U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, Justice Baer from the Germany Constitutional Court to speak at U-M first bicentennial colloquium

October 5, 2016

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan celebrates its bicentennial with a January 2017 colloquium that features two of the world’s leading jurists and legal scholars whose pioneering visions for justice have transformed the United States and German court systems.

The first of three 2017 Presidential Bicentennial Colloquia—The Future University Community—will bring together for a conversation Justice Susanne Baer of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany and Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This event combines a moderated discussion between Baer and Sotomayor, followed by a Q&A with student audience members. Broad themes will include diversity, community, higher education, and the role of history, justice and ethics in our lives and our work.

U-M President Mark Schlissel announced the colloquium speakers Wednesday at his Leadership Breakfast for faculty and staff.

Martha Jones, who was appointed by Schlissel to plan the first colloquium and surrounding discussions, said both justices are recognized for their intellectual leadership and for bringing diverse perspectives to legal practice and theory.

“They will talk about how their experiences have influenced their work as jurists and the legal system more broadly,” said Jones, professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies and a co-director of the Law School’s Program in Race, Law & History.

Sotomayor is the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Baer is the first lesbian woman to serve on Germany’s high court.

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice
Sotomayor earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduated summa cum laude and received the university’s highest academic honor. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She served as assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office from 1979 to 1984. She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she served as an associate and then partner from 1984 to 1992.

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992 to 1998. She served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998 to 2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role Aug. 8, 2009.

Dr. Susanne Baer, Justice of the First Senate
Justice Baer serves on the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany and is a tenured professor of public law and gender studies at Humboldt-University of Berlin since 2002. In 1993, she graduated with an L.L.M. degree from U-M.

She has taught for 10 years at CEU Budapest and became a James W. Cook Global Law Professor at the U-M Law School in 2010. Over the years, she has participated in feminist projects against domestic violence and sexual abuse and discrimination, directed the GenderCompetenceCentre to advise the German government on gender mainstreaming strategies, and initiated the Law and Society Institute LSI Berlin and the Humboldt Law Clinic.

To commemorate U-M’s bicentennial, the Office of the President will host three colloquia to explore topics related to the future of the university. The purpose is to engage the broader higher education community in discussion surrounding these challenges, drawing meaning from the university’s past as its future is imagined.

“Our full year of bicentennial events and activities gives us a wonderful opportunity to look forward and consider how we lead in the future—to celebrate and cerebrate, as it were,” Schlissel said.

The Future of the University Community seeks to answer various questions, such as who will be the university’s future students, faculty, staff and alumni, and how will they engage in the work of the university? In addition, how should the university think of diversity in our third century and what will be the challenges to sustaining it?

The conversation is from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 at Hill Auditorium, 825 North University Ave. The event is free and open to the public. Ticket information is forthcoming.

Other colloquia and the tentative dates are “The Evolving Bargain between Research Universities and Society” in June 2017 and “Campus of the Future” in October 2017.