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WFU School of Law professor to give keynote at University of San Diego Incorporation Conference

Wake Forest University School of Law professor Michael Curtis will provide the keynote address when the University of San Diego School of Law and the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism presents “The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights: What Have We Learned? Why Does it Matter?” on Jan. 7.

More than 60 years have passed since Justice Hugo Black’s epic dissent in Adamson v. California, and more than 20 since the publication of Curtis’s influential book “No State Shall Abridge.” In those 20 years, scholars have continued to refine our understanding and debate the historical evidence.

In 2008, the Supreme Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects a personal, rather than corporate, right to keep and bear arms. Old precedent says that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. That precedent will be challenged very soon, and so the topic is as timely as it is, apparently, timeless.

The purpose of this conference is to take stock of the incorporation question, to look for consensus where it can be found, and to attend closely to opposing arguments and evidence where disagreement persists.

“This area of constitutional law, application of the Bill of Rights to the states, has become a hot topic and will become hotter as a result of the issue of whether the right to bear arms limits the states,” Curtis said.

Curtis, who is the Judge Donald L. Smith Professor in Constitutional and Public Law at Wake Forest, is one of the foremost constitutional historians in the United States. His book “Free Speech: The People’s Darling Privilege: Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History” was chosen by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Society as the best book for its year by a North Carolina author and won the Playboy Foundation Heffner First Amendment Award for the best book of its year on the subject of the First Amendment.