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January 13, 2009

Symposium hosted by Law School, LBJ Library, and Texas Law Review explores issues facing framers of modern constitutions, January 29–31, 2009

Leading authority on Iraq will give symposium’s keynote address

A symposium exploring the issues facing the framers of constitutions around the globe after World War II, particularly since 1989, will be held at the University of Texas School of Law on January 29–31, 2009.

The UT School of Law, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and the Texas Law Review are co-sponsors of the symposium, “Constitutional Design,” which begins Thursday afternoon (January 29) in the Law School’s Eidman Courtroom with an overview of the constitutional design process in general and a look at the dilemmas facing framers of contemporary constitutions. Participants will include scholars actively involved in designing or assessing the constitutions of Iraq, Burma, and California.

In addition, the George McMillan Fleming Center for Law and Innovation in Biomedicine and Healthcare at the Law School is sponsoring a panel on “Positive Rights and Constitutional Design: Guaranteeing Medical Care.” This is the first public project of the Center, which will be formally launched this spring.

Peter W. Galbraith, a leading authority on Iraq and a distinguished former diplomat, will give a keynote address on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at the Lone Star Room of the Frank C. Erwin Center. His talk, “The End of Iraq: How Iraq’s Constitution Provides a Roadmap to Partition,” is free and open to the public.

Galbraith is currently a senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where his work focuses on Iraq, the greater Middle East, and conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction, specifically in the Balkans, Indonesia, Iraq, India and Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. Since 2003, Galbraith has made more than twenty trips to Iraq, and is the architect of the partition plan that is considered the main alternative to President George W. Bush’s Iraq strategy. In 1993, he was appointed the first U.S. ambassador to Croatia by President Bill Clinton. Galbraith is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and author of numerous books including, most recently, Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies (2008).

Other participants at the symposium include legal scholar and former ambassador Feisal Amin Rasoul al-Istrabadi, one of the principal drafters of the Iraqi Constitution and Iraq’s ambassador and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations from 2004 to 2007; Harvard Law professor and civil rights scholar Lani Guinier; and Judges Dennis M. Davis of the High Court of South Africa–Cape Town and Antonio Benjamin, a member of the Supreme Court of Brazil and a regular visiting professor at the Law School.

Participants from UT Law will include Dean Lawrence Sager and Professors Jeffrey Abramson, Frank Cross, William Forbath, Sanford Levinson, H.W. Perry, Lucas A. Powe Jr., Dan Rodriguez, and Gerald Torres. Visiting professor Robert Chesney will also participate, as well as former UT Law professors Samuel Issacharoff, now at the NYU School of Law, and Ernie Young, now at the Duke Law School. Befitting its interdisciplinary character, participants from UT’s Government Department will include Professors Dan Brinks, Zach Elkins, Gary Jacobsohn, and Gretchen Ritter.

Symposium participants’ submissions will be published in the Texas Law Review, Volume 87, Issue 7 (June 2009).

“Many of these issues deal with fundamentals of governmental structures that tend to be ignored in most law school courses on constitutional law, which focus excessively on  various constitutional rights and the role of the judiciary,” said University of Texas law and government professor Sanford Levinson, the principal organizer of the symposium.

Levinson said the symposium would therefore concentrate on such issues as the design of electoral systems; strengths and weaknesses of parliamentary versus presidential forms of government; the constitutional role of political oppositions; the hurdles placed in the way of a formal amendment; and the mechanisms for suspending certain constitutional norms, such as habeas corpus or normal legislative procedures, during times of emergency (including economic emergency).

View the entire symposium program:

All of the symposium sessions, which are also open to the public, will be held in the Law School’s Eidman Courtroom.

Related links:

Sanford Levinson/

The LBJ Presidential Library

Texas Law Review

The George McMillan Fleming Center for Law and Innovation in Biomedicine and Healthcare

Symposium contact: Ashley McMillian, UT School of Law, Texas Law Review, 512-232-1287,

Media contact: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or