PLAINVILLE - The Plainville Historical Society will begin its fall season with the program â€śYour State Constitutional Rights,â€ť presented by Attorney Wesley W. Horton, Sept. 3.
The program will be held at 7 p.m. at the Plainville Historic Center at 29 Pierce St., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Horton, who has practiced law in Hartford since 1970 and is now affiliated with Horton Dowd Barschi & Levesque PC, will discuss the difference between Connecticut stateâ€™s rights and federal rights. He will discuss historic cases as well as some contemporary issues and how Connecticutâ€™s legal landscape has evolved over the years.
â€śConnecticut has Constitutional rights that are in many cases more important to you, both for the left and the right, and you probably donâ€™t know about them,â€ť said Horton. â€śWhen I hear people screaming and yelling about their constitutional rights, I usually ask them which constitution they mean. This usually stops them since they either think Iâ€™m crazy or donâ€™t understand. In many cases, and depending on the issue, stateâ€™s rights may be broader than federal rights.â€ť
Horton said that he is looking forward to speaking at the historic center.
â€śNormally when people call me and ask me to speak, it concerns a particular case,â€ť he said. â€śI like that the Plainville Historical Society has left it up to me what I speak about.â€ť
Rosemary Morante, publicity co-chair for the Plainville Historical Society, said that the society is very excited to host Horton, whom she referred to as a â€śtrue expert and scholar of the Connecticut State Constitution.â€ť He has authored publications on topics concerning the state supreme court and state constitution that have appeared in the Connecticut Bar Journal, the Connecticut Law Journal, the Quinnipiac Law Journal, and Oxford University Press to name a few. Horton has also served as the president of the Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society.
â€śIt is a fascinating and important topic but not necessarily one with which many are familiar,â€ť said Morante. â€śSeptember 3rd will be opportunity to learn much more.â€ť
Some contemporary issues Horton will discuss in relation to the Connecticut State Constitution include criminal defense and the right to bear arms. He will also discuss how the U.S. is rather unique in having 50 sovereign states with their own constitutions.
â€śIn most of the rest of the world, the federal law is the law,â€ť he said. â€śIf the president of France wants someone released from jail, itâ€™s done. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Obamacare was almost declared unconstitutional.â€ť
Horton said that it is also unique to most of New England that judges are not elected.
â€śAs a result, judges are more independent and scholarly,â€ť said Horton. â€śYou can bring up politically toxic cases here where they wouldnâ€™t have a snowballâ€™s chance in Hell in other states. Connecticut was one of the first courts to legalize gay marriage after Massachusetts. In Iowa, which has elected judges, they legalized gay marriage a year after Connecticut and then those justices were all thrown out.â€ť
Morante said Horton is known for handling appeals before the Connecticut appellate courts including the stateâ€™s Supreme Court. These have included appeals involving major state constitutional issues, the most well-known of which is â€śSheff v. Oâ€™Neill,â€ť which concerned the de facto segregation of students.
â€śThe fact that we donâ€™t have elected judges is why Sheff v. Oâ€™Neill happened here and not other places,â€ť said Horton.
After graduating with a major in history, Horton said that he was a law clerk for a Connecticut Supreme Court justice. He said that the judge he was working under at the time was baffled as to why people were constantly raising federal constitutional rights cases and so few state constitutional rights cases. Today, he finds himself in much the same place.
â€śIn the 1970s, women were trying to get the equal rights amendment passed,â€ť he said. â€śThey werenâ€™t successful at the federal level, but they did get it passed in Connecticut. But, nobody pays attention to it. Whenever someone raises a discrimination case, they do it as a federal constitutional rights case and they are surprised when they lose. They donâ€™t realize that they are taking it to the wrong court.â€ť
The program is open to the public and is free of charge. Refreshments will be served. Elevator access to the upstairs meeting room is available.
For more information, call the society at 860-747-6577, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit plainvillehistoricalsociety.com. People can also like the Plainville Historical Society on Facebook.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.