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Westmont Law Class to Debate Supreme Court Case on First Amendment; Public Invited

Ten Westmont College students will simulate a U.S. Supreme Court trial hinging on the First Amendment from 7 to 8 p.m. this Thursday, April 3, in the Hieronymus Lounge at Westmont’s Kerrwood Hall.

Dr. Jesse Covington
Dr. Jesse Covington

The event is free and open to the public.

The Constitutional Law class will try McCullen v. Coakley, a 2009 Massachusetts Legislature case that created a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the case in its current term.

Dr. Jesse Covington, who has held these types of class simulations since 2009, says the format follows the structure of real oral arguments before the Supreme Court.

“This provides helpful insights into a controversial political issue with intense back-and-forth debate between attorneys and the judges,” he says.

The petitioners, individuals who engage in pro-life counseling outside of Massachusetts abortion clinics, sued in federal district court. They argued that the law violated the First Amendment protection of free speech.

Students will debate whether the First Circuit erred in upholding the state law under the First Amendment as applied to the states through the 14th Amendment. They will also argue if the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hill v. Colorado applies and whether it should be limited or overruled.

Covington, a Pepperdine University alumnus, earned master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame and Westminster Theological Seminary. He has a doctorate in political science from Notre Dame. He contributed a chapter on Augustine to a book, Natural Law and Evangelical Political Thought, which he also co-edited. He contributed to a chapter, “John Locke: Toward a Politics of Liberty,” in Freedom and the Human Person. In 2010, he earned Westmont’s Teacher of the Year award in social sciences.

— Scott Craig is the media relations manager for Westmont College.

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