W&M Supreme Court Preview Weekend

Benny Zhang, Class of 2020Each fall, the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at William & Mary Law School marks the beginning of the new term of the U.S. Supreme Court with the Supreme Court Preview weekend. There are discussions of current and upcoming issues, a Moot Court session, and panels of journalists, advocates, and academics from across the country. This year, 2L Benny Zhang participated in the weekend and provided us with his thoughts and experiences during this unique opportunity. 

At William & Mary Law School, our deeply rooted history with the United States Constitution is not lost on us. It starts with the law school’s namesake – some of our fundamental constitutional protections came from King William and Queen Mary’s acceptance of the English Bill of Rights in 1689. That inspiration came to the shore of the Americas where our famous professors and alumni drafted and ratified the United States Constitution. Thus, it is no wonder that our nation’s top attorneys and prominent judges descend upon the Alma Mater of a Nation to take part in our annual Supreme Court Preview weekend.

For us contemporary students, the Supreme Court Preview provides us with invaluable insight into some of the most relevant constitutional issues confronting the U.S. Supreme Court. This year’s Preview was exceptionally important to me because of my Note topic for the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, which involves a pending Supreme Court case on the Eighth Amendment Excessive Fines Clause. At the Preview, I was able to network and connect with the nation’s top experts and ask for further guidance on my Note topic.

Supreme Court PreviewAs a local elected official, I am intensely interested in gerrymandering. During the lunch break-out session, I looked into the Election Law Society and heard from Paul M. Smith, who argued numerous major gerrymandering cases before the Court and offered his own perspective on the future direction of how our Supreme Court Justices would decide on such cases.

Unlike any other law school, our Supreme Court Preview shows that the Alma Mater of a Nation, while steeped in history, is still in keeping with the times. You can be a part of the weekend by viewing taped preview panel sessions with some of the nation’s top lawyers and legal experts from the weekend!

Benming “Benny” Zhang is a 2L from Williamsburg, VA. He is a member of the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Christian Legal Society, and Federalist Society. He also serves as an elected official of the Williamsburg City Council. 

Michael Toner Talks Elections

lennonby Kate Lennon, Class of 2017

On March 2nd, law students interested in Election Law were able to enjoy a lunchtime talk with Michael Toner. Mr. Toner is a current partner at Wiley Rein and the former FEC Chairman. He was also the Chief Counsel to the Republican National Committee and General Counsel to the Bush-Cheney 2000 Presidential Campaign. The discussion began with Mr. Toner speaking about the changes in election law and finance in regards to recent Supreme Court cases, as well as what changes to Court’s make-up could mean for the future in Election Law. Mr. Toner discussed that this is a time of deregulation, but if some of the more conservative justices retire, we could see more increased regulation again in the next ten years.

Michael Toner

Michael Toner, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC)

As the discussion moved into a question format, the topic turned more towards the future of campaigns. Mr. Toner explained that we no longer live in a world where a successful presidential candidate can get by on a few million dollars in donations. With President Obama breaking records with donations in the $750 million range, Mr. Toner predicted a 2016 election campaign potentially breaking the billion-dollar mark. He found this to be particularly likely with candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush potentially taking significant roles in the 2016 election.

It was clear from the start that Mr. Toner was personally fascinated with Election Law. He stated at one point that he chose his career path because he was able to combine his two interests in law and politics into one job. His enthusiasm about the topic spread through the room and really drew the attention of the professors and students. As a first year student, the novelty of having such interesting and accomplished speakers here at our school has not yet worn off. I am not sure that it even will at all. Every day at the law school is a new experience, and lunchtime speakers like this one are just one of the many avenues for these experiences.

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