Forging a new constitution

UC Irvine law students will write a new constitution this weekend.

Starting Friday, about 60 of them will attend the second annual Global Justice Summit and participate in a mock constitutional convention.

By the end of the conference Saturday, the fictional countries of Ruja and Miliana will get a new structure of government, courts and some enumerated rights.

The UCI law student who created the summit last year said he needed a brief break from the grind of law. So he created a utopian thought experiment — breaking away from the standard extracurricular activities like mock trials and law review.

"Those particular exercises work to develop a particular kind of muscle. I thought UCI had kind of a unique opportunity to come up with something to exercise a new set of muscles," said Edgar Ivan Aguilasocho, who was part of the school's inaugural class.

As one of the UCI School of Law's first students, Aguilasocho was encouraged to experiment. He decided students needed a chance to practice their negotiating skills and build their understanding of international law — a class they're required to take in their first semester.

"I think that says something about the way the profession is going," Aguilasocho said.

He has since graduated and taken a job in Bakersfield, but Aguilasocho is returning to help run the 2013 summit.

This year, UCI's law school has adopted the conference into its curriculum, offering one unit of credit to students who participate and write about the experience.

"What's great about our school is if we have five students who are interested in a subject, they'll actually create a class for those five students," law student and summit organizer Carly Edelstein said.

She and Aguilasocho don't expect Ruja and Miliana's governing documents to look like those in the United States. What students came up with last year didn't.

"More than anything, it looked a lot like the South African constitution," Aguilasocho said.

That convention of just a handful of students got bogged down in rule-making and the preamble, but organizers are hoping the extra day at this year's event let's them delve into modern issues and human rights.

To cobble together a final document, they may draw on more recent documents like the ones adopted in South Africa.

"What we recognize are there are a number of constitutions, more modern constitutions, that are far more progressive than our own, that take on many more modern issues," Edelstein said.

U.S. courts grapple every day with applying a centuries-old document to modern situations, Edelstein said.

"I think that's what's so exciting about this," she added.

The summit grew from a handful of students last year to 60 this weekend. Edelstein and Aguilasocho hope that expansions continues next year.

They hope to include other colleges in the event or loan the concept out to other schools.

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck

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