SUNY Distinguished Professor James A. Gardner is spending part of his sabbatical year in Spain, where he is teaching and conducting research.
For Gardner, a constitutional law scholar whose interests include comparative federalism, it’s a rich opportunity to get an up-close look at the legal environment of a country in the midst of a secession movement by its Catalonia province.
We met with Gardner shortly before his departure for the University of Barcelona, where he is visiting throughout March and April.
How does an invitation like this come about?
Over the years I’ve developed relationships with a few people who are members of the faculty at the University of Barcelona Faculty of Law, and I had an open-ended invitation to visit.
You’ll teach an introductory seminar on American constitutional law. What do you want to impart to these students?
My experience at other European universities is that very often they draw students from quite a few different places, so there could be students there from South America and other Spanish-speaking countries.
I will be talking to them a little bit about the founding, and we’ll spend a little time on the document itself. We’ll also address federalism and the separation of powers, a little bit on the role of race in our Constitutional history, and then just a touch of human rights, such as freedom of speech and the right of personal autonomy. I get to teach in English, which is good, because my Spanish is not up to the task. I can read Spanish pretty well, so students have the option to submit their papers in Spanish if they so choose.
The university also asked me to present at a workshop, and I’ve been invited to participate in a symposium on free speech and criminal law.
And what will your research address?
The situation has actually gotten much more exciting since I set up the visit. Spain is a quasi-federal state in the sense that there has been significant devolution of power to the provinces, but what’s been going on now with Catalonia is really quite amazing. [Catalan voters last fall declared their independence, and the Spanish government dissolved the Catalan government and has moved to suppress the secession movement.] I’m going right into the eye of the storm.
I’ll be observing what’s going on and talking to colleagues at the law school and elsewhere in the university. I’ve been surprised at the bad decisions and the poor judgment that has been exercised on both sides of the issue. I’m working on a book on comparative federalism, so this will certainly supplement my research.