June 8, 2020 – A Fordham Law School clinic is recommending a slate of non-partisan reforms to strengthen the United States’ institutions and its democracy. In six policy reports announced today, the Democracy and the Constitution Clinic calls for reforms to check presidential powers, improve ethics and transparency in government, and ensure fair and effective representation.
The reports are available on Fordham Law School’s website.
Seventeen law students in the Democracy Clinic conducted nearly 40 interviews with experts and policymakers as they researched and developed their recommendations. In addition to setting forth recommendations, the reports neutrally present relevant background information and legal analysis of the issues implicated in the reports.
Fordham Law launched the Democracy Clinic in the fall of 2018. It is supervised by Professor and former Dean John D. Feerick and Visiting Clinical Professor John Rogan. Feerick played a key role in crafting the Constitution’s 25th Amendment and advocated on behalf of the American Bar Association for an amendment abolishing the Electoral College that was approved by the House of Representatives, but fell short of the required two-thirds vote in the Senate. Rogan co-taught Fordham’s Presidential Succession Clinic with Feerick during the 2016-17 academic year.
“There is no greater priority for our nation than raising the level of civic education of the Constitution and institutions we depend on for our way of life,” said Feerick. “The challenge is enormous, and the law students who wrote these reports, ever so carefully, have rendered an exemplary public service in doing so.”
One of two reports on preventing abuses of presidential power focuses on protecting the Department of Justice from improper political interference. The other advances reforms for a scenario where a president becomes physically or mentally unable to carry out the office’s responsibilities, including recommended checks on the president’s authority to deploy nuclear weapons.
Two additional reports address ethics and transparency issues. One argues for federal laws requiring presidential candidates to release financial information and tax returns as well as to undergo background checks. It also recommends a system allowing candidates to undergo voluntary medical exams with some results released to the public. The second ethics and transparency report outlines a plan for enforcing the Constitution’s Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses, which were designed to prevent corruption and conflicts of interest.
Two more reports focus on the Electoral College and expanding the size of the House of Representatives. One calls for states to sign-on to an agreement to allocate electoral votes in presidential races to the winner of the national popular vote, asserting that the Electoral College effectively disenfranchises voters who live outside of the few swing states that decide presidential elections. The other recommends expanding the size of the House by nearly 150 members to lower the number of constituents each member represents.