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Judicial panel to discuss Judge Jeffrey Sutton’s book

The Bolch Judicial Institute welcomes Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Judge Joan Larsen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Justice Goodwin Liu of the Supreme Court of California, and Judge Allison Eid of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, for a roundtable discussion of Judge Sutton’s book, 51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law. The discussion will be moderated by David F. Levi, the Levi Family Professor of Law and Judicial Studies and director of the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School.

The event will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, in Room 3041 of Duke Law School. A book signing will follow at 1:30 in the third floor lobby area; Duke’s Gothic Bookstore will be selling copies of the book.

51 Imperfect Solutions examines the role of state constitutions in establishing and advancing civil liberties. In an article about the book published in the summer 2018 edition of Judicature, Georgia Supreme Court Justice Sarah Hawkins Warren (a Duke Law graduate and the former Solicitor General of Georgia), wrote:

Judge Sutton persuasively argues that state constitutions are underappreciated and, in many cases, unexplored. Practically speaking, this phenomenon — which persists more than two decades after he began observing this trend during his service as Ohio Solicitor — may be attributable to many causes, including litigants and jurists who reflexively treat state and federal constitutional provisions as coextensive when a state constitution is similar to the federal one. His broader point is that state constitutions, and the potential differences between rights provided by state constitutions and the federal constitution, are not always top-of-mind for many of the people who play an integral role in the legal system: academics, advocates, and even jurists.

The “central conviction” of 51 Imperfect Solutions is grounded in the notion that States can set “positive examples that hold the potential to be . . . influential in the development of American constitutional law,” and that the “underappreciation of state constitutional law has hurt state and federal law and has undermined the appropriate balance between state and federal courts in protecting individual liberty.” This is especially true when, for example, a “National Court declines to enforce a right, [and] the state courts become the only forum . . . for enforcing the right under their own constitutions, making it imperative to see whether and, if so, how the States fill gaps left by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Read an excerpt of Judge Sutton’s book, and Warren’s full article, in the summer 2018 Judicature.

For questions about the event, contact Melinda Vaughn in the Bolch Judicial Institute at melinda.vaughn@law.duke.edu.