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UDC Federalist Society Hosts 2nd Amendment Debate

Tuesday, April 7, 2009  
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Fraidin, Neily, Smith
UDC School of Law students and friends packed Room 201 for a Second Amendment debate hosted by the UDC Federalist Society Chapter on April 2nd, 2009.  The debate featured Walter Smith, from DC Appleseed, and Clark Neily, from the Institute for Justice, two lawyers who were closely involved with the recent U.S. Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller.  UDC Law Professor Matthew Fraidin moderated the discussion.
A common misnomer concerning the Second Amendment, which both sides immediately agreed on, is that it requires choosing between gun rights or gun control rather than finding a common ground that reaches across the policy divide.  The thoughtful presentation of opposing views allowed the audience to realize that the divide is not insurmountable.  
"People seemed interested and attentive and asked very good questions, I thought," commented Walter Smith.  "I really appreciated the chance to come discuss the issue at UDC," added Clark Neily.  Many students said that the debate was a positive experience and very informative on a topic that is often muddied; some felt the debate was one of the best events of the year. 
The debate was made possible by cooperation between the UDC School of Law administration, the UDC Student Bar Association and the Federalist Society.  Dean Shelley Broderick, who serves on the Board of DC Appleseed, assisted by suggesting and inviting Walter Smith to participate in the debate.  The National Federalist Society assisted previous UDC Federalist Society Chapter President Jerad Tomac in inviting Clark Neily to participate.
For the past seven years, Mr. Smith has been the Executive Director of DC Appleseed, a nonprofit, public interest organization that works with pro bono lawyers on various issues facing the national capital area. Before coming to DC Appleseed, Mr. Smith was the Deputy Attorney General for the city and before that a longtime partner at Hogan & Hartson. At Hogan, Mr. Smith served for four years as the full-time partner in charge of the firm's pro bono program. His areas of practice have generally been litigation and public policy, and he has argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and various federal appellate courts. Last fall, Legal Times named him one of the "90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years."
Mr. Smith has worked on the gun issue as well as the DC voting rights issue, which is now tied to the gun issue. Smith submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Heller on behalf of DC Appleseed as well as the DC Chamber of Commerce, the Federal City Council and the DC League of Women Voters. The brief argued that the Court should give great deference to the enactments of locally elected legislatures regarding how to best balance the right of self-defense in the home and the need to protect public safety. Mr. Smith also testified before the DC Council on revising the District's gun laws to accommodate the Heller decision.
Mr. Neily joined the Institute for Justice as a senior attorney in 2000. He litigates economic liberty, property rights, school choice, First Amendment and other constitutional cases in both federal and state courts. Most recently, in his private capacity, Mr. Neily served as co-counsel for the plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller. In conjunction with the landmark Heller decision, Mr. Neily is leading the Institute for Justice's effort to revive the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by filing strategic amicus briefs in Second Amendment incorporation cases. Before joining the Institute for Justice, Mr. Neily spent four years as a litigator at the Dallas-based firm Thompson & Knight, where he received first-chair trial experience and worked on a wide variety of matters including professional malpractice, First Amendment and media-related matters, complex commercial cases and intellectual property litigation.
The Institute for Justice believes that besides the right to keep and bear arms, the Privileges or Immunities Clause can be understood to protect a variety of economic liberties, including the right to earn a living and own property, that do not receive significant judicial protection in modern times.
Due to the overwhelming popularity of the debate, the UDC Federalist Society is planning additional debates. Stay tuned!


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