union cards

Sanford Levinson SLevinson at law.utexas.edu
Fri Sep 24 13:58:37 PDT 2010

I begin my constitutional law courses with "the case of the United States Bank," which, of course, for me is decidedly not the same as beginning with McCulloch, since the initial debate is that among Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Randolph and the decision by Washington.  The reason I mention this is that I always ask students how it is, exactly, that the non-lawyer Washington was supposed to decide who had the better argument (not to mention that two of the three lawyers, Jefferson and Randolph, believed the bill was unconstitutional, as against Hamilton, of couse).  Does one not have to be a lawyer to understand constitutional law (which, of course, is my own position)?  If, on the other hand, professional expertise is required, then why shouldn't Washington have simply said, the anti's, one of whom is my Attorney General, explicitly to give his opinon as to constituitonality of legislation, have it?

Obviously, I see no reason to believe that law professors, any more than certified lawyers, have a monopoly on useful discussions of the United States Constitution.  I suspect it is highly desirable to be a lawyer to be a district judge, since one must know the rules of evidence (which almost no law professor who does not teach teh subject does).  Does anyone really believe that every one of the members of the United States Supreme Court really needs to be a lawyer?  (And does this mean being a member of the Bar or only graduating from law school?  I suspect that all of us know distinguished law professors who have never taken a bar exam.)

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