Constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky speaks at Democracy in Action forum

Erwin Chemerinsky in conversation with Raphael Sonenshein.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and distinguished professor of law at UC Irvine, spoke to a large crowd of students, faculty and staff in the Golden Eagle Ballroom on Wednesday.

Chemerinsky addressed a wide range of issues involving executive power during a conversation with Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA.  The two men discussed President Donald Trump’s executive orders, rule of law, conflicts of interest and immigrant rights.

Even though Congress is controlled by Republicans, Trump is relying on executive orders to achieve his agenda as quickly as possible, Chemerinsky said.

Executive orders that would have created a travel ban affecting citizens from predominantly Muslim countries and frozen federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities have been blocked by federal judges. The actions by the judges have prompted public rebukes from Trump, which Chemerinsky called “deeply disturbing.”

“No one, not even the president, is above the law,” Chemerinsky said.

The April 25 discussion, “Presidential Power in an Age of Uncertainty,” was part of Cal State LA’s Democracy in Action series and was presented by Vice Provost for Diversity and Engaged Learning Octavio Villalpando and the Pat Brown Institute.

Group photo at April 26 Democracy in Action forum.Chemerinsky is a Distinguished Professor of Law and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the UC Irvine School of Law. He is the author of ten books, including The Case Against the Supreme Court, published by Viking in 2014, and Closing the Courthouse Doors: How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable, which was recently published by Yale University Press in Jan. 2017. Chemerinsky was named “the most influential person in legal education in the United States” by the National Jurist magazine. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.S. from Northwestern University.

Democracy in Action is a faculty-led series of presentations and discussions designed to help the campus community better understand how recent and forthcoming presidential executive orders will impact our students and others.

“Our Democracy in Action series is one of the many ways Cal State LA is reaching out to our campus community as we grapple with difficult issues that have arisen since the November election,” Cal State LA President William A. Covino said during his welcome. “Forums such as these are not only relevant, they are crucial to transforming this era of divisiveness into a time of heightened learning.”

During a question-and-answer period at the forum, Chemerinsky said that he has “never felt so scared for the country and all the things that I believe in.” However, he added, he was optimistic about the long-term future, saying that he believed the political tide would eventually turn. “The pendulum will swing back, and swing back very far,” he said.

Photos: Top, from left to right, UC Irvine Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Pat Brown Institute's Executive Director Raphael Sonenshein discussing "Presidential Power in an Age of Uncertainty.” Bottom, from left to right, Vice Provost Octavio Villalpando, President William A. Covino, Erwin Chemerinsky, and Raphael Sonenshein during the April 26 Democracy in Action forum at Cal State LA. (Credit: Ty Washington/Cal State LA)

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04/26/17