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How Chief Justice John Marshall Saved the National Bank (with an Assist from Alexander Hamilton)

Are you wondering what lawyers do all day? For many of us, legal reasoning is a mix of logic and psychology. This talk by Alisa Klein, meant to be accessible to high school students and other non-lawyers, provides a taste of legal reasoning. We take a look at what Chief Justice Marshall said in his landmark 1818 opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland, where he explained why Congress could create a national Bank even though the word “bank” doesn’t appear in the Constitution. Although the McCulloch decision may seem like ancient history, its reasoning underlies a huge swath of federal law today.

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Alisa has been a career appellate attorney in the Civil Division of the Department of Justice since 1995. Before that, she clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and District Judge Louis H. Pollak. Alisa regularly co-teaches a seminar on federalism as an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. Alisa is speaking in her personal capacity, and her views do not necessarily represent the position of the Department of Justice.