Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton presents “51 Imperfect Solutions” at the Major Issues Lecture Series and Luncheon


Avaerie Fitzgerald

Jeffery S. Sutton, Judge for the United States Court of Appeals spoke at the Ashbrook Center on Oct. 16


Sutton has served since 2003 on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He is also an adjunct professor at The Ohio State University College of Law and Harvard Law School where he teaches constitutional law.

After receiving his Juris Doctor from The Ohio State Universities Moritz College of Law, he went on to clerk for Judge Thomas Meskill for the Second Circuit, which eventually led him to co-clerk at the United States Supreme Court for Antonin Scalia.

His nomination for the seat on the Sixth Circuit came from former President George W. Bush. In 2011, Sutton was the first Republican judge to rule in favor of former President Barack Obama’s health care mandate as part of the Health Care law.

This is the first of the lectures to happen this school year, with another event coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 13 featuring Tom Fitton, president of “Judicial Watch.”

Jacob Nestle, an Ashbrook Scholar, attended the luncheon and joined the other Ashbrook students in a scholar session directly following the event.

“Judge Sutton is a dedicated man and honorable public servant,” Nestle said. “The presence of people like him in the judiciary is a vital part of ensuring that the principles of the Founding are upheld.”.

Sutton spoke about the “most important question in American constitutional law”, which is the “who decides the question.”

The true concern, he said, is who the proper decision maker should be when someone makes a case.

“Too often we are deciding the ‘who decides question’ with the U.S. Supreme Court… when they do something, you can’t reverse it,” Sutton said.

He said that the separation of power remains one of the most important things among the branches of government.

“I actually think the most important thing that federal judges do and the most important thing the U.S. Supreme Court does is a separation of powers and structure and making sure the executive branch isn’t invading the legislative branch,” Sutton said. “So to me, a U.S. Supreme court that is really doing its job well is really focusing on preserving that separation of powers because that’s what creates the checks and balances, and when that gets skewed that is the greatest danger to liberty in my view.”

Avaerie Fitzgerald
Many Ashbrook students were seen in attendance at the lecture

Kailyn Clarke, a second year Ashbrook Scholar and Intern, said that even with if someone disagrees with a speaker during an event they have the opportunity to bring up their concerns with them directly.

“Judge Sutton used real-life examples in his talk to allow the students to relate and appreciate his wisdom,” she said. “Even if someone did not agree with him the beauty of the major issue lecture series was that they could challenge him, and ask questions with the promise of a genuine and civil answer.”

The title of the lecture came directly from his new book “51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law” which he was signing at the luncheon event.

In his book, Sutton focused on the State Constitutions the making of those from a judicial viewpoint. The job of a judge, as Sutton said, is to listen to the words and not be tempted by a political side.

The interpretation of words should come from whether an issue is just or not.

“We wear these black robes because the law is neutral and because the idea is whatever our predisposition, our politics, our worldview, our faith, we’re not supposed to let that drive our interpretations of words,” Sutton said.