The Willamette Center for Constitutional Government was established in 2002 to promote the impartial study and understanding of federal-state and government-citizen relations in the United States. The Center administers a curricular program (see Certificate in Law and Government), conducts symposia and conferences, sponsors programs of training and orientation for public and elected officials, and holds a yearly writing competition. The Center is housed at Willamette University College of Law, located in Salem adjacent to the state Capitol, the Oregon Supreme Court and various state agencies.
The Center for Constitutional Government is endowed by a generous contribution from Willamette law graduate Kenneth D. Peterson Jr. JD'80 and the Peterson Family Foundation.
In carrying out this purpose, the Center's work falls into four functional areas.
The Center provides organizational structure, intellectual shelter and administration for the College of Law's curricular specialization Program in Law and Government leading to the Certificate Program in Law and Government.
Every year, the Center for Constitutional Government hosts a distinguished speaker for its Peterson Lecture series, made possible by the Ken and Claudia Peterson Foundation. The Petersons endowed the lecture series in order to give attorneys, judges and students access to cutting-edge legal scholars. A video of the 2017 Peterson Lecture, featuring NYU Law Professor and legal scholar Richard Epstein, is below.
Scholarly Academic Pursuits
The Center sponsors scholarly research and publications, symposia, conferences and lectures, and distinguished visitors.
Public Affairs Education
The Center provides an impartial forum for the study, discussion and improvement of public policy and the role of government in keeping with the statement in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed.
Further to this end, the Center sponsors programs of training and orientation to public and elected officials. It does so in partnership with other public law oriented institutions including the Oregon Association of Administrative Law Judges and the Willamette Law Review.
Lifetime Service in Constitutional Government Award
This award, sponsored by the Willamette Center for Constitutional Government, is given periodically to a Senior Statesperson who exemplifies the spirit of public service and the rule of law in one or more branches of government at the state or federal level.