Program Spotlight

Gray’s Inn Presents Professionalism and Civility in Constitutional Interpretation (from the Founders to Present)

Program No.: P14689
Presented By: The Justice Major B. Harding American Inn of Court
Presented On: February 12, 2020
Materials: Script, PowerPoint Presentation
CLE: Pending (1 hour)


For many years, there has been great debate about whether the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted as the Founding Fathers wrote it within the context of 1787 or whether it is a “living” document that has grown and changed over time. This entertaining, insightful program outlined this debate and illustrated relevant issues. Presented using three scenarios, each part demonstrated an aspect of originalism versus the living Constitution. The first scenario addressed the question of how originalism squares with modern-day technology. The late Justice Antonin Scalia discusses these issues with Founding Father James Madison while exchanging humorous quips and the occasional bad joke. Technology is not the only thing that has changed as notions of morality, duty, and civil rights have also shifted greatly. The second scenario addressed the question of how Constitutional interpretations square with professionalism and civility in the modern era. The well-known Marshall v. Marshall Florida estate/probate/wrongful death case of Anna Nicole Smith was used to examine how bankruptcy proceedings moved to the Supreme Court of the United States. It discussed the difficulties in presenting and interpreting the complex case in a civil and professional manner when even the judges and justices had trouble deciphering and reaching a consensus. The last scenario explored the landmark 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright and discussed whether the Sixth Amendment applies to states. Presenters outlined the story of Clarence Earl Gideon, a man of limited means, who represented himself at trial unsuccessfully but ultimately made his way pro se to the Supreme Court of the United States. A rousing discussion concluded the program.


Justice Scalia—Master of the Bench
James Madison—Master of the Bench
Judges—Any member
Anna Nicole Smith/Receptionist—Any member
Prosecutor—Any member
Wainwright—Any member
Narrative/Ben Franklin—Master of the Bench/Barrister


Scene 1: Originalism versus Living Constitution—25 minutes
Scene 2: Slideshow—15 minutes
Scene 3: Discussion of Marshall v. Marshall5 minutes
Scene 4: YouTube video of Gideon v. Wainwright—8 minutes
Scene 5: Skit reenacting Gideon v. Wainwright—2 minutes
Discussion: 10 minutes

Recommended Physical Setup

TV, videos, laptop, podiums, bench, and costumes

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