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St. John's Center for Law and Religion Welcomes Justice Samuel Alito

Thursday, April 7, 2016

United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito visited St. John’s Law this week as the guest of the Center for Law and Religion.

Over his two days on campus, Justice Alito taught a session of the Center’s Colloquium in Law and Religion, an upper-level seminar, as well as a first-year Constitutional Law class. He also had lunch with Law School faculty and participated in a public conversation with Dean Michael A. Simons in the Belson Moot Court Room.

The main purpose of Justice Alito’s visit was his participation in the Colloquium in Law and Religion. Inaugurated in 2012, and open to selected students and outside guests, the seminar brings jurists and scholars to St. John’s to address current issues in law and religion. Speakers discuss works-in-progress or, in the case of jurists, past legal opinions. Students are graded on the basis of reaction papers and their engagement with the speakers in class. Past participants have included the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as well as law professors from Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and Stanford.

In his colloquium session, Justice Alito discussed some of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise areas. “It was a tremendously valuable educational opportunity,” said Center Director Mark L. Movsesian, who teaches the colloquium along with the Center’s Associate Director, Marc O. DeGirolami. “Although Justice Alito naturally avoided specifics, he did give the students general insights into several of the Court’s recent decisions."

"It was wonderful to participate in a seminar with a Supreme Court Justice and fewer than twenty other students,” said colloquium student and CLR Fellow Christina Vlahos. “I will always remember sitting directly across from Justice Alito during our round-table discussion and hearing from him firsthand. I am particularly grateful that Justice Alito took some time after our class to speak with students one-on-one, and answer our follow-up questions. This was an unforgettable, unique opportunity."

In the Constitutional Law class, the Justice discussed some of the Court’s important decisions concerning the freedom of speech and the various justifications for protecting free speech. “We’re right at the beginning of our unit on the Speech Clause,” said Professor DeGirolami, who teaches the class, “and it was an honor to hear about how Justice Alito thinks about this vital freedom.”

Justice Alito capped his visit with an event in the Belson Moot Court Room, open to students and alumni. The conversation with Dean Simons covered topics like the Supreme Court confirmation process, the value of legal scholarship, and what law students should try to get from their legal education.

St. John’s Law has hosted and honored seven other current and former Supreme Court Justices: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas.