How the imperial Presidency Hijacked the Constitution (2005); and God on Trial: Dispatches from America's Religious Battlefields (2007). He has also contributed to numerous law reviews and other journals. He was chosen in 1988 as the first Raoul Wallenberg Distinguished Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Rutgers University. He has been invited to lecture on constitutional law and civil liberties at the law schools of Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Stanford, and more than twenty other schools. In addition to his academic work, Professor Irons has been active in public affairs. He is a practicing civil rights and liberties attorney, and was lead counsel in the 1980s in the successful effort to reverse the World War Two criminal convictions of Japanese-Americans who challenged the curfew and relocation orders. He was also elected to two terms on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

REVISED Friday Lunch Upcoming Topics and Speakers:

September 25: Where is Germany Heading? The September 27 Elections. With Mark Cassell, Associate Professor of Political Science, Kent State University

October 2: Burning River Reborn? The State of the Cuyahoga. With Michael Scott, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

October 9: ***Special Location - Clark Hall Room 206, the Baker-Nord Center Seminar Room*** Bush, Barack, and the Meltdown. With Kathryn C. Lavelle, Ellen and Dixon Long Associate Professor of World Affairs. Room to be determined

October 16: Virtue, Vice, and Contraband: The History of Contraception in America. With James M. Edmonson, Curator, Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum

October 23: Reforming Cuyahoga County Government. Speakers TBA

October 30: The University’s “Internationalization” Initiative. With David Fleshler, Associate Provost for International Affairs

November 6: Unhealthy Claims About “Healthy” Foods. With Hope Barkoukis, Associate Professor of Nutrition

November 13: What Should the Common Reading for New Students Do? With Mano Singham, Director, University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education and Mayo Bulloch, Director, Educational Enhancement Programs at Case Western Reserve University

November 20: Chesapeake Bay and the Need for Dark Green Environmentalism. With Howard R. Ernst, Associate Professor of Political Science, U.S. Naval Academy

November 27: Thanksgiving Break

December 4: What the Health Care Reform Legislation Will Do, or Why Health Care Reform Failed, or Health Care Reform: What Next? or All of the Above. With Joe White, Professor of Political Science

The Friday Lunch discussions are held on the lower (ground) level of Crawford Hall. Visitors with mobility issues may find it easiest to take advantage of special arrangements we have made. On most Fridays, a few parking spaces in the V.I.P. lot in between Crawford Hall and Amasa Stone Chapel are held for participants in the lunch discussion. 

Visitors then can avoid walking up the hill to the first floor of Crawford by entering the building on the ground level, through the garage area under the building. The further door on the left in that garage will be left unlocked during the period before the Friday lunch. On occasion, parking will be unavailable because of other university events.

For more information about these and other Center for Policy Studies programs, please see

September 14, 2009

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Upcoming Events

5th Annual Constitution Day: The Death Penalty & The Constitution

Thursday September 17, 2009, Noon to 1-30 p.m., Thwing Center, 1914 Lounge, Campus of Case Western Reserve University

A Constitution Day Discussion Featuring: Michael Benza J.D., Visiting Associate Professor, CWRU School of Law; Jonathan Entin J.D., Associate Dean and Professor of Law and Political Science; Shannon French Ph.D., Director, Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence

Capital punishment involves a fundamental public policy that, far more than most, is shaped by how the courts interpret the U.S. Constitution. As an issue, it highlights disputed principles of constitutional interpretation. It also poses starkly the question of how conflicting values of “justice” are or are not relevant to the work of interpreting the law. On September 17th, the CWRU School of Law has invited Sister Helen Prejean to give the Frank J. Battisti Memorial Lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Ford Auditorium in the Allen Medical Library. (Corner of Adelbert Road and Euclid Avenue) Sister Helen is a well-known opponent of the death penalty, as portrayed by Susan Sarandon in the film, Dead Men Walking.

In order to provide a more extensive investigation of what this issue tells us about the Constitution in American life, the Center for Policy Studies has invited three members of our faculty for a panel discussion, based on their varied experience as a death penalty litigator, constitutional lawyer, and ethicist, and to respond to a series of questions from a student panel.

For further information:,, 216 368-2426

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