How will American jurisprudence change under Republican-controlled government? On November 22, the UC Davis School of Law hosted a panel exploring the changing political and legal landscape ushered in by this month’s surprising election of Donald J. Trump. Addressing a standing-room crowd in the Kalmanovitz Appellate Courtroom, five panelists offered a sober assessment of policy changes likely to affect five areas of law: LGBT equality, freedom of expression, healthcare, immigration, and environmental policy.
Professor Courtney Joslin opened the panel by discussing the civil rights of same-sex couples. According to Joslin, there is little likelihood that the Supreme Court will overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 2015 case that guaranteed the fundamental right to marry for same-sex couples. Short of an amendment to the Constitution, same sex-marriages will continue to be valid and available throughout the country. In less settled areas of law, however, President-elect Trump might move quickly to roll back policies enacted by the Obama Administration. For example, President Obama issued executive orders that granted transgender people greater flexibility to change their gender markers on federal identification documents. When Trump assumes office, he could quickly reverse those policies.
Professor Brian Soucek spoke about President-elect Trump’s understanding of the First Amendment. Referencing the President-elect’s recent twitter feud with the cast of “Hamilton,” Soucek described the exchange as “unprecedented, from a First Amendment perspective. The demand that a private citizen apologize to a government officer is extremely unusual.” In contrast, Soucek praised UC Davis officials for their measured response to a series of racially incendiary flyers and posters that appeared on campus after the election. Encouraging resistance to rising levels of racism, he suggested faculty and students engage in counter-speech. “Posters claiming that race is real could be countered by posters arguing that racism is real,” Soucek said.
Responding to President-elect Trump’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Professor Lisa Ikemoto described two ways in which the Administration and its congressional allies might dismantle Obamacare. First, Trump could repeal or amend the ACA’s statutory provisions, thousands of pages of regulations that implement the online health care exchanges. Second, Congress could amend the ACA through the process of budget reconciliation. While Ikemoto suggested that Trump would likely pursue both strategies, she noted that the President-elect has recently moderated his stance on repealing Obamacare in its entirety.
Amy Barnett, a legal fellow at the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, spoke about the potential impact of changing immigration policies on the undocumented immigrant community. Noting that President Obama’s policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was implemented by executive order, Barnett suggested that Trump could quickly reverse this policy when he assumes office. Under DACA, millions of undocumented immigrants self-identified to the federal government in exchange for protected legal status—including hundreds of UC students. Given Trump’s policy views on immigration, undocumented students at UC Davis are understandably concerned about their status at the university. For example, if undocumented students were to lose eligibility for federal work-study under the Trump administration, they would need to find alternative scholarships and grants to support their education.
Professor Albert C. Lin spoke about environmental law, noting that the Trump administration would likely loosen emissions restrictions currently imposed on power plants under the Clean Air Act. On Tuesday, November 29, Lin will participate in a follow-up panel sponsored by the UC Davis Environmental Law Society, “What does this mean for the environment?” Four Law Professors will share their insights and perspectives on what a Trump administration may mean for the future of environmental laws and agencies.
–Michael Accinno, Graduate Student Researcher and Ph.D. candidate in musicology