Willamette Symposium Tackles States' Rights

Some people believe a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear arguments against assisted suicide in Oregon is another attack on states' rights. Top legal experts from Oregon and across the country tackled this and other states' rights issues during "Laboratories of Democracy: Federalism and State Independency," a symposium held March 11, 2005, at Willamette University College of Law.

Since Oregon voters approved the Death with Dignity Act in 1998, more than 170 terminally ill people in the state have used the law to end their lives more quickly. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft filed an appeal last November challenging a lower court's ruling that the federal government cannot sanction or hold doctors criminally liable for helping patients die. Stephen Bushong, Oregon's Assistant Attorney General, and Kathryn L. Tucker, Director of Legal Affairs for Compassion in Dying, joined assisted suicide expert and Willamette Law Professor Valerie Vollmar in a lively discussion about assisted suicide and what a Supreme Court decision may mean for the right of states to govern themselves.

Panels of experts from the U.S. Department of Justice and law schools across the nation tackled a number of difficult states rights' topics, including gay marriage and domestic terrorism. Special guest speaker, the Honorable Jay S. Bybee, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, offered "Reflections on the Tenth Amendment" to close the symposium.

Sponsored by the Willamette Center for Law and Government and the Willamette Law Review, the annual federalism symposium is open to the public and members of the legal community. For more information on upcoming symposiums, contact the Willamette Law Review at 503-375-5435.