The Courtroom Where It Happened:

James Otis, Jr. & the Writs of Assistance

Monday, June 17, 2024

Many trace the spark that lit the American Revolution to a courtroom in 1761, when attorney James Otis, Jr. transformed his arguments in a search-and-seizure case into a fiery and wide-ranging five-hour oration that laid down many concepts foundational to our democracy.

Come join us in the Council Chamber at the Old State House where Otis delivered his landmark arguments in the Writs of Assistance case to unpack the dramatic legal, political, and personal drama that surrounded the case. Discover how Otis’s 18th-century arguments continue to shape various aspects of our 21st-century lives, including topics like taxation without representation and rights against search and seizure. We will also reflect on the vital role that lawyers play in sustaining the rule of law that underpins healthy democracies.

 Our panelists include Akhil Reed Amar, the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law at both Yale College and Yale Law School; former Associate Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert Cordy, who has worked with judges around the world on issues relating to judicial ethics, rule of law principles, and the American judicial system; and Christopher Duggan, one of the most accomplished trial and appellate lawyers in the United States and the leading force behind the James Otis Lecture Series of the Massachusetts Chapter of The American Board of Trial Advocates.

For the event, the Council Chamber will be set up as it would have been when Otis originally argued the original Writs of Assistance case. Each attendee will receive a free copy of The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840, thanks to the generosity of author Akhil Reed Amar. 

The Courtroom Where It Happened: James Otis, Jr. and the Writs of Assistance is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6:00 pm and the program will begin at 6:30 pm. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided. Due to the small size of the Council Chamber, seating for this event is very limited and admission cannot be guaranteed without pre-registration. In addition, all registrants will be required to reconfirm their attendance in writing 72 hours prior to the event in order to maintain their seat. If registrants do not confirm at that time, their place will be made available to someone on the waitlist.

This program is made possible by the generous support of the Lowell Institute.

Details

Monday, June 17, 2024

Doors Open: 6:00 PM
Program Begins: 6:30 PM
Location: Old State House
Admission: Free

By registering to attend this event, you will be added to Revolutionary Spaces’ email list. You are able to opt out at any time.

Due to the small size of the Council Chamber, seating for this event is very limited and admission cannot be guaranteed without pre-registration. In addition, all registrants will be required to reconfirm their attendance in writing 72 hours prior to the event in order to maintain their seat. If registrants do not confirm at that time, their place will be made available to someone on the waitlist.

About the Panelists

Akhil Reed Amar The Courtroom Where It Happened: James Otis, Jr. and the Writs of Assistance

Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law at both Yale College and Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale College, summa cum laude, in 1980 and from Yale Law School in 1984, and clerking for Judge (later Justice) Stephen Breyer, Amar joined the Yale faculty in 1985 at the age of 26. He is Yale’s only living professor to have won the University’s unofficial triple crown—the Sterling Chair for scholarship, the DeVane Medal for teaching, and the Lamar Award for alumni service.

Amar’s work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than four dozen cases—tops among non-emeritus scholars. He regularly testifies before Congress at the invitation of both parties, and in surveys of judicial citations and/or scholarly citations, he typically ranks among America’s five most-cited mid-career legal scholars. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has written widely for popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Atlantic. He was an informal consultant to the popular TV show The West Wing and his scholarship has been showcased on many broadcasts, including The Colbert Report, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Morning Joe, AC360, 11th Hour with Brian Williams, Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream, Fareed Zakaria GPS, Erin Burnett Outfront, and Constitution USA with Peter Sagal.

He is the author of more than a hundred law review articles and several books, most notably The Bill of Rights (1998 winner of the Yale University Press Governors’ Award), America’s Constitution (2005 winner of the ABA’s Silver Gavel Award), America’s Unwritten Constitution (named one of the year’s 100 best nonfiction books by The Washington Post), and The Constitution Today (named one of the year’s top ten nonfiction books by Time magazine). His latest and most ambitious book, The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840, came out in May 2021. He has recently launched a weekly podcast, Amarica’s Constitution. A wide assortment of his articles and op-eds and video links to many of his public lectures and free online courses may be found at akhilamar.com

Bob Cordy The Courtroom Where It Happened: James Otis, Jr. and the Writs of Assistance

Bob Cordy is currently of counsel at McDermott, Will & Emery and served for 16 years as an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. He has worked with judges from Mexico, Russia, China, Kosovo, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and other countries on issues relating to judicial ethics, rule of law principles, and the American judicial system. Bob also served as chair of the Supreme Judicial Court Rules Committee, co-chair of the Supreme Judicial Court Judiciary-Media Committee, and member of the Committee for Capital Planning for the Judicial System.

Bob’s current practice includes business litigation, white-collar criminal defense, internal investigations, appellate work, and major public/private projects. He began his career working for the Massachusetts Public Defenders Office, and subsequently held positions with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, and the United States Attorney’s Office, where he became the chief of the Public Corruption prosecution unit. Bob also served as chief legal counsel to Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, working on a wide range of policy issues, including regulatory and criminal justice reform, ethics in government, and the appointment of judges. Before his appointment to the Supreme Judicial Court in 2001, Bob was a partner and head of McDermott’s Boston office.

Chris Duggan The Courtroom Where It Happened: James Otis, Jr. and the Writs of Assistance

Chris Duggan is one of the most accomplished trial and appellate lawyers in the United States. He has tried more than 75 cases to jury verdict in federal and state courts throughout Massachusetts and in several other New England states. His clients include publicly traded and privately held companies, insurers and reinsurers, and individuals in complex, large risk litigation across a broad variety of matters, including product liability, premises liability, professional malpractice, aviation, insurance coverage disputes, and other high-profile, media-sensitive matters. 

An avid historian, Chris enjoys representing universities, museums, and collectors in cases involving authenticity and title to works of art and historic artifacts. He prevailed in a case tried in the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for an owner of a highly coveted Civil War Tiffany presentation sword that had been stolen from a university museum and appeared almost four decades later in the possession of a noted Virginia collector. The case garnered national interest among museums and collectors of art and historic artifacts.

Chris is also a founder and board member of Lawyers Honoring COVID-19 Caregivers, Inc., a most deserving Charity created by leading members of the Massachusetts Bar to provide financial support for those who have so bravely cared for the citizens of the Commonwealth and continue to do so selflessly and at great personal risk.

Chris founded Smith Duggan with Scott Smith in 1989 as a two-lawyer practice, which is now ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the “Best Law Firms.” In addition, he has received the highest rating possible from Martindale-Hubbell, AV-Preeminent, for 32 years. He has also been recognized by Best Lawyers® in the following practice areas Commercial Litigation, Litigation – Insurance, and Product Liability Litigation – Defendants for a decade.

Free Registration