Randolph M. McLaughlin Featured at Constitution Day Celebration

News Story: September 1, 2012

Randolph M. McLaughlin, J.D., professor of Law at Pace University Law School, was the guest speaker at Sacred Heart University’s eighth annual Constitution Day commemoration on Monday, September 17. His topic was “The Bill of Rights: Who Needs It?”

McLaughlin, who began his legal career at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights/civil liberties legal organization in New York City, led the students and staff through the Bill of Rights – discussing the importance of each one and peppering his recitation with stories from history and his own personal experiences.

He pointed out that the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, which primarily deals with the regulation of federal powers, because the people wanted their personal rights protected. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution that make up the Bill of Rights are the only amendments that cannot be repealed.

While discussing the first amendment and its protection of religious freedom, McLaughlin shared the case of Indians in New Mexico who sued the state because its law against smoking peyote was infringing on their religious ceremonies that regularly involved the use of the banned drug. They won the case – but can only smoke it for religious purposes.

Prior to joining the Pace University Law School in 1988, McLaughlin was an attorney specializing in litigation and labor law. A nationally respected civil rights attorney, who for eight years worked side by side with the renowned civil rights attorney, William Kunstler, he currently specializes in voting rights litigation.He gave a much more shocking example during his discussion of the fourth amendment, which covers the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. He told the story of an African American man who refused to let the White Plains police department into his home after the medical alert system he was using was inadvertently activated. Despite protestations by both the man and his daughter that everything was fine, the police insisted that he open the door. After pounding on his door for more than an hour, the police broke down the door and shot the homeowner with tasers and beanbags and finally killed him.

“The Constitution is a fascinating document, and the Bill of Rights is the most important part of the Constitution,” McLaughlin said in conclusion. “A healthy questioning of authority is a good thing. These are our rights. Don’t let anyone take them away from you.”

“Professor McLaughlin gave an impressive speech on why the Bill of Rights is so important. The stories he told regarding the different amendments helped his audience appreciate the first 10 amendments even more,” said junior political science major Kelly Ann deAprix, who hails from Scotia, NY. “He was very passionate about our American rights and that helped him draw the audience in even more.”

While introducing McLaughlin, Dr. Gary Rose, chair of the Government and Politics Department, noted that the Constitution Day program is mandated by the federal government for colleges and universities that receive federal funds. In addition to the lecture, there is also a Constitution-related display at the Ryan Matura Library.

The program was co-sponsored by the Department of Government and Politics and the Division of Marketing and Communications.