Professor Eugene Mazo co-presents ‘Symposium on Constitution-Making and Constitutional Design’ at Boston College on Oct. 31

Professor Eugene Mazo

Photo of Professor Eugene Mazo

Imagine this scenario. One day, the foreign minister of a distant and developing country finds you, a young faculty member, in your law school office and asks for your help in writing a new constitution for his struggling nation. As a law professor, what do you tell the foreign minister? What tools would you use to write this new constitution? Where do you begin?This question interested Wake Forest Law Professor Eugene Mazo so much that he vowed to do something about it. So he picked up the phone and called a colleague of his, Richard Albert of Boston College Law School, and together they decided that they would come up with a blueprint for new constitution-makers. The culmination of their long effort is the “Symposium on Constitution-Making and Constitutional Design,” which is being hosted on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, by the Clough Center for Constitutional Democracy at Boston College.

Albert and Mazo’s Symposium on Constitution-Making and Constitutional Design is bringing together scholars from all over the world—literally—and tasking them with coming up with a blueprint, or a theory, for how constitution-making should be carried out. The attendees include professors who hail from the United States, Canada, Hungary, Holland, Hong Kong, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries.

“This is perhaps the most important event I have ever been involved with,” Mazo said. “All of the recent big time constitution-making experiences you can think of, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Egypt to Tunisia to the constitutional amendments that we have witnessed in our own country, will be placed under a microscope. We really need to understand what we’re doing when we sit down to write a new constitution. This is the only way to get there.”

Mazo says he is humbled by the topic, and equally humbled by the responsibility that writing a new constitution brings.

But he is also lighthearted about it. “Don’t worry, Boston College is not the only institution playing a role in this important event,” Mazo said. “After all, the papers from it are all going to be published in the Wake Forest Law Review.” Indeed, Wake Forest Law’s Eric Spose (’16) will be in attendance representing the  Wake Forest Law Review,  and will present some opening remarks to the Symposium’s attendees.

Extensive theoretical and comparative work on constitution making has not traditionally been prevalent in the legal academy.  However, many young scholars have begun to focus on the topic, looking at questions that have long remained unanswered. In so doing, they have created a new area of inquiry within constitutional law. Regarded scholars Mark Tushnet and Vicki Jackson of Harvard Law School, Boston College Law School’s Albert, and Wake Forest Law School’s Mazo, among others, are all contributing to this emerging area of scholarship. At the Symposium, four distinguished panels will present work on various aspects of the constitution-making process.  Mazo’s presentation, entitled “The Upstream Problem in Constitutionalism,” will explore the mechanics of constitution-making and -breaking, advancing a new theory of where framers get their ideas and how they go about doing their jobs.

“How a new democracy should write a new constitution is one of the most important questions the legal academy can ask, yet it is a question for which we do not have good answers,” Mazo said. “It is a question that has always interested me. We know a lot, for instance, about how our own framers gathered in Philadelphia and wrote our Constitution in 1787. We also know a lot about how that document ultimately replaced the Articles of Confederation under which the colonies had been governed. But our experience with constitution-making turns out to be just one of many, and it is not clear if it is the best. Without understanding how other countries have engaged in constitution-making, we do not have enough information to tell another country, if it were ever to seek our advice or assistance, how it should go about designing its own new constitution.”

The Symposium’s keynote address will be given by Ran Hirschl, a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Toronto, where Hirschl holds the Canada Research Chair in Constitutionalism, Democracy, and Development. At the Symposium, Mazo will be the one to introduce Hirschl. “That’s a tall order,” said Mazo, “given that Ran happens to be one of the leading comparative public law scholars in the world.”

Albert and Mazo partnered with many scholars across the globe to bring their symposium to life. Others scholars who helped recruit speakers, prepare panels and secure commitments include Vanessa MacDonnell (University of Ottawa), Joel Colón-Ríos (Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand), William Partlett (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Bart Szewczyk (Columbia Law School).

A full list of the Symposium’s attendees and their presentations can be found here.

Professor Albert of Boston College said, “It has been a pleasure to collaborate with Professor Mazo on this important symposium. His knowledge of the scholarship in the field, his connections to the leading scholars in constitutional design, and his masterful organizational ability have made this event an absolute delight to organize with him. He was a partner in the truest sense in planning this event, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it would not have been possible without him. We are already at work on other projects, and I look forward to a professional lifetime of collaborations with Professor Mazo, whom I am lucky now to call a friend.”