Presidents at the Law’s Edge

Moderators: Tyll van Geel & Jay Russell
Role of participants: Research and present a relevant topic, lead the discussion on it and participate in discussing other participants’ topics.
Number of participants (including the moderator): 18
Time: Thursdays, 9:30–11:30 am
Place: Amherst College, Converse Hall, Porter Lounge, 100 Boltwood Avenue, Amherst
Parking: You will be issued an Amherst campus parking permit

When, why, how, and with what consequences have Presidents pressed to and gone beyond the law’s edge.

Most Presidents in American history with ambitious domestic agendas and/or entanglements in foreign conflicts, including President Obama, have deployed executive power in unprecedentedly aggressive ways and have often been accused of being dictatorial. Although we are supposedly a government of law, these Presidents have unsurprisingly come into conflict with the law by:  Exceeding their Article II powers; contesting the authority of the legislative and judicial branches; violating a statute or adopting and applying an arguable misinterpretation of the statute; pushing for legislation that exceeds the Article I power of Congress; pushing for legislation and carrying out policies that violate the Bill of Rights and other amendments; and violating international law and the law of war.  This seminar will probe the politics, law and ethics of Presidential polices at the law’s edge.

Format: Seminar

Resources: This book, recommended but not required, provides well-crafted biographies on the Presidents up to and including George W. Bush: The American Presidency, Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, eds. Houghton Mifflin Company, N.Y. 2004.

The Moderators: Tyll van Geel has led seminars over the past seven years on such subjects as The Home Front during World War II and law. He taught constitutional and educational law at a university.  Jay Russell, a Northampton resident since 2011 and an LIR member since 2013, is a retired attorney whose interests include history, politics and constitutional law and the Supreme Court.

Additional Information:  Moderators are available to suggest specific topics and resources.

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