Constitution Day Events Set for Sept. 17

Tuesday, September 1 2009

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho will host a full day of education and activities Thursday, Sept. 17, as part of Constitution Day.

Judge N. Randy Smith, of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, will address free press and fair trial issues at 9:30 a.m. during a Law and Mass Media class in the Teaching and Learning Center, 875 S. Line St. in Moscow. Smith also will participate in an open forum discussing the responsibilities and constitutional limits of the press versus the guarantee of a right to a fair and speedy trial. The forum is planned from 2-3:15 p.m. in the Courtroom of the Menard Law Building, 711 Rayburn St. in Moscow. Smith’s visit was arranged through the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Courts and Media Judges.

Smith currently lives in Pocatello. He was nominated to the bench by former President George W. Bush. The judge graduated from Brigham Young University with his bachelor's degree in 1974 and received his law degree there in 1977.

A readers’ theatre performance of "A Peculiar Evil: Silencing Expression in America" will be performed by the Mirror Shakespeare Theatre, directed by Ron Hufham. The performance, compiled by Journalism and Mass Media faculty member Dinah Zeiger with third-year law student Travis Wilson, dramatizes the fight for a free press in America.

The piece has four main sections, and this year’s performance will touch only the first, which concerns the origins of the Constitution and how it was modified to include a Bill of Rights. The performance concludes with the debate that ensued when Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1798, in which Thomas Jefferson and John Madison articulate why the press must never be muzzled, especially when reporting on issues of public concern.

"I hope the audience will take away from the performance a sense of the magnitude of this document," Zeiger said. "It was the product of a revolution in thought as well as a rebellion against the old order.

The event will take place at noon on the first floor of the University of Idaho Library, 850 Rayburn St. in Moscow.

Students and others will be able to compete for prizes during the noon hour in a Jeopardy!-like game on the Idaho Commons plaza. Visitors and students also will be able to "Write on the Wall" in response to three constitutional questions posted on a wall near the Teaching Learning Center’s west entrance to the Commons food court, 875 S. Line St. in Moscow.

A highlight of the day is a panel discussion, "Conversations on the Constitution," set for 3:30-5 p.m. Idaho Commons Horizon and Aurora rooms. The panel will discuss Fourth Amendment guarantees regarding search and seizure, particularly whether the Constitution protects the contents of students’ pockets, purses and backpacks from searches on a college campus without a warrant.

The panel will be moderated by Maureen Laflin, University of Idaho College of Law faculty member. Panel members include Idaho District Judge John Stegner of Moscow, College of Law constitutional scholar Richard Seamon and Donald Crowley, chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs Research.

The University of Idaho Constitution Day committee members are Zeiger; Elizabeth Brandt, the James E. Rogers Distinguished Professor in the College of Law; and Crowley.

Katherine Aiken, dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, and Jeanne Christiansen, vice provost for Academic Affairs, provided grants to support the day’s activities.

Zeiger said the day’s events showcase a document that is important to all Americans.

"It is important for all citizens, not only students, to understand the significance of the Constitution, which is a testament to the functioning of a self-governing society," Zeiger said. "The U.S. Constitution revolutionized the very notion of governance and serves as a check upon government power. It clearly states that 'we the people' are the ultimate authority."

Constitution Day recognizes the event 222 years ago when delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created. Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.V.) inserted language into the 2005 federal spending bill that requires all educational institutions, including colleges and universities, which receive federal funds from any agency to have programming for Constitution Day. For more information about Constitution Day, visit  
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

Media Contact: Amanda Watson, (307) 272-9102,; or Dinah Zeiger, Constitution Day Coordinator, (208) 885-4013,  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit