On September 15th, Constitutional law expert Bruce Fein spoke to UDC-DCSL students about how the government’s interpretation of the Constitution has encroached on civil liberties. Mr. Fein gave the presentation as part of Constitution Day, an observance commemorating the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and remembering the importance of protecting civil liberties in the United States.
Johnny Barnes, Executive Director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, gave a brief introduction of Mr. Fein. Bruce Fein graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972. He then became the assistant director of the Office of Legal Policy in the U.S. Department of Justice. After that, Mr. Fein became the associate deputy attorney general under former President Ronald Reagan. Fein, a card-carrying Republican, left the Department of Justice in the 1980s and has since then become a critic of FISA and the continuous expansion of war powers under the Executive Branch.
Mr. Fein discussed the history of FISA courts, the Patriot Act, and the erosion of civil liberties under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Mr. Fein also highlighted the courageous acts of those who fought against slavery and discrimination in the United States that lead up to the civil rights movement. Mr. Barnes, a stalwart for D.C. Statehood who has also championed civil rights for decades, noted that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of our finest hours as a nation. It was a time when Americans stood up and opposed the wrongs of racism and prejudice. Mr. Fein added that one way to restore our Constitutional Rights is to return to a culture of civic virtue, where Americans uphold the rule of law.
Constitutional law expert Bruce Fein
Johnny Barnes, Executive Director of the ACLU of the Nation's Capital
Both Bruce Fein and Johnny Barnes expressed the need to educate our leaders in Congress on the importance of protecting constitutional rights and encouraged students, as citizens and future attorneys, to forge ahead and uphold civil liberties in the face of adversity.