Join Montpelier & The Center for Civic Education to learn the basics of the Constitution in this series featuring lively discussion from scholars and practitioners!
What is the Constitutional Toolkit?
6-week online series
We often think about the U.S. Constitution on a big, national level, and in particular the structure of government it puts into place as written by the founders over 230 years ago. But this is hardly all the Constitution does - and that view does not address what impact the Constitution has on everyone, everyday, in almost all of our interactions as Americans.
Between cable news, social media, and comments from your friends or family, there’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions about the Constitution, what it says, what it does (or doesn’t do), and what it allows you to do. We want to address this, head on, in a way that is accessible to all Americans from across the entire country, no matter one's expertise or experience.
Each week, we’ll feature special guests who will help us dive into a different subject based on YOUR frequently asked questions. We will also be saving a significant amount of time for questions each week, so you can ask our scholars what is important to you.
This is YOUR document. Get to know what it means for YOU in the 21st Century!
Previous Constitutional Toolkits in series
Let’s Talk About Rights with Guest Speaker Christopher Riano
Recorded Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 7:00 pm Eastern
We’ve all heard somebody say “I know my rights.” But what exactly is a right? How do we define what a right is? There’s no simple answer to that because there are different ways of looking at it. In the first program of our Constitutional Toolkit series, we join Christopher Riano to get to the root of some of the current controversies surrounding the idea of rights.
Christopher Riano is the president of the Center for Civic Education, the nation's largest constitutional law and civic education nonprofit dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry both in America and around the globe. Riano also serves as a lecturer in constitutional law and government at Columbia University, where he teaches comparative jurisprudence, constitutional theory, and the fundamentals of government. He has served as a speaker and author at dozens of conferences and in a number of publications on numerous parts of constitutional theory. His book Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws, co-authored with Professor William N. Eskridge, Jr. of Yale Law School, tells the definitive story of the marriage equality movement from 1967 to 2015. Prior to the Center, Riano served as the assistant counsel to the governor of New York for education, arts, and constitutional law. He has also been the general counsel for the New York State Liquor Authority, an administrative law judge for New York State, and a partner at Drohan Lee LLP. He is the founder and CEO of The Riano Group, LLC.
Constitutional Toolkit Series - Lets Talk About Rights with Christopher Riano
Who’s In Charge, Anyway?
with Guest Speaker Susan M. Leeson
Recorded Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 7:00 pm Eastern
We live in a complicated world where it’s not always clear which branch of government is in control of issues that affect our lives directly (thanks, James Madison). So let’s dive in ... from healthcare to homeland security, from emergency response to infrastructure and transportation, we’ll consider the challenges and opportunities of federal, state, and local cooperation. Guided by Sue Leeson, find out how you as a citizen can most effectively reach policy makers on decisions you care about.
Susan M. Leeson holds a J.D., Willamette University (1981 - cum laude); Ph.D in Government, Claremont Graduate School (1971 - with distinction); M.A. in Government, Claremont Graduate School (1970); B.A. in Political Science, Willamette University (1968 - magna cum laude). She also was a post-doctoral fellow at Duke University, Bowdoin College, Princeton University, and Stanford Law School. She is an attorney and former Oregon Supreme Court Justice. For several years, she has been listed in the "Best Lawyers in America" in the field of mediation and arbitration. Leeson received the Betty Roberts Award from Oregon Women Lawyers in 2003, and she was named Legal Citizen of the Year in 2006. She was an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon School of Law for two years, teaching mediation skills, and was the lead principal writer for the 2009 edition of "We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" for the Center for Civic Education. Leeson frequently presents at teacher workshops around the country focused on civics and American history.
Constitutional Toolkit Series - Who’s In Charge, Anyway? with Guest Speaker Susan M. Leeson
with Guest Speaker Jeremy Fogel
Recorded Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 7:00 pm Eastern
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States—including formerly enslaved people—and guaranteed all citizens “equal protection of the laws.” Citizenship, though, can still be confusing. Is citizenship a privilege, a status, or a right? Does being a citizen (of any age) require doing certain things? What obligations and privileges come with citizenship? Join Jeremy Fogel in thinking through these questions.
