California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu Presents 15th Annual Alfange Lecture at UMass Amherst

Lecture explores the overlooked role state courts played in the civil rights movement
Goodwin Liu
Goodwin Liu

AMHERST, Mass. – Goodwin Liu, associate justice on the California Supreme Court, delivered the annual Dean Alfange, Jr. Lecture in American Constitutionalism at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall. The lecture was free and open to the public.

In his lecture, Liu sheds new and critical light on the ‘myth of parity’ and elucidate the shared role of state and federal courts in interpreting constitutional principles on civil rights. The conventional view of federal courts is that they are superior forums for vindicating civil rights than state courts, tracing its contemporary origins to the civil rights revolution of the 1960s and 1970s in the aftermath of Brown v Board of Education, the definitive triumph of federal judicial power over unlawful state action. But Liu says that the underexplored history of state courts and school segregation during the century before Brown challenges this view. By examining scores of segregation cases litigated during the century before Brown, Liu says black plaintiffs challenging segregation obtained relief in state courts more often than is commonly known.

Following his appointment by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Liu was confirmed to office by a unanimous vote of the California Commission on Judicial Appointments in 2011. Before joining the state’s highest court, Liu was professor of law at the UC Berkeley School of Law. His primary areas of expertise are constitutional law, education law and policy, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Liu grew up in Sacramento, where he attended public schools. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford University in 1991 and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, earning a master’s degree in philosophy and physiology. Upon returning to the United States, he went to Washington, D.C. to help launch the AmeriCorps national service program, and worked for two years as a senior program officer at the Corporation for National Service. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1998, he clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then worked as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, where he developed and coordinated K-12 education policy. He went on to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the October 2000 term. In 2001, he joined the appellate litigation practice of O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., and worked on an array of antitrust, white collar, insurance, product liability and pro bono matters.

Liu has published articles on constitutional law and education policy in the California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, NYU Law Review, Stanford Law Review and Yale Law Journal, among others. His 2006 article, “Education, Equality, and National Citizenship,” won the Education Law Association’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law.

He currently serves on the Council of the American Law Institute, the board of directors of the James Irvine Foundation and on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science, Technology and Law. He has previously served on the board of trustees of Stanford University and the board of directors of the American Constitution Society, the National Women’s Law Center and the Public Welfare Foundation. In 2008, he was elected to the American Law Institute.

The Dean Alfange, Jr. Lecture in American Constitutionalism was established in 2005 by UMass Amherst alumni to honor professor emeritus Dean Alfange, Jr. of the department of political science for his many noteworthy contributions during a distinguished 32-year academic career. The annual lecture is organized by the department of political science.

More information on the Alfange Lecture can be found at the department of political science website, and more information on Liu can be found at California Courts’ website.