Former U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold Teaches “The United States Senate as a Legal Institution” at Stanford Law School

Former U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold Teaches "The United States Senate as a Legal Institution" at Stanford Law School
Senator Russell D. Feingold

Forty-one Stanford Law students are currently enrolled in a new course examining the U.S. Senate as a legal institution. At the lectern is a seasoned expert— former U.S. Senator Russell D. Feingold, three-term veteran of the Senate whose legacy includes sponsorship of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, intended to limit the influence of money in national politics, and standing out as the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, which gave federal authorities new sweeping powers following 9/11.

In addition to teaching during the winter quarter, Senator Feingold will remain in residence during the spring quarter to lecture in other instructors’ classes, to participate in faculty workshops, and to appear before Stanford Law School affiliate groups, including the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School and the Stanford National Security & the Law Society, among others.

“I will also be writing,” Senator Feingold said, “with a focus on what obligations members of Congress have to consider the constitutionality of matters on which they vote and how it relates to judicial rulings on similar matters.”

Senator Feingold’s course is designed to familiarize students with major and emerging legal and constitutional issues related to the U.S. Senate, examining both the Senate’s nature as a complex legal institution as well as the Senate’s legitimacy in the context of the current—and largely unprecedented—criticism of it from across the political spectrum.

“Many of our students will go on to be leaders in the public arena, many will become architects of public policy, and many want deep knowledge of policymaking even if their career will not require it,” said Stanford Law School Dean M. Elizabeth Magill. “The Senator’s presence is a unique opportunity for our students to learn about the U.S. Congress from a knowledgeable and thoughtful observer, and a participant.”

For eighteen years, Russell D. Feingold represented Wisconsin in the United States Senate. He served on the Judiciary, Foreign Relations, Budget, and Intelligence Committees. He also served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1983 to 1993 and practiced law for six years at Foley & Lardner and LaFollette & Sinykin in Madison, Wisconsin. Senator Feingold is also the author of the New York Timesbestseller While America Sleeps about what America has done wrong both domestically and abroad since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and what steps must be taken to ensure that the next ten years are focused on the international problems that threaten America and its citizens.

Senator Feingold’s course examines a wide variety of legal questions about the U.S. Senate. Students are learning about the appointment of senators to fill vacancies and studying the controversies surrounding U.S. Senate rules and practices, including the filibuster and the practice of placing holds on nominations. The course explores how the Constitution constrains the Senate and how the Senate interacts with the Supreme Court. It also examines how senators should regard the constitutionality of a bill when they vote on it, and how senators should approach proposed constitutional amendments. The senator is placing special emphasis on the issues that have become prominent since 9/11, including the relationship between legislation and the presidential assertion of Article II powers, as well as the Senate’s use (or non-use) of its Article I power to declare war.

“The course will enable students to critically evaluate and use proper source material concerning new issues that are likely to arise in the future regarding the Senate,” Feingold said.

Senator Feingold graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975, received a degree from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 1977, and then went on to Harvard Law School, where he earned his degree in 1979. Since leaving the Senate, Senator Feingold has been a visiting professor at Marquette University Law School and the inaugural Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor at the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University during winter quarter 2012.