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Friday, September 21, 2012

A Wide-Angle View of Constitutional Law

For more than 30 years, the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly has been in the vanguard of legal scholarship.

When the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly debuted in 1974, its roster of contributors was impressive: two retired U.S. Supreme Court justices, the American Bar Association president, an assistant U.S. attorney general, and top law professors from around the country.

At the time, the subject of constitutional law was at the forefront of American thought, thanks to Watergate and free speech issues. Yet the United States had no law journal devoted to the topic. Two UC Hastings students, David Steiner ’74 and A. Charles Dell’Ario ’74, decided it was time to remedy that. They launched the Quarterly with the school’s blessing—but without financial support. “It was satisfying to do,” Steiner recalls. “And it’s even more satisfying to see that it’s still going.”

These days, the Quarterly has 85 to 90 members and is published four times a year. “Our mission is to provide up-to-date and ingenious legal analysis,” says incoming Editor-in-Chief Jonathan August ’13. “Our goal has always been to create content that is useful and timely, and provides a greater service to the legal world.”

From its inception, the Quarterly has taken a broad view of what falls under the domain of constitutional law. As former Editor-in-Chief John A. Newton ’12 explains, “One definition is what the Supreme Court says the president and Congress can and cannot do. But it’s really a much broader idea: the theories, methods, and practices of governmental authority.” That’s why areas that might seem far afield—environmental law, tax law, family law, maritime law—are all relevant topics. “They all relate to the exercise of government power,” Newton says.

Not only does the Quarterly devote space to these issues, it welcomes submissions from abroad. “We’ve had judicial review in the United States since the 19th century,” Newton says. “But that’s not always the case in other countries.” He says that reading about constitutional issues abroad helps us gain perspective on how government can be constituted. “There’s a great deal of constitutional law development around the world,” Newton says, “and we benefit by knowing that.”

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