Judge Jeremy Fogel became the first Executive Director of the Berkeley Judicial Institute on September 17, 2018, a center at Berkeley Law School whose mission is to build bridges between judges and academics and to promote an ethical, resilient, and independent judiciary. Prior to his appointment at Berkeley, he served as Director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, DC (2011-2018), as a United States District Judge for the Northern District of California (1998-2011), and as a judge of the Santa Clara County Superior (1986-1998) and Municipal (1981-1986) Courts. He was the founding Directing Attorney of the Mental Health Advocacy Project from 1978 to 1981. Judge Fogel has served as a faculty member for the Federal Judicial Center since 2002 and was a lecturer at Stanford Law School from 2003 until his relocation to Washington. He taught for the California Continuing Judicial Studies Program and California Judicial College from 1987 to 2010 and has served as a faculty member for legal exchanges in more than a dozen foreign countries. He received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1971 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1974. Judge Fogel has received numerous accolades, including the President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the California Judiciary from the California Judges Association and the Vanguard Award for notable contributions to intellectual property law from the State Bar of California. In 2002, he received special recognition from the Santa Clara County Bar Association for exemplifying the highest standards of professionalism in the judiciary.
Citizenship with Guest Speaker Jeremy Fogel
Interacting with Law Enforcement
with Guest Speaker Antoinette T. Bacon and Juan Antonio Gonzalez
Recorded Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 7:00 pm Eastern
Order and liberty are important concepts in our democratic tradition. We expect our law enforcement officers to know the law and to strike an appropriate balance between order and individual freedoms. States or localities can’t deprive citizens of any of the protections or privileges that have been afforded in the Bill of Rights. Through the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments, we place some limits on the ability of law enforcement to use force, and to exercise their power. But sometimes, it’s not always clear what rights individuals have in their interactions with law enforcement. Join Antoinette Bacon as we consider the roles of both the citizen and law enforcement in the effort to maintain public safety.
Antoinette T. Bacon is the Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, and assumed office on September 2, 2020.She is a career federal prosecutor, having served in several roles within the Department of Justice, including most recently as the National Elder Justice Coordinator and Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General. Previously, she worked as the National White Collar Crime Coordinator in the Executive Office for United States Attorneys and Senior Litigation Counsel in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio. Her accomplishments include earning two of the highest awards in the Department of Justice, along with special awards from the IRS, U.S. Postal Service, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for her prosecutions of fraud, waste, abuse, and corruption. Ms. Bacon joined the Department of Justice through the Honors Program, as a Trial Attorney in the Antitrust Division. Prior to joining the Antitrust Division, she clerked for the Honorable Henry Coke Morgan, Jr., United States District Judge, Eastern District of Virginia. Ms. Bacon earned a J.D. from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in Communications, Law, Economics, and Government from American University.
Juan Antonio “Tony” Gonzalez serves as the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Immediately prior to assuming this role, Mr. Gonzalez served as the District’s First Assistant United States Attorney.
Mr. Gonzalez has been an Assistant United States Attorney in South Florida since 1998. He is a career prosecutor who has held various supervisory positions with the office. From 2002 to 2009, Mr. Gonzalez served as Deputy Chief of Narcotics in charge of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA). In 2009, Mr. Gonzalez assumed the position of HIDTA Operations Coordinator for both the Miami-Dade and Broward County HIDTA Units and, in 2011, he took the dual roles of HIDTA Operations Coordinator and Deputy Chief of Narcotics in charge of HIDTA. He continued in those roles until 2019, when he was selected to serve as First Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Throughout his federal career, Mr. Gonzalez has investigated and tried an array of complex, high-profile cases. In United States v. Battle, et al. for example, following a six-month trial, Mr. Gonzalez secured RICO conspiracy convictions and a $1.4 billion forfeiture verdict against members of a criminal enterprise charged with various murders, arsons, acts of illegal gambling, money laundering, and narcotics trafficking.
