One of the library’s most popular adult programs is the series of Constitutional Law Seminars led by retired United States Magistrate Judge Christopher Nuechterlein, Frankenmuth’s own. Judge Nuechterlein’s years of experience presiding over both federal civil and criminal cases as well as his fifteen years as a federal prosecutor make him well-qualified to lead discussions on the complicated issues involving Constitutional law.
While the Judge always presented to a full house before the pandemic, he is now – like others with library activities – holding seminars on Zoom. Nothing can replace an in-person format, but there is an upside. Everyone who wants to attend can with no concern about space considerations or even where they are. Still in Florida or Arizona? No problem. Zoom in. You’ll have a close-up unobstructed view of the judge’s Power Point slides right on your computer. Sessions will be held live each Wednesday evening from 6:30 – 8:00 from April 28 to June 30. If you miss any sessions, the video of the seminar will be available for your viewing (another silver lining).
In addition, Judge Nuechterlein points out, “We are beginning our fourth year and will be repeating some topics previously covered which may be new material for some and review for others. It is a great time for new folks to join us.”
The two easiest ways to obtain the Zoom link are to link to it through the library’s website (wicksonlibrary.org) or call the library at 989-652-8323.
Who will be most interested in attending? If you enjoy American history and thinking about contemporary Constitutional issues and would like to discuss and understand the legal and historical significance of recent Supreme Court decisions, you are going to enjoy these sessions. Discussions revolve around the history and structure of the Constitution, principles of federalism and dual sovereignty, the separation of powers and the protection of personal freedoms in the Bill of Rights, recent Supreme Court decisions addressing principles of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, first and second amendment freedoms, and much more.
Judge Nuechterlein says, “The Supreme Court issues its major decisions at the end of its term usually in April, May and June, which often cause a lot of public interest. Yet the media coverage can be shallow at best and inaccurate at worst. Two years ago, the Supreme Court decided a First Amendment – Freedom of Religion case that involved the public display of a large cross on city property. This was of interest in Frankenmuth because that is exactly what we have south of town near Bronner’s. We were able to have an in-depth discussion that allowed for informed and interested citizen participation.”
While we may not have something quite so on-point to our town in particular, every decision is potentially interesting and important. The Judge notes that this year, “The Court will address whether Arizona’s election law is constitutional and conforms to the Voting Rights Act. And there will also be a big case on the Freedom of Religion and adoption laws regarding requiring a religious adoption agency to permit adoption to same sex couples.”
Likely topics to start this year would be, A Brief Overview of Constitutional History and Architecture, and more to be specifically announced when the schedule is finalized.
Judge Nuechterlein does a wonderful job of sticking to the legal issues, and participants appreciate it. As he explains, “I consider myself a Constitutional conservative. But I explain other viewpoints such as those who believe in a ‘Living Constitution’. My goal isn’t to advance any particular legal philosophy but to explain what the Supreme Court has done. By exploring both majority and minority opinions, people can decide for themselves which positions are most persuasive. It’s interesting to see someone who considers himself a Scalia conservative comment that he can see the point in an opinion by Ginsberg or Kagan. When that happens, we have all learned something.”
Let me add that I’ve talked to many people around town who have attended one or more of the Judge’s seminars the past few years (including my husband) and not one of them was anything but happy to have attended. Prepare for some serious Constitutional enlightenment.
See you at the Library (or on Zoom)!