Law Day 2022


Professor Carolyn Shapiro examines its evolving role from post-Reconstruction to New Deal to Ketanji Brown Jackson.

By Emma Oxnevad

C arolyn Shapiro knows the Constitution. As founder and co-director of Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States, her areas of academic study include the high court and its role in a society governed by this founding document. For all attorneys, the Constitution “forms the frame of what we do in terms of protecting people’s due pro-

A. We’ve definitely had times of intense change in the past, certainly the post-Reconstruction Era, the New Deal era and then in the ’50s and ’60s with the Civil Rights era. In all three of those time periods, we’ve had significant change in terms of how the Consti- tution was understood. Today, I would say we may be seeing some changes along comparable lines, particularly if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade . We are already seeing states talking about passing laws that would punish their own residents for leaving the state to get an abortion in a state where it’s legal, or to help somebody go to a state where it’s legal. And so that’s going to put some significant pressure on some aspects of the Constitution related to freedom of travel, what’s called horizontal federalism, having to do with the relationships be- tween the states. So that could lead to a lot of change.

cess rights, in terms of protecting people’s property rights, in terms of protecting people against different forms of discrimination,” she said. And in times of division and upheaval, she sees a need for lawyers to step up and champion its principles to the public. “Right now, given the challenges of our current society, I think there’s a role for lawyers to play promoting the pro-democratic el- ements of the Constitution and working to explain their operations to the people around us,” she said. “That’s a crucial role that law- yers can and should play, even if that’s not necessarily what you do on a daily basis in your practice.” We discussed the role of the Constitution in a changing society, both past and present. Q. From a historical perspective, we think of this as a time of major change in society. How would you rank it in Constitutional terms?


Powered by