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Syracuse Law Symposium to Address the Threat of “Executive Authoritarianism”

Posted on Wednesday 10/20/2021
The Specter of Dictatorship

University Professor David Driesen's important new book—The Specter of Dictatorship: Judicial Enabling of Presidential Power (Stanford, 2021)—reveals how the US Supreme Court’s presidentialism threatens democracy and what the United States can do about it.

To celebrate the publication of the new book, Syracuse Law Review is presenting a day-long symposium that will address Driesen's major themes in panels that bring together nation’s top legal scholars of constitutional law, the Supreme Court, and the rule of law. The symposium—titled “Executive Authoritarianism”—will take place Nov. 12, 2021, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Syracuse Law's Melanie Gray Ceremonial Courtroom. The American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society are event co-sponsors.

Driesen's new book reflects on the political turmoil of recent years, during which many Americans were left wondering whether the US system of checks and balances is robust enough to withstand an onslaught from a despotic chief executive.

To answer this question, Driesen analyzes the chief executive's role in the democratic declines of Hungary, Poland, and Turkey. He argues that an insufficiently constrained presidency is one of the most important systemic threats to democracy, and he urges the US to learn from the mistakes of these failing democracies.

Driesen’s book is described as “a book for our troubled times” and “an eloquent and powerful account of the Framers' concern about ‘tyranny’” that “lays bare the previously underappreciated role played by unitary executive theory in ongoing processes of democratic erosion."

Moderated by Syracuse Law Professor Kristen Barnes, the first panel will examine “The Unitary Executive, Autocracy, and American History” with Jed Shugerman of Fordham University School of Law; Jennifer Mascott of the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University; and Noah Rosenblum of New York University School of Law.

Syracuse Law Professor Mark P. Nevitt will moderate the second panel. Addressing “The Supreme Court’s Embrace of Executive Power” will be Julian Mortenson of the University of Michigan Law School; Tom Keck of Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; and Heidi Kitrosser of the University of Minnesota Law School.

The final panel will look at “Reforming Presidentialism: Comparative and Domestic Perspectives” with moderator Professor C. Cora True-Frost of Syracuse Law and panelists Andrea Katz of Washington University School of Law; Cem Tecimer of Harvard Law School, and Robert Tsai of Boston University School of Law.

To view the full agenda and to register, visit law.syr.edu/EAsymposium.