Life, Death, and the Supreme Court: A Half-Century of Change

Amherst College

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has written, co-written, or edited more than ninety books in the fields of law and political science. Professor Sarat has received the Stan Wheeler Award for his excellence as a teacher and mentor, awarded by the Law and Society Association.



The Supreme Court is America’s preeminent legal institution, but is it really equipped to make decisions about life and death? Alexander Hamilton and other Founders would have been surprised by the role the court has played on matters of life and death over the last half-century. This lecture will focus on three areas where the Court has decided who lives and who dies, and when life begins and how it ends: the death penalty, abortion, and death with dignity. Are these really legal questions? Or are they profoundly difficult moral questions? We will consider the impact of the Court’s life and death decisions on American society and the Court itself.




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Steven Stone

More of an advocacy arugument than a Lecture

As a Practicing attorney I receive weekly issues of Judicia Verdict which are recently decided Opinions of Appellate Courts. In those emails there are weekly columns from legal scholars and professors. Most are writing from the liberal Left. Prof. Sarat in my opinion is the most extremist of these columists.
Nevertheless he is a legal scholar well versed in a very important area of the law…. I don’t think Prof. Sarat went into the lecture with intent to be subjective or biased bot from the start it showed. He conflated the term “Abortion” with “Womens Productive Rights”. “Capital Punishment” with Americas right “To intentionally kill one of its citizens.” Lastly “Euthanasia” with “Allowing a person to die with dignity.” Of course its perfectly fine to hold those views and advocates use those terms constantly in reinforcing those positions. I don’t think it had a place however termed an objective lecture when it might have been better placed at an ACLU conference….When I was in Law School back in the 80’s and a class ended I had no idea which position a professor held when teaching a course. That was a consensus among my classmates also…It seems that’s the way academia is going nowadays especially after seeing the pro Hamas rallies at Law Schools. Harvard, Columbia among others. Its frightening to think what the courts will be like when these individuals graduate and begin Practice.

7 months ago
Christine Hylbert

Supreme Court

A fantastic and thought provoking presentation. He is so knowledgable and brought forth many diverse facts and thoughts for each of the topics. I have thoroughly enjoyed this presentation.

7 months ago
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