By Nina Pelc-Faszcza
On Friday November 14th, 120 individuals from UConn Law and the outside community gathered in Starr Reading Room for the annual Connecticut Law Review fall symposium, organized by Law Review Symposium Editors Laura Ann Keller ’15 and Elizabeth O’Donnell ‘15. This year’s symposium was in honor of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case in the realm of individual privacy rights, Griswold v. Connecticut.
Griswold, a case in which the Court held unconstitutional a Connecticut statute that outlawed the use of contraceptives, is regarded as the first case in a line of Supreme Court decisions acknowledging and upholding a constitutional right to privacy. The response to the symposium was overwhelming, especially given the increasing public concerns regarding individual privacy and the Supreme Court’s recent decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which involved mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives.
The event was comprised of three panel discussions and a keynote address, all presented by prominent law professors and legal scholars from across the county who are experts in their respective fields. The first panel focused on the history of the right to privacy, including discussions on the evolution of sexual and reproductive privacy law in the United States as well as the centrality of wealth and class discrimination to that dialogue. Things then took a turn with the day’s second panel on privacy as sexual autonomy, with discussions of assisted reproductive technologies and Professor Susan Schmeiser’s surprising yet entertaining and informative presentation on the implications of privacy rights on “public sex” undercover sting operations in male public restrooms.
Professor Reva Siegel of Yale Law School presented the symposium’s keynote address, focusing on the extent to which Griswold has become entrenched in constitutional law. Siegel explained that not only did Griswold pave the way for later seminal cases in the area of constitutional privacy rights, but also that Griswold (and its progeny) has highly influenced, and may continue to influence, the current makeup of the Supreme Court. Siegel emphasized the 1987 Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, whose nomination to the bench was rejected by a senate vote of 42-58. Bork was, non-incidentally as Siegel argued, against the progressive, pro-privacy principals pronounced in Griswold and its progeny and vowed to overturn the Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. In contrast, the successful nominee after Bork, now-current Justice Anthony Kennedy, firmly supported privacy rights and specifically endorsed the principles set forth in Griswold.
The day wrapped up in the afternoon with a panel on privacy as reproductive freedom, a discussion that turned into another surprising but informative presentation on intrauterine devices and the negative impacts of contraceptive restrictions on teen pregnancy and the health of women and the public generally. The event closed with a presentation by Professor Kim Buchannan, originally from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law and a current Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at UConn. Picking up on the teen pregnancy theme, Buchannan discussed the different implications of teen pregnancy among economic classes, and argued that society might be better off if the government focused on creating policies that foster greater economic mobility for lower classes and encouraging sexual autonomy for people of all ages.
Students and faculty agree that the privacy symposium was a success, and we all look forward to more stimulating Law Review symposiums in the future.