As this podcast gets posted, in the summer of 2014, the voters of the State of Tennessee are about to go to the polls to decide whether to retain three of the Justices of their Supreme Court.
While judicial retention elections are traditionally sleepy affairs, this one is different: the Lieutenant Governor and others are making a concerted effort to convince the voters to "non-retain" these three Justices. Why? We wanted to ask the Lt. Governor, but, to our disappointment, he did not return our calls and emails.
So we've reached back twenty years, to the last (and only) time that a Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court -- Stewart's colleague at the University of Tennessee, Penny White -- was non-retained. And we've found some eerie similarities to the current controversy.
Dolly Parton! Whaa?
It turns out that the country music superstar is a high school friend of the Chief Justice of Tennessee. His name is Gary Wade, and he tells us some fascinating stories about how he became the highest judicial officer in his state, what his job entails, and how he now faces a coordinated political attempt to have him removed from the bench, along with two of his Supreme Court colleagues.
On a happier note, he also tells us some great stories about his high-school friend and "television girlfriend," Dolly Parton. Do you know, for example, what instrument Dolly played in the Sevier County High School Band? Hint: it wasn't the flute. But you'll have to listen in to find out more.
Cloaks and daggers? Old news. Now it's keypads and iPads and other high-tech spying.
The United States and China both do it. But they do it differently - or so they say. Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis, the Director of the King Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies, tells us all about this secret struggle for security supremacy.
Here's the latest in our series about the judiciary. This time we speak with the kind of judge you are most likely to encounter if ever you find yourself in court: a trial judge. His name is Thomas Seeley, Jr., and he hears all types of civil cases in his courtroom in Johnson City, Tennessee. As you might expect, he's got lots of interesting stuff to say.
After Judge Seeley, we get in the car and drive down to North Carolina to visit the remarkable Grove Park Inn, a five-star resort frequented by Presidents and foreign diplomats and, perhaps, by another group of people you've heard of: the United States Supreme Court. Tracey Johnston-Crum, the Inn's resident historian, tells us all about a secret contract with the Court that provides that . . . well, you'll just have to listen in to find out.
The Good News Club is an after-school program run by evangelical Christians. A few years back, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools who had denied access to the Club for fear of violating the Establishment Clause had actually violated another part of the First Amendment, the Speech Clause. In essence, the Court said that all groups, religious and non-religious, were constitutionally entitled to equal access to public facilities - otherwise, the government would be regulating their speech based upon its content.
Author and journalist Katherine Stewart thinks that the Supreme Court got it wrong: the Good News Club, or rather, the public schools that now allow it on campus, are indeed violating the Establishment Clause, she believes. And whether you agree with her or not, she makes some interesting arguments and tells a compelling story.
Love him or hate him (and, either way, you have lots of company) Ronald Reagan was, and continues to be, an important figure in American constitutional history.
We'll speak with Justin Garrison, a professor at Roanoke College in Virginia, who's written a balanced, fascinating, readable book called "An Empire of Ideals: the Chimeric Imagination of Ronald Reagan." Justin is that rare scholar who not only writes well, but also speaks well. He's even funny and charming - kinda like Ronald Reagan was.
Justin's book is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Empire-Ideals-Imagination-Routledge-Governance/dp/0415818486.
Is there too much money in politics? Ben Cohen certainly thinks so. So he and some like-minded friends have started a group called "Stamp Stampede" aimed at amending the Constitution. They want to overturn the notorious Citizen's United case and other Supreme Court cases that equate money with free speech.
Never heard of Ben Cohen? Sure you have. But probably not by himself. Instead, you've seen only his first name, during some of your happiest moments, displayed beside the name of his partner, Jerry.
This episode is sweet.
Who are those guys? Those guys who sit on their high benches in federal courthouses, wielding their gavels and wearing those fancy black robes?
This is no idle question. Federal judges play an important role in interpreting our Constitution. And yet we know very little about them, since most of these men (and, increasingly, women) work quietly in their courtrooms and chambers and draw little attention to themselves.
In this episode, we change all that. With the help of United States District Judge Ronnie Greer of the Eastern District of Tennessee, we take a look into the judge's chambers and talk about all aspects of being on the federal bench. As it turns out, it's not as easy as it looks. But it is fascinating.
Lots of people do a lot of writing about the United States Constitution. In this episode, Stewart talks to two of them: bestselling author Steve Berry, who has just published a new thriller, The Lincoln Myth, based upon a constitutional conspiracy, and Colin Christensen, one of Stewart's students from Emory & Henry College, who wrote his Honors Thesis on the Second Amendment.
Join us for some cracklin' good tales.
Stewart speaks with Garrett Jackson, the Assistant Town Manager of Abingdon, Virginia. Garrett recently returned from a trip to Russia, where he discussed local governmental issues with some of his Russian counterparts. He also discussed the importance of our American constitutional freedoms.
Joining Garrett and Stewart is Krisi Hayden, the State Department official who shepherded Garrett from Moscow to . . . well, we can't spell them, or pronounce them, so let's just say that Garrett went to lots of cool places.