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BU Law brings “Strict Scrutiny” podcast to WBUR, delighting sold-out audience

For “Strict Scrutiny” podcast listeners, the ins-and-outs of today’s courts and the context of why they matter is at their fingertips.

“Strict Scrutiny,” a podcast about the Supreme Court and legal issues, recorded a live episode at WBUR CitySpace in conjunction with Boston University’s School of Law Feb. 21. ILLUSTRATION BY AUSMA PALMER/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

WBUR’s CitySpace opened its doors Friday night to a sold-out crowd for a live taping of the “Strict Scrutiny” podcast. The event, held in a partnership with the Boston University School of Law, was hosted by podcast hosts Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan, Melissa Murray, a New York University law professor, and lawyer Jaime Santos, a partner of an Appellate Litigation practice.

Two BU Law professors — Sarah Sherman-Stokes, associate director for the BU Immigrants’ Rights and Human Trafficking Clinic, and Danielle Citron, who won a McArthur Fellowship in 2019 for her work with cyber security — guest starred on the podcast, which Litman said was one of the benefits of doing a live show.

The live-recorded episode, “No Jonathans or Pauls,” was available online on Monday. This was the podcast’s second live performance, Litman said at the event.

Alex Schneps, the CitySpace events and programming manager, said that when the BU School of Law approached them about the event, they were very receptive to the idea.

“I think what is appealing about the podcast is, first of all, that all the hosts are women,” Schneps said. “And that they’re talking not just about the relevant cases and things that are currently on tap at the United States Supreme Court, but the culture that surrounds it.”

The podcast repeatedly intersected legal jargon with pop-culture references, from Uber to presidential primary debates to Meghan Markle.

The episode began with covering breaking news, transitioned into discussing the current court cases U.S. v. Sineneng-Smith and Seila Law LLC v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The event concluded with an interview with Citron and a question and answer period.

The breaking news segment discussed the the sexual harassment hearing that Olivia Warren, a former law clerk, issued against the late Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhart. The hosts also commented that for oral arguments, the number of women arguing this month is now equal to the amount of men with the name of Paul — with only three women out of 24 people — which became the episodes namesake.

Litman said the dialogue about gender disparities and discrimination in the industry reflects the podcasts goal of pointing to inequities and challenges pervasive in law.

“Law, like other professions, struggles to be equitable toward everyone in the profession,” Litman said. “We wanted to maintain commentary and be able to shine a light on some of the challenges they think different groups in the profession [face] and some of the ways the profession is not doing right by that.”

Citron, who wore a Strict Scrutiny bandana on stage as a self-proclaimed “Strict Scrutiny Ninja,” was then interviewed by the hosts about her research on deep fakes, or doctored images or videos almost identical to reality, and how the pervasiveness of the videos questions the Supreme Court’s use of photos and videos as evidence.

The question and answer segment that followed focused on how to confront sexual harassment in the workplace and the voting rights act.

Meghan McCarthy, a J.D. candidate at the BU School of Law, said she has been a regular listener of the podcast for a month, as a way to complement her education.

“It’s a fun way to learn about the Supreme Court,” McCarthy said. “I like hearing about the case and also hearing about the background of each case as opposed to just jumping in and looking at the case isolated.”

Although the discussion around the Supreme Court can become discouraging at some points, especially with the harassment conversation, Litman said she would advise law students to tap into that frustration to make change.

“People shouldn’t feel frustrated if they find part of what the Supreme Court is doing unpersuasive or they don’t agree with it,” Litman said. “That’s not a sign that you don’t understand Supreme Court and the law. That’s the sign that maybe you want to participate and help change it.”

Litman said she hopes people who attended the recording or listen to the podcast will better understand the importance of the legal profession.

“We want people to understand the stakes of the Supreme Court and the importance of the court, Litman said. “Even if that’s not going to be your area of legal practice or even if you’re not in law at all, we think more people should understand the courts business and what it is the course is doing.”

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