President George W. Bush signed a bill on December 8, 2004 (public law 108-447) which designates every September 17 as Constitution Day. All institutions of higher education that receive federal funding are required to prepare a program to inform students about the US Constitution.

Attend our Constitution Day Events

To mark the day in 2014, a number of talks and presentations will take place on the UW campus. All events are free and open to the public.

“Has the US Constitution Failed?”

Presented by Professor Howard Schweber; hosted by American Democracy Foundation
Wisconsin Idea Room, Education Building, 10 a.m.

The US Constitution was intended to do several things: to establish a new national government that would have the capacity to carry out the will of the people; to strike an appropriate balance between central and local authorities; to define the limits of the powers of the national governments (and state governments after the Fourteenth Amendment was added) in order to safeguard essential liberties; and to create a framework for democratic politics that would channel and manage conflicts. It is arguably the case that in America today the Constitution that we have fails to deliver any of these essential goods. Is that the fault of our politicians, our media, our schools… or has the Constitution failed?

Hobby Lobby Discussion Panel

Hosted by Law Students for Reproductive Justice
UW Law School, Room 2211, 11:45 a.m.

Law Students for Reproductive Justice are hosting a panel discussion on the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision. Panelists include Professor Alta Charo, Professor Lisa Alexander, Andrew Seidel from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and Everett Mitchell, Director of Community Relations at UW–Madison.

“The Constitution and the University General Counsel”

Presented by Ray Taffora, Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs; hosted by UW Law School
Law Building Room 3250, 12 noon

A public university must conduct its business within the restrictions imposed by the US Constitution. Given the scope of University activity, there are many instances where the Constitution affects how the University pursues its mission. Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs Raymond Taffora will discuss the interaction of University activity and the US Constitution and share his insights on the role of the Office of Legal Affairs in such matters.

Presentation by Professor Cecelia Klingele

Hosted by UW Law School
UW Law School, Room 3260, Noon

“Patents and US Constitution” presented by Professor Pilar Ossorio

Hosted by UW Law School
H.F. DeLuca Forum, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, 2 p.m.

Join us for a lively presentation from UW-Madison Professor of Law and Bioethics Pilar Ossorio on how the writers of the US Constitution argued about whether the power to grant intellectual property (IP) should be included as one of Congress’s powers, why they decided that the US should have IP, what the Constitution says about IP, and what types of rights patents, copyrights and trademarks (the major forms of IP) confer.

Screening of "Constitution USA with Peter Sagal: It’s a Free Country”

Hosted by Wisconsin Union Directorate Film, UW Law School, and American Democracy Foundation
Union South Marquee Theatre, 7 p.m.

In this hour, Peter explores the history of the Bill of Rights, and why each was included. He’ll look at several important rights cases in American history, involving freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to legal counsel, cases that have expanded or enforced basic liberties. He’ll also explore how technology, particularly the internet is challenging our right to privacy.

Constitutional Law Classes

Guests are invited to observe the following constitutional law classes:

Constitutional Law Ⅰ — Professor Ann Althouse

UW Law School, Room 3260
, 2:40–4 p.m.

Covers the basic structure of government in the United States, with emphasis on the federal government. Includes the role of the federal courts and the doctrine of judicial review; the rise of federal power, as reflected particularly in shifting definitions of “interstate commerce”, the doctrine of separation of powers, with emphasis on current issues of legislative and executive branch authority; and judicial and other limitations on the exercise of authority by the states.

Constitutional Law Ⅱ — Professor Heinz Klug

UW Law School, Room 5229
, 1:10–2:30 p.m.


This course is designed to enable students to understand the rights contained in the Bill of Rights by adopting a comparative approach to explore the jurisprudence of constitutional rights. The course uses four jurisdictions, the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa to compare how these different constitutional systems protect and interpret the rights enshrined in their constitutions and law.