Other notable cases prosecuted by Mr. Gonzalez include securing a money laundering conviction and significant sentence against Spanish drug lord Alvaro Lopez Tardon, and United States v. Solorzano et al., where he prosecuted a complex international money laundering investigation involving the Venezuelan parallel market. Mr. Gonzalez also participated in the investigation and ultimate guilty plea of Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera, the Colombian Attorney General’s Director of Anticorruption; was part of the prosecution team obtaining convictions in the billion-dollar NTR/Elemetals gold money laundering prosecutions; and was the lead prosecutor securing the conviction of French national Gal Vallerius a.k.a. Oxymonster, the senior moderator of the Dark Web drug marketplace Dream Market.
Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mr. Gonzalez began his career as a prosecutor at the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office. Mr. Gonzalez spent most of his seven years in the State Attorney’s Office in the Racketeering/Organized Crime and Public Corruption Unit where he specialized in long-term, wiretap investigations of corrupt police officers and organized crime figures. In that unit, Mr. Gonzalez spent four years as a cross-designated Special Assistant US Attorney (SAUSA) for the Southern District of Florida. As a SAUSA, Mr. Gonzalez successfully tried several organized crime cases in federal court.
Mr. Gonzalez is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist and frequently lectures domestically and abroad in the areas of international money laundering, narcotics trafficking and trans-national organized crime. He received his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1991, and his undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Arts in Psychology) from the University of Miami in 1988. Under the Vacancies Reform Act, Mr. Gonzalez now serves as the Acting United States Attorney until a successor is nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate.
Interacting with Law Enforcement with Guest Speaker Antoinette T. Bacon and Juan Antonio Gonzalez
Challenges to the Constitution
with Guest Speaker David Hudson
Recorded Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 7:00 pm Eastern
Many of the current challenges facing our Constitution relate to competing ideas of freedom and liberty, individual and collective choice, and how to define “good” democratic practice. Join Professor David Hudson as we explore current challenges to the constitution, including everything from COVID vaccines, to the role of protest and civil disobedience, to “cancel culture” and freedom of expression. Although these topics are controversial, we look forward to discussing how our democracy can deal justly and effectively with cultural, social, and political divisions.
David L. Hudson, Jr., an Assistant Professor of Law, teaches Legal Information and Communication at Belmont University. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of more than 40 books. For much of his career, he has worked on First Amendment issues. He serves as a Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and a First Amendment Fellow for the Freedom Forum Institute. For 17 years, he was an attorney and scholar at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Hudson has taught classes at Vanderbilt Law School and the Nashville School of Law. In June 2018, the Nashville School of Law awarded him its Distinguished Faculty Award. He earned his undergraduate degree from Duke University and his law degree from Vanderbilt Law School. Professor Hudson's published works have been cited and relied upon by other scholars and courts. Hudson also is a licensed boxing judge and has judged a dozen world title bouts.
Challenges to the Constitution with Guest Speaker David Hudson
The Right to Vote
with Sondra Cosgrove
Recorded Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 7:00 pm Eastern
Voting is one of the most important elements of our participatory democracy, but did you know that the Constitution doesn’t actually give you the right to vote? In the final session of the Toolkit series, we will examine the various Amendments that have protected your vote as well as additional measures that are meant to prevent discrimination and vote dilution. Guided by Dr. Sondra Cosgrove, we will cover redistricting controversies, and the impact of state-law voter qualifications including voter identification requirements, documentary proof-of-citizenship statutes, and felon disenfranchisement laws. We’ll also address recent concerns over potential flaws in the U.S. election system.
Sondra Cosgrove is a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada and serves as the Executive Director of Vote Nevada, a nonprofit civic engagement organization. Sondra received a Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with areas of specialization in the U.S. West, Native American History, and Latin America.Currently, Sondra is actively involved in a wide range of college service, including working through the CSN Women’s Alliance to deconstruct barriers that block women from success. As the Executive Director of Vote Nevada, Sondra engages in community outreach, civic empowerment, and advocacy for civil rights.