American Constitution Society

In Brief:

Works to reshape the debate on constitutional and legal issues by building an influential network of legal scholars and attorneys and strengthening scholarship in support of progressive law and policy. Since the judiciary referees the long-term outcome of legislative fights, ACS’s work – generating and distributing legal theory and providing a pipeline for progressive law clerks and judges – serves the entire movement.

The American Constitution Society (ACS) believes that law should be a force to improve the lives of all people. ACS works for positive change by shaping debate on vitally important legal and constitutional issues through development and promotion of high-impact ideas to opinion leaders and the media; by building networks of lawyers, law students, judges and policymakers dedicated to those ideas; and by countering the activist conservative legal movement that has sought to erode our enduring constitutional values. By bringing together powerful, relevant ideas and passionate, talented people, ACS makes a difference in the constitutional, legal and public policy debates that shape our democracy.

Shaping Debate

The American Constitution Society brings together many of the country’s best legal minds to articulate a progressive vision of our Constitution and laws. Through its public programs (over 1,100 debates, conferences and press briefings across America each year), publications, and active on-line presence, ACS generates “intellectual capital” for ready use by progressive allies and shapes debates on key legal and public policy issues.

The American Constitution Society is also debunking conservative buzzwords such as “originalism” and “strict construction” that use neutral-sounding language but all too often lead to conservative policy outcomes. Using both traditional and new media to communicate with policymakers, judges, lawyers and the public at large, ACS presents a compelling vision of core constitutional values such as genuine equality, liberty, justice and the rule of law.

Building Networks

One of the American Constitution Society’s principal missions is nurturing the next generation of progressive lawyers, judges, policy experts, legislators and academics.

The engine that drives the organization’s work is its rapidly growing nationwide network of more than 200 student and lawyer chapters in 48 states and almost every law school. ACS chapters offer platforms for debate and discussion about both enduring principles and the issues of the day, as well as provide opportunities for networking, mentoring and organizing around matters of both local and national significance.

Making a Difference

The strength of ACS’s ideas and the scope of its nationwide network enable it to make a difference in legal and public policy debates and ensure that law is a force to improve the lives of all people. Recent examples of ACS initiatives and programs having an impact include an Issue Brief on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the health care reform legislation, cited during the Senate floor debate and entered into the Congressional Record; Senator Al Franken’s 2010 ACS National Convention speech in which he stated that “Originalism isn’t a pillar of our constitutional history; it’s a talking point;” and a concerted effort by ACS members to promote up-or-down votes on judicial nominations by engaging key decision makers.

In the words of Judge Abner Mikva, former Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit, former Congressman from Illinois and member of ACS’s Board of Directors:

“ACS’s goals are ambitious but attainable… Our work is just beginning. Don’t just stand there – join us.”