Scholars from across the country will gather at the University of Chicago Law School November 4 to examine how the law draws borders and boundaries—lines that can be strengthened or blurred, often with enormous implications for voting rights, redistricting, markets, immigration, and more. The symposium, organized by the student-led University of Chicago Legal Forum, is aimed at exploring deficiencies in the laws of separation and identifying potential remedies.
“We draw these lines of separation, and that always seems normal and fine, but lived experiences, rights, behaviors—these things all change depending on which side you fall on,” said Gray Sutton, ’23, editor in chief of the Legal Forum, one of the Law School’s four student journals. “Almost every headline today decries division, both physical and ideological, and portends disastrous consequences. This symposium will ask whether these claims are justified, what exactly the law is doing at these boundaries, and why. My hope is that everyone who attends will have to stop and really think the next time they enter into a new market, move to a new county, or pass through customs.”
Each autumn, the Legal Forum hosts a conference examining a single, timely topic. The papers produced for the symposium provide material for the journal’s annual volume, which comes out about a year later. This year, the students chose to examine “borders and boundaries,” a topic that would allow for interdisciplinary dialog across a variety of topics.
“The Legal Forum chose this topic, in part, because it is incredibly timely to our political climate,” said Symposium Editor Fernando Arias, ’23. “Some of the themes include voting, immigration, and the very nature of liberal democracy. As society reckons with these topics, we wanted to examine these issues through the lens of our chosen discipline; the law. I believe our panelists and students have a lot to contribute to this discussion as we seek to form novel solutions.”
Conference participants will explore questions such as: What does the future hold for redistricting and the issues that surround gerrymandering? What does the law of territorial borders look like during and after periods indelibly marked by refugee crises, pandemics, and armed conflict? Who draws these lines and why should we challenge their placement? How does the law of separation destabilize or invigorate electorates and populaces?
Almost every headline today decries division, both physical and ideological, and portends disastrous consequences. This symposium will ask whether these claims are justified, what exactly the law is doing at these boundaries, and why.Gray Sutton, ’23Editor in chief of the University of Chicago Legal Forum
Among the participants are Saul Levmore, the William B. Graham Distinguished Service Professor of Law; Adam Chilton, Professor of Law and Walter Mander Research Scholar; and Nicole Hallett, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. Levmore will present a paper on cross-border influences and restrictions, examining, for instance, why foreigners are not permitted to influence US elections by giving money to political parties or candidates but residents of a particular US city or state are allowed to try and influence elections in neighboring states or municipalities by giving money or campaigning. Chilton and two co-authors, Columbia Law Professor Anu Bradford and Berkeley Law Professor Katerina Linos, will present a paper in which they argue that whether a country aligns its laws with the leading regulator in a given area—for instance, countries’ convergence to the world’s leading antitrust regulator, the European Union—is likely to be proportional to the size of their economies and inversely proportional to their geographic distance, a correlation seen in the flow of goods. Hallett will explore US immigration bureaucracy, examining its history and failures.
James Gardner, '84, the Bridget and Thomas Black SUNY Distinguished Professor of Law from the University at Buffalo School of Law, will be giving the keynote address. He will explore how liberals and populists both understand the role of political subdivision, and how the rise of populist authoritarianism might threaten this institutional design meant, perhaps, to secure a liberal democracy.
The symposium, which begins at 9 a.m. and will be held in Classroom V, is open to the public.