2020 Symposium

The 2020 Symposium will take place on the following dates:

Friday, February 7, 2020
Saturday, February 8, 2020
University of Miami, Donna E. Shalala Student Center
1330 Miller Drive, Miami, FL 33146


For CLE Registrations, click here.

For Non-CLE and Student Registrations, click here

11 CLE credits approved by the Florida Bar

For the schedule of the events, click here.

Symposium 2020 Program Overview

This year’s Symposium, What Swings the Vote? The Influence of the U.S. Legal System and the Media on Presidential Elections, will take a critical look at the relationship between fundamental, constitutional rights and the legal structures and substantive issues that influence voting and election outcomes.

Day One will tackle the tension between the constitutional rights of individuals, states, and the federal government, with respect to elections. It is framed by a comparison of the ability of individual voters with the ability of election laws and procedures to determine the outcome of federal elections.

Day Two explores the substantive issues that voters consider when choosing a candidate and the forces that inform the way they think about these issues. From Obama’s “Hope” campaign to Trump’s Twitter-centric campaign (and presidency), the ability of candidates to interact with voters directly through social media, rather than through the filter or viewpoint of news outlets, has changed the landscape of publicity and political discourse for presidential candidates. Panel Three will set the stage for Day Two with an analysis of the roles traditional journalism and social media play in disseminating information, shaping campaign strategies, influencing public opinion, and, ultimately, defining the votes that are cast on election day. From there, the fireside chat series will narrow the focus of conversations to key election issues where this exact process plays out. One Fireside chat will be dedicated to Immigration, one to Climate Change, and one to International Trade. The series of three fireside chats will be a more relaxed and interactive format to encourage questions from Symposium attendees on these topical discussions.

Keynote Address:  Barry Richard

Mr. Richard is a Shareholder at Greenberg Traurig P.A. He has been nationally recognized by the highest lawyer rating organizations and publications for his trial and appellate work.  In 2000, Mr. Richard represented George W. Bush in the Florida litigation that determined the presidency. In that capacity, he effectively managed 47 cases throughout the state, personally arguing many of them. His performance before a national audience earned him the National Law Journal’s Lawyer of the Year designation in 2001, and its designation in 2006 as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” Last year, Mr. Richard represented Andrew Gillum in the Florida gubernatorial recount. He is a member of the University of Miami Law Class of ‘67.

Panel I:  Voters’ Rights: Who Votes and How Does it Influence Election Outcomes (Day 1)

This panel will examine issues surrounding individual voters’ rights and the legal mechanisms and political strategies that erect barriers to voting. This includes voter suppression tactics, forces that erect barriers to exercising the right to vote, and felon disenfranchisement, specifically in relation to Amendment 4 in Florida.

  • Frances Hill, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar for the Profession, University of Miami School of Law (Moderator)
  • Alaina Fotiu-Wojtowicz, Founding Shareholder at Brodsky Fotiu-Wojtowicz
  • Nancy Abudu, Deputy Legal Director, Voting Rights, Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Desmond Meade, Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, and Chair of the Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Black Men’s Roundtable

Panel II: The State and Federal Government’s Influence on Election Outcomes (Day 1)

This panel will discuss how election laws, regulations, and procedures, at the state and federal levels, create a divergence between the popular vote and actual election outcomes and potential methods to ensure federal election integrity while preserving states’ rights. In light of developments in the past year, the discussion will focus on partisan gerrymandering and Campaign finance oversight. The gerrymandering discussion will be framed by the recent Supreme Court opinion noting “Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust. But the fact that such gerrymandering is “incompatible with democratic principles,” not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary. We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.” Rucho v. Common Cause, 138 S. Ct. 2484, 2606-07 (2019). The campaign finance discussion will examine the current status of the Federal Election Committee. With three of the six members of the committee, there are currently enough members for the committee to remain open, but not enough to act, which is particularly relevant given the committee’s oversight of foreign contributions to political campaigns to ensure election integrity and transparency of campaign finance.

  • Frances Hill, Professor of Law & Dean’s Distinguished Scholar for the Profession, University of Miami School of Law (Moderator)
  • Nicholas Stephanopoulos, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Ellen Freidin, Campaign Chairwoman, FairDistrictsNow, Inc., FairDistrictsFlorida.org
  • Elizabeth Iglesias, Professor of Law, University of Miami School of Law 

Panel III: The Role of Social Media and Journalism in Election Outcomes (Day 2)

This panel will venture into the political weaponization of the media, specifically social media, and its impact on political discourse, social movements, and ultimately voter turnout and elections. Questions that will be addressed include (1) Does the ability of candidates to interact directly with voters via social media allow them to garner support for more polarizing ideals than they would have in the past? (2) What impact, if any, does social media have on voter substantive decisions? (3) Does social media need to be regulated to ensure a fair election?  (4) If so, what is the balancing act between first amendment freedom of expression and censorship on social media? Is a quasi anti-trust movement to break up large social media platforms and dilute their influence warranted?

  • Lili Levi, Vice Dean for Intellectual Life, University of Miami School of Law (Moderator)
  • Peter Enns, Associate Professor, Cornell University
  • Dawn Nunziato, William Wallace Kirkpatrick Research Professor, The George Washington University Law School
  • Joseph Uscinski, Associate Professor, University of Miami

Fireside Chat Series (Day 2)

The Fireside Chat series will focus on immigration, climate change, and international trade. Each of these issues has received considerable attention heading into the current election cycle and is a practice area particularly sensitive to political change and campaign rhetoric. A common thread uniting them is that they juxtapose the concept of citizenship of a country with citizenship of one planet of scarce and valuable resources. While the two are not mutually exclusive, approaches to public policy in immigration, climate change, and international trade struggle to harmonize both interests. As an internet-based resource, social media transcends national boundaries and allows for passionate ideas to gain support and cooperation on a global, rather than national or local scale. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that issues underscored by this global-national citizenship tension are at the forefront of elections in the age of social media.

Fireside Chat 1: Climate Change

  • Jessica Owley, Professor of Law, University of Miami School of Law (Moderator)
  • Jonathan Cannon, Blaine T. Phillips Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law, Director, Environmental and Land Use Law Program, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Shi-Ling Hsu, D’Alemberte Professor, Florida State University College of Law

Fireside Chat 2: Immigration

Fireside Chat 3: International Trade