I had a terrific time at the American Constitution Society convention this weekend. A few thoughts and reactions to the convention:
1) The ACS convention is very similar to the Federalist Society’s annual Lawyer’s Conference. It covers many of the same topics, and even shares a number of the same speakers. The biggest difference between the two is that the Federalist Society has separate conventions for lawyers and students, whereas the ACS convention has one combined convention. Other than that, it’s very much the same: lots of judges, activists, professors, and former government officials walking around and chatting, and interesting and provocative panels with at least one person from the “other side.” (The Federalist Society’s lawyer’s conference has somewhat more balanced panels, but the ACS deserves credit for having a right-of-center presenter on most of their panels this year).
2) Anyone who is a law professor or a wannabe law professor should consider going to the ACS convention, regardless of where you fall on the ideological spectrum. While the ACS convention is progressive/liberal, its chosen strand of progressive/liberal is more or less the mainstream of legal academia. Indeed, given that the ACS presents at least one right-of-center presenter on each panel, it probably ends up with a more fair and serious presentation of conservative ideas that many other academic conferences on similar topics. The uniformly high quality of the presenters left me thinking that this is what the AALS annual meeting should be like (but generally isn’t).
3) It’s hard to pick favorites from among such a strong group, but my two favorite presentations of the conference were probably those given by Judges Alex Kozinski and Michael McConnell. Judge Kozinski was both very funny and quite effective in arguing that we should be skeptical about interpreting the Constitution in light of our moral values; Judge McConnell gave a very powerful analytical critique of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Booker.