Discussing the state of the nation

President George W. Bush and the U.S. Senate have to make two decisions that will affect the future of Supreme Court decisions for decades to come.

This, and a number of other issues concerning civil liberties and political power, will be discussed at an open forum at USF Friday from 10 a.m. to noon in Theater I.

“We will be discussing topics that are no doubt going to affect (students’) lives, particularly Supreme Court appointments who will rule on topics such as civil rights, abortion, the environment and other subjects that will be important both in the right to life and death,” said John Belohlavek, a USF professor of history who will present “Ideology versus Intellect in the Politics of Supreme Court Appointments.”

“Right now the president wants to make the Court more conservative, and liberals and Democrats want to keep it from going that direction,” said J. Edwin Benton, a professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs who will present “The Politics of Supreme Court Appointments.”

Benton said whatever Bush and the Senate decide could affect Court decisions for years.

“It could set the tone for Court decisions for the next 20 to 30 years,” Benton said. “And Roberts is in his early 50s.”

Benton and Belohlavek will chronicle the Supreme Court from 1789 to present day, including the confirmation hearings of John Roberts, the nominee for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The discussion is part of a federal requirement mandating that all government-funded educational institutions give a program on government issues, according to Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Janet Moore.

“Politicians at the federal level were concerned about the lack of information the general public has about the Constitution and the impact,” Moore said.Even though important issues are addressed at local levels, state legislatures and Congress, the Supreme Court plays a significant role in the decision-making process for policy issues, Benton said.

“They engage in everything from right-to-life issues and racial issues to the environment, a lot of things students are concerned about – even education,” he said.

There will also be a response panel comprised of students and professors who will voice their opinions and analyses of constitutional issues, Moore said.

“I think with the variety of people on the panel, there will be a lot of things about our natural rights vs. national security, civil rights vs. our civil liberties and those things that all relate to the Constitution and how it is interpreted,” Moore said.