National and international statements of aspirational values, whether in constitutions or declarations of human and political rights, vary profoundly in scope.  Some (e.g., the UNDHR and the South African Constitution) include a range of socioeconomic rights; some, like the Magna Carta (e.g., the US Constitution as interpreted) contain only 'negative rights' — limitations on government without imposition of government obligation or coverage of private conduct; some (e.g., the Australian Constitution) prescribe structures of democracy but contain no bill of rights.

Professor Susan N. Herman, President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), will discuss three questions in this talk: 1) To what extent do the variations in these statements of rights matter?  2) To what extent does articulation of multiple rights create a need to prioritize or choose among national values?  3) To what extent is the actualization of declared liberties and political rights affected by lack of commitment to affirmative rights, or to rights of equality and fraternity?

Prof. Herman was elected to the presidency of the ACLU in 2008, after having served on the ACLU National Board of Directors, as a member of the Executive Committee, and as General Counsel.  She holds a chair as Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, where she teaches courses in Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure, and seminars on Law and Literature, and Terrorism and Civil Liberties

She writes extensively on constitutional and criminal procedure topics for scholarly and other publications.  Her most recent book, Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy, (Oxford University Press 2011; 2014 paperback), is the winner of the 2012 Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize.  Herman also participated in Supreme Court litigation, writing and collaborating on amicus curiae briefs for the ACLU on a range of constitutional criminal procedure issues, most recently in Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014)

Herman received a B.A. from Barnard College as a philosophy major, and a J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a Note and Comment Editor on the N.Y.U. Law Review.  Before entering teaching, Professor Herman was Pro Se Law Clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Staff Attorney and then Associate Director of Prisoners' Legal Services of New York.