Ethics Center starts spring season with Ninth Amendment talk

contact: Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
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KALAMAZOO--The Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society will kick off its spring season of events next week with a talk on the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Dr. Brian C. Kalt, professor of law and the Harold Norris Faculty Scholar at Michigan State University, will speak at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, in the University Center for the Humanities in Knauss Hall. His presentation is titled "Unenumerated Rights in Congress."

The Ninth Amendment declares that the "enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Scholars and lawyers have disagreed mightily over what these "other rights" are. This is a tricky question, because, by definition, these other rights are not enumerated anywhere in the Bill of Rights or the rest of the Constitution. Most of the debate, though, has focused on how judges should define and enforce unenumerated rights.

Kalt's perspective is different and questions what Congress should do with unenumerated rights. This resonates with another fertile area of scholarship: the interpretation of the Constitution outside the courts. There is much that is unclear about the intent of the Constitution's framers, but one thing is not: everybody--the courts, Congress, the president--is supposed to interpret the Constitution when they do their jobs. Kalt argues the Ninth Amendment is a perfect place for Congress to reassert its proper role.

Before coming to the MSU College of Law, Kalt worked at the Washington, D.C., office of Sidley and Austin in one of the top appellate law practices in the country. He earned his juris doctor from Yale Law School, where he was an editor on the Yale Law Journal. After law school, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Danny J. Boggs, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Kalt's research focuses on structural constitutional law and juries. At MSU, Kalt teaches Constitutional Law, Torts, and Administrative Law. Kalt's most recent publication is the book "Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies."

Other spring 2012 ethics lectures

  • Feb. 10-11, 8 p.m.--Dr. Christine Iaderosa, WMU coordinator of Theatre for Community Health, Dalton Recital Hall, "Food Prisons: a Musical Play about Body Image and Eating Disorders."
  • Feb. 23, 4 p.m.--Dr. Art Caplan, the Emmanuel and Robert Hart Director of the Center for Bioethics and the Sidney D. Caplan Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, 2008 Richmond Center, "The Inevitability of Rationing and How to be Fair About It."
  • March 13, 3:15 p.m.--Drs. Elaine Englehardt, distinguished professor of ethics, Utah Valley University; Norman W. Hawker, WMU professor of finance and commercial law; Ronald Kramer, professor of sociology; and Michael Pritchard, professor of philosophy, President's Dining Room, "Blind Spots" panel discussion.
  • March 14, 3:30 p.m.--Dr. Alex Enyedi, dean of the WMU College of Arts and Sciences, University Center for the Humanities, 2500 Knauss Hall, title to be announced.
  • March 26, 3:30 p.m.--Dr. Timothy J. Greene, WMU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, 2008 Richmond Center, "Ethical Leadership in Education."
  • April 9, 7 p.m.--Dr. Chris Higgins, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008 Richmond Center, "Teaching as Ethical Quest: Pitfalls and Possibilities."