Two United States Supreme Court Justices spoke to Texas Tech law students and the Lubbock community Friday night at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center as part of the law school’s Sandra Day O’Connor Distinguished Lecture Series.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer were the featured speakers at the event.
“To get one in is good,” said Philip McLemore, a second-year law student from San Antonio. “But two is even better.”
McLemore said he thought Tech’s ability to bring U.S. Supreme Court Justices to Lubbock will bring attention to the school and the city.
“If you have the opportunity to hear a presentation by two justices,” said Supreme Court of Texas Justice Phil Johnson, “it’s an opportunity anyone should take.”
Johnson was one of several out-of-towners who traveled to Lubbock specifically to attend the discussion.
The purpose of the lecture series, which was started in 2007 by Tech School of Law alumnus Mark Lanier and his wife, Becky, “is to bring to West Texas and our Texas Tech community a variety of prominent and stimulating members of government, academia and legal practice to share their unique perspectives and experiences.”
Tech professor of law Bryan Camp said having the two justices speak to the community provides Tech and Lubbock with two benefits.
“The first benefit is the educational value this provided to the students that attended,” he said. “The second benefit is for the school and community. It shows the rest of the United States we have a law school and a community that is interested in issues of the day.”
During this year’s event, Scalia and Breyer discussed statutory interpretation and the Constitution in front of an audience of about 4,500 people. The presentation was moderated by New York University School of Law professor Arthur R. Miller who is considered a leading scholar in the field of American civil procedure.
Scalia, the Court’s longest-serving current justice, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and is widely considered a strict textualist in his interpretation of the Constitution.
Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, said while interpreting statutes, he considers the legislature’s intent when it drafted the statute.
McLemore said listening to the two justices speak gave him a better understanding of their respective thought processes when making judicial decisions.
“They did an excellent job,” he said. “They didn’t hold back any punches.”
Johnson said a judge’s job is to enforce rules and to be consistent in doing so.
“We are a democracy, and we elect people to make laws,” he said. “Judges don’t rule, they serve.”
Scalia and Breyer also fielded questions from members of the audience.
“I think we should have someone there from Texas Tech,” Breyer said, in response to an audience member’s question regarding the role diversity plays in the decision making process by the nation’s top court, considering all nine justices are alums of either Yale or Harvard.
Justices Scalia and Breyer will also address the law school on Monday at 10 a.m. Law students will have the opportunity to ask Scalia and Breyer questions.