Spring 2001 | Fall 2000

A Message from the Dean

Our Sesquicentennial Celebration
Election 2000 in Retrospect
Like Father, Like Daughter: Rebecca Lieberman L’97
A Case Study in Pro Bono Public Service
A Legal Thriller:
Lisa Scottoline L '81

The Master Builder Retires: Professor Elizabeth S. Kelly

The Board of Overseers
Philanthropy
Symposium
Faculty Notes
Alumni Briefs
In Memoriam

End Page

Penn Law
Election 2000 in Retrospect

Between 1994 and 1998, Kim Lane Scheppele, Professor of Law & Sociology, studied the Hungarian Constitutional Court first-hand in Budapest. After years developing expertise in the new constitutions of emerging democracies in the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe, Scheppele has emerged as one of our nation’s top constitutional experts.

A sociolegal scholar, Scheppele has called her research “constitutional ethnography.” She looks at ordinary people and lawyers, rather than solely looking at legal doctrine, to study how people think and talk about constitutions and how they practice governance.

Con Law, a high-minded pursuit under normal circumstances, was catapulted into the spotlight in November 2000. Expert translators were in need as the presidential election’s serial drama evolved from a period of a few hours of uncomfortable uncertainty, to weeks of court challenges and accusations of unconstitutional, illegal actions at all levels.

Professor Scheppele was a calming advisor throughout this period. Called on by reporters from around the world to explain what was going on, she appeared on the BBC World Service, C-SPAN, public radio stations, talk radio, and was sought by newspapers around the world, including near-daily consultations with the Philadelphia Inquirer. She also got involved with a group of law professors who wrote a public letter to the Florida Legislature, urging them not to vote a slate of electors for Bush on the grounds that federal law prohibited it. Through a connection made by Dan Restrepo L’99, a former student of Scheppele’s, Gore advisors got in touch with her and invited her to testify before the Florida legislature on behalf of the Democratic ticket.

On December 11th, at the end of finals at the Law School, Scheppele postponed a trip to Moscow to do research at the Russian Constitutional Court by 48 hours, and hopped a plane to Tallahassee instead. She appeared before a special session of the Republican-controlled Florida State Legislature to testify that its intention to appoint its own slate of electors for George W. Bush before the vote recount was completed violated federal law and was inconsistent with the spirit of the framers of the Constitution when they set up the peculiarly American system of choosing the president. The Florida Legislature was primed to submit Florida’s 25 electoral votes for Bush to the Electoral College in order to meet the federal deadline of December 12th when electors had to be declared. By the end of the next day this contentious point was a moot point.

 

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