Historical program considers Lincoln and the Law
Public Relations - Published: February 15, 2009

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As the nation observes the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, Widener Law will celebrate by teaming up with two historical organizations to present a unique, first-of-its kind program on the Delaware campus.

“Lincoln and the Law,” a three-hour event that examines everything from the assassination of the 16th president to Lincoln’s positions on ethics and civil liberties, will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23 in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom, 4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington.

The program is jointly sponsored by the law school, the Civil War Round Table of Wilmington, Del., and the Delaware Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. It will include an hour-long talk by James L. Swanson of the Heritage Foundation, author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller “Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.” He will speak from 6 to 7 p.m. about the search for Lincoln’s assassins and the truth about the assassination and trial of the conspirators.

The evening will also include a panel discussion from 4 to 5 p.m. on Lincoln and legal ethics, moderated by Widener Law Professor Thomas J. Reed. Panelists will include Delaware Supreme Court Justice Henry DuPont Ridgely, who chairs the Delaware Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and University of Houston Law Center Professor Mark E. Steiner.

A panel discussion from 5 to 6 p.m. will feature Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland and Widener Associate Dean Michael J. Slinger, moderated by Swanson. They will discuss Lincoln and civil liberties.

“Lincoln was a successful lawyer, but his professional life is a study in contradictions,” said Reed, who is organizing the event for Widener. “This program should yield some stimulating conversation because the general public has a mostly one-dimensional understanding of his persona. Yes, he was the president who freed the slaves, but he was even more than that.”

As a lawyer, Lincoln represented large corporations, but his client list also included the underprivileged. He was known to be “hyper-ethical” but also overstepped the boundaries of ethical conduct on behalf of his clients. He fought to overturn the Dred Scott U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld slavery, but during his years in the White House he curtailed civil liberties by, for example, having people suspected of disloyalty picked up and imprisoned until the end of the Civil War – without the right to an attorney.

Attorneys who attend the program will be eligible for three continuing legal education credits in Delaware and Pennsylvania, including one ethics credit. The registration fee for attorneys who attend for credit is $70, or $60 for Widener Law alumni. General admission is $20 and students of all ages may attend for free. To register, contact Constance Sweeney at 302.477.2177 or cmsweeney@widener.edu.