American Constitution Society (ACS)
The American Constitution Society (ACS) is a network of progressive students who believe that the law should be a force to improve the lives of all people. ACS works for positive change by shaping debate on vitally important legal and constitutional issues through development and promotion of high-impact ideas to opinion leaders and the media; by building networks of lawyers, law students, judges and policymakers dedicated to those ideas; and by countering the activist conservative legal movement that has sought to erode our enduring constitutional values. By bringing together powerful, relevant ideas and passionate, talented people, ACS makes a difference in the constitutional, legal and public policy debates that shape our democracy.
Statement of Purpose
The ACS Student Chapter at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law is a group of students who believe deeply in the importance of law as the mechanism which governs the relationships between and among the individuals and institutions that form our society. We recognize the direct relationship between legal theory and the broader political debate about the kind of society in which we live.
In recent years, the view has been ascendant that the traditional values of compassion and respect for human dignity have little or no place in legal discourse. This view permeates all aspects of legal debate: academic scholarship, judicial interpretation, and debate over laws proposed for enactment. The cornerstone of this legal view is an approach to understanding the United States Constitution that is essentially devoid of concern for the way in which the law affects the lives of the people who make up the nation in which we live.
We believe, contrary to this conservative orthodoxy, that the law, and in particular the Constitution, serves human values. We believe that the Constitution is a charter of liberty, the blueprint for a noble and unique experiment designed to prevent the excesses of government in order to protect the human dignity necessary for individuals to realize the full potential of their lives. The goal of the Constitution, and of the United States that it created, is to permit people to succeed in the "pursuit of happiness," one of the inalienable rights explicitly secured to the American people by the founding of this nation.
We believe that the Constitution, and by extension many other areas of American law, can be understood only be reference to the principles of decency, reason, humanity, and compassion. We believe that these principles should be the starting point for enactment, as well as interpretation, of the law, and that those charged with enforcing the law must have concern for the way in which it affects the lives of the people who make up the nation in which we live.
The mission of Pepperdine ACS is to harness these values of compassion and respect for each individual and to reincorporate them into American law and politics, in order to build a stronger and more decent national community. We seek to restore the fundamental principles of respect for human dignity, protection of individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, and access to justice to their rightful and traditionally central place in American law. We seek to strengthen the intellectual underpinnings of, and the public case for, a vision of the law in which these values are paramount. Our goal is a rekindling of the hope that, by reason and decency, we can create an America that is better for us all.
ACS NATIONAL Issue Groups
Access to Justice
The Access to Justice Group considers the barriers that deny access to our civil justice system and focuses attention on ways to ensure that our justice system is truly available to all. Efforts to strip courts of jurisdiction, raise procedural hurdles, remove classes of cases from federal court, insulate wrongdoers from suit, limit remedies and deprive legal aid services of resources are among the issues examined by the Access to Justice Group.
Constitutional Interpretation and Change
The Constitutional Interpretation and Change Issue Group promotes persuasive and accessible methods of interpretation that give full meaning to the guarantees contained in the Constitution, and debunks the purportedly neutral theories of originalism and strict construction.
The Criminal Justice Group examines the administration of our criminal laws and the challenges that such administration poses to our nationâ€™s fundamental belief in liberty and equality. Racial inequality permeates the system from arrest through sentencing. The United Statesâ€™ imposition of the death penalty increasingly has set us apart from much of the world and has raised concerns about the execution of the innocent. Sentencing law and policy have led courts to impose lengthier sentences, resulting in the incarceration of an alarming percentage of our population. The recent invalidation of mandatory federal sentencing guidelines has left sentencing in flux. Failure to provide adequate resources for representation of accused individuals and investigation of their cases has weakened the criminal justice system. Restrictive rules governing collateral review of convictions have closed the courts to many. This Issue Group explores these and other issues affecting criminal justice.
Democracy and Voting
The Democracy and Voting Group focuses on developing a comprehensive vision of the right to vote and to participate in our political process.
Economic, Workplace, and Environmental Regulation
The Economic, Workplace, and Environmental Regulation Issue Group addresses a broad array of issues in labor law, environmental protection, economic opportunity, and administrative law.
Equality and Liberty Group
The Equality and Liberty Group addresses means of combating inequality resulting from race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age and other factors.
The First Amendment Issue Group explores the appropriate relationship between church and state in contemporary society, as well as the rights of free speech, free press, and free association.
The Judicial Nominations Issue Group focuses attention on the growing vacancy crisis in the federal judiciary and encourages Congress and the Administration to prioritize judicial confirmations.
Separation of Powers and Federalism
The Separation of Powers and Federalism Issue Group addresses the proper balance of power between the three branches of government, as between the federal government and the states.