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UAlbany President Kermit L. Hall Opens His Classroom to the Public in Celebration of Constitution Day
Tuesday, Sept. 13 4:15-6:15 p.m. at Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center, uptown campus

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 8, 2005) -- University at Albany President Kermit L. Hall expects a full classroom on Tuesday, September 13 when he welcomes the public and the full University community to his seminar course on The Supreme Court and American Constitutional History. Hall will use his fall 2005 undergraduate course as a forum to help students and others understand how the U.S. Constitution holds every day relevance in their lives. Hall will engage the community on the way in which a simple suit filed by a bridge company in Boston ended up shaping the nation's principles on balancing the rights of private property against the need for economic development. UAlbany will hold the class in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center on the University's uptown campus at 4:15 p.m.

The discussion will be on Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge, a case decided by the Taney court in 1837 that involves competing and improving technologies (one-lane versus two-lane bridges), private ownership, and the rights of individual property owners. Students will argue each side of the case, which parallels the recent and controversial Kelo v. City of New London decision of the current Supreme Court on the rights of government entities to seize property for public use or for the betterment of the community. Roger B. Taney, chief justice in 1837, would later preside over one of the most infamous cases in Supreme Court history, Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. Dred Scott was a slave in Missouri who resided for a time in Illinois (a free state). After returning to Missouri, Scott sued unsuccessfully in the Missouri courts for his freedom, claiming that his residence in free territory made him a free man. By holding that Scott was still a slave and therefore had no rights, and overturning the Missouri Compromise in the process, Taney helped propel the nation toward civil war.

The United States celebrates Constitution Day on September 17. The date was designated as Constitution Day by the Federal government in recognition of the completion and signing of the United States Constitution on that date in 1787.

President Hall, a constitutional law scholar and legal historian, is the author and editor of 21 books on the American legal and constitutional system, including the award-winning Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (New York, Oxford University Press, 2nd revised edition, 2005), and the Oxford Companion to American Law (New York, Oxford University Press, 2002). He is also the author of The Law of the Land: A History of the Supreme Court (Prince Frederick, Maryland: Recorded Books, 2003, fourteen 35-minute lectures on the history of the Supreme Court of the United States), and The Magic Mirror: Law in American History (New York, Oxford University Press, 1989; 2nd revised edition forthcoming in 2006).

The University has other activities planned to help celebrate the day, including a film showing of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington through out the residence halls on Tuesday evening.


The University at Albany's broad mission of excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, research and public service engages more than 16,000 diverse students in nine degree-granting schools and colleges. For more information about this internationally ranked institution, visit For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit

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