Georgetown Launches Constitutional Rights Center

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 11, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Justice will not be delayed at Georgetown's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

The institute, which was launched to show students how to fight for constitutional rights and values, filed an amicus brief the same day in ODonnell v. Harris County, a high-profile case that questions the practice of jailing poor defendants.

"(Detaining indigent defendants based solely on their inability to pay money bail, while others similarly situated but able to pay are released, offends the Constitution, undermines confidence in the criminal justice system, impedes the work of prosecutors, and fails to promote safer communities," the brief says.

For a one-day-old organization, that's quite an opening statement.

"Constitutional Design and Structure"

Professor Neal Katyal is faculty director at the institute, where he leads a team of distinguished attorneys. He previously served as director of Georgetown's Center on National Security and Law, and had served as acting Solicitor General and argued 34 cases to the Supreme Court.

"The Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection is part of Georgetown Law's commitment to teaching our students about constitutional design and structure, and will help reinforce the rule of law at a time when legislative oversight is often limited at all levels of our government," said Katyal.

According to a press release, students will work on strategic litigation to define constitutional rights in areas such as immigration restrictions, religious discrimination, free expression and privacy protection, national security, and whistleblower protection and other areas.

Mary McCord, a career prosecutor and former acting assistant attorney general, is the institute's senior litigator and drafted its first brief. She marshaled 67 current and former state and federal prosecutors as amici in the ODonnell case.

Public Service for the Constitution

Joshua Geltzer, former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, is the institute's executive director. On National Public Radio, he explained why he went from defending executive branch power to reining it in.

"There's public service to be done by standing up for the Constitution right now," he said.

Geltzer said government is crossing some constitutional lines. "And the fact that we have worked on these issues and, at times, tried to articulate where the line is from the other side gives us a real perspective and hopefully a credibility," he said.

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