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YLS Professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis Will Speak to Supreme Court Historical Society

Yale Law School professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis will present the annual lecture for the Supreme Court Historical Society on June 4.

The invitation-only talk, “Inventing Democratic Courts: The Supreme Court Building as an Icon of Government,” will build on the 2011 book by Resnik and Curtis, Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms, which recently received two PROSE awards from the American Publishing Association – one for excellence in social sciences and the other for excellence in law and legal studies – and was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2011 by Choice Magazine. The Yale Journal of Law and Humanities has just published a related volume, Representing and Contesting Ideologies of the Public Spheres (Winter 2012), and the Yale Law Library had a display, now available online, about "The Remarkable Run of a Political Icon: Justice as a Sign of the Law." 

Professors Resnik and Curtis will discuss why looking hard at what courts put up on their walls reveals important attributes of judging – before and after democracy. They will use the 1935 Courthouse, the courtroom’s friezes, and other depictions to trace how democratic practices have altered understandings of adjudication. Further, they will show why getting its first home “of its own” in 1935 was apt for the United States Supreme Court, which did not take on its modern form until that era.

Judith Resnik is the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where she teaches and writes about courts, federalism, citizenship, equality and sovereignty. As the Arthur Liman Professor, she is founding director of Yale’s Liman Public Interest Program, which annually funds 7-10 Yale graduates to spend a year doing legal work on behalf of underserved communities and which runs classes on aspects of the justice system. She is the current chair of Yale’s Global Constitutionalism Seminar; an honorary member of the University College of London law faculty; a member of the American Philosophical Society; and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also an occasional litigator, including arguing before the Supreme Court.

Dennis Curtis is Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. He founded Yale Law School’s clinical program in the 1970s; students, under faculty supervision, represented prisoners at the federal correctional institution at Danbury, Connecticut, as they also wrote and did workshops on post-conviction remedies and the reform of parole and sentencing. After moving to and creating a clinical program at USC Law School, Professor Curtis returned to Yale where he founded and continues to run another new clinic – assisting in the complaints and grievance procedures in Connecticut when clients allege their lawyers have breached ethical obligations. He also teaches sentencing and ethics in the profession.

Read more about the upcoming lecture in Tony Mauro's May 21 article in the National Law Journal: "Courtside: The Court tries to regain its marbles."