Law professor discusses the Constitution’s relevance with Wilson students

Anna Dueholm

How does the Constitution apply to your life? Leave it to Kim Wehle to let you know. A staunch believer that the historic document is relevant to each of us daily, regardless of age or background, the Constitution expert came to speak at Wilson on Monday, October 21.

Wehle is a lawyer, legal analyst, author, and CBS commentator. In addition to being a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and current law professor at the University of Baltimore, she recently authored a book titled, “How to Read the Constitution and Why”

Beginning her talk before a small audience of parents, students, and teachers alike, Wehle emphasized the discovery that prompted her to write this book in the first place. After reviewing a study that concluded two-thirds of Americans couldn’t name the three branches of government, she knew there were simply too many citizens that didn’t understand how relevant the Constitution was. 

“I’ve realized that a lot of people don’t understand the Constitution in a way that makes sense in their everyday lives,” she said. 

Throughout her presentation, Wehle made connections easy for teenagers in the audience to relate to. And students responded, some taking notes, others just actively listening. Wehle discussed the Constitution as a set of rules, not unlike ones high schoolers are required to abide by at school. 

“If there’s a rule here that isn’t enforced, it becomes optional, just like if there are no consequences for violating the terms of the Constitution, the Constitution doesn’t apply anymore,” she said. 

Wehle used this logic to underscore the importance of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, especially when Department of Justice memos essentially bar prosecutors from charging the sitting president with any crimes. She highlighted the importance of the legislative branch holding the president accountable. 

“Political parties are not what matter here; what matters is if we allow the presidency to have no limits,” she said. 

This line of discussion prompted many questions from the audience. Several students wanted to know how likely removal was. While she was unsure about the likelihood of removal, Wehle described the current steps of the inquiry process, explaining that Congress is acting as prosecutors and a grand jury to hear from witnesses. She reminded the group that impeachment occurs on the basis of suspicions of abused power, not necessarily outright crimes. “People in office are supposed to be using their power for the people,” Wehle said. 

Wehle noted her book writing process did not come without its challenges. She described difficulties she encountered putting such complex ideas into terms that were both understandable and applicable for the average person. However, she emphasized that because she was so passionate about the topic, the book “basically wrote itself.” 

Before ending her talk, Wehle had some wisdom to impart upon Wilson students. She recommends that anyone interested in writing nonfiction simply expose themselves to it constantly—read blogs, listen to podcasts, and stay informed. Wehle’s second book, “What You Need to Know About the Right to Vote—and Why,” is set to be published in July of 2020.