John Kowal & Wilfred Codrington III: Constitution Day Celebration
September 22, 2022
The original Constitution was written on just four pages of parchment, with twenty-seven Amendments added later to broaden the scope of our democracy during periods of transformational social change. Do ‘We the People’ find ourselves again at the cusp of change for our national charter?
The Hauenstein Center and our partners at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum were pleased to welcome John F. Kowal, Vice President of Program Initiatives at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and Wilfred U. Codrington III, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, to discuss their book, The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union.
This event helped kick off the new Talking Together series, a collaborative project with the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute, and WGVU Media.
“Loved the history that these two men revealed. It was very well done!”
About our Speakers
John Kowal - Biography
John F. Kowal is the Brennan Center’s Vice President of Program Initiatives, responsible for guiding the organization’s Justice and Liberty & National Security Programs. He also manages the Brennan Center’s Fellows Program.
Kowal’s areas of expertise include constitutional reform and judicial independence. He is the co-author of The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union (The New Press, 2021), an alternative history of American democracy that chronicles how generations of Americans have taken an imperfect Constitution—the product of compromises and an artifact of its time—and made it more democratic, more inclusive, and more responsive to the needs of a changing country through the amending process of Article V. Publishers Weekly praises the book as “a rigorous yet accessible history” that offers “a fresh and invigorating take on the history of American democracy.” Describing the book as “a remarkable public service by showing America what our Constitution means and how it has come about,” Congressman Jamie Raskin says, “It is hard to think of a more patriotic act of scholarship than what it contained in these pages.”
Kowal also authored the 2016 report, Judicial Selection in the 21st Century, “The Improbable Victory of Marriage Equality,” an essay published in the Brennan Center volume, Legal Change: Lessons from America’s Social Movements (Brennan Center for Justice, 2017), and “The Equal Rights Amendment’s Revival: Questions for Congress, the Courts, and the American People,” a 2019 scholarly article published in the N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change.
Before joining the Brennan Center, Kowal developed and led grant making programs at the Open Society Foundations and Ford Foundation on issues related to democracy, justice, human rights, and the rule of law. He began his career as a litigation attorney in the New York City law firms of Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Schulte Roth & Zabel, where he handled a wide range of civil and regulatory litigation. He is a graduate of New York University and Harvard Law School.
Wilfred Codrington III - Biography
Wilfred U. Codrington III is a constitutional law scholar and professor at Brooklyn Law School, where his teaching and scholarship focuses on constitutional theory and reform, election law, and voting rights. He is also a non-resident fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where he was previously the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Fellow and Counsel focusing on voting and election security, constitutional reform, and the rule of law. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at NYU Wagner School of Public Service on topics of law, public policy, and politics, and was a Fieldwork Supervisor for the Brennan Center Advocacy Clinic, an NYU Law School clinic devoted to teaching public policy through real world legal reform campaigns that impact the laws of democracy and the regulation of election contests.
Professor Codrington is the co-author of The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union (The New Press 2021), which examines, among other things, the history of U.S. constitutional change, specifically through the Article V amendment process, and need for a renewed American conversation about the constitutional reform. His recent scholarly articles, which have been published in academic journals include: “Black Patients Matter in Neurology: Race, Racism, and Race-Based Neurodisparities,” 99 Neurology 106 (2022); “Purcell in Pandemic,” 96 N.Y.U. Law Review 941 (2021); “So Goes the Nation: What the American West is Telling us about How We’ll Choose the President in 2020,” 120 Columbia Law Review 43 (Forum) (2020); and “The Benefits of Equity in the Constitutional Quest for Equality,” 43 N.Y.U. Review of Law & Social Change 105 (The Harbinger) (2019).
A first generation college and graduate student, Professor Codrington was previously an associate attorney at a global law firm, where focusing on litigation, government investigations, and regulatory practices and undertook a variety of pro bono projects on behalf of individual clients, minority communities, and nonprofit organizations. He also clerked for Hon. Deborah Anne Batts, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York, and served as a staffer for U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.