A More or Less Perfect Union

Air date: 01/24/2020

Three-Part Documentary Miniseries A More or Less Perfect Union, A Personal Exploration by Judge Douglas Ginsburg Explores the U.S. Constitution

Premieres Nationwide Beginning January 24, 2020 on PBS (check local listings)

ERIE (January 8, 2020) – A More or Less Perfect Union, A Personal Exploration by Judge Douglas Ginsburg, a new three-part documentary series, explores the U.S. Constitution – the document that governs those who govern us – delving into past, present, and future struggles for liberty. The series will begin airing nationwide starting January 24 on PBS stations (check local listings), pbs.org/wethepeople and the PBS Video app. In the New York metro area, the series premieres Sundays, March 15-29 at 7 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Hosted by Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, a constitutional expert with 30 years of experience on the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, A More or Less Perfect Union features perspectives and interviews from constitutional experts of all stripes – liberal, conservative and libertarian – examining the key issues of liberty: freedom of religion and press, slavery and civil rights, the Second Amendment, separation of powers and more. To add context to the shaping of American governance, the series offers firsthand perspectives, including those of a diverse range of American citizens, direct descendants of those involved in pivotal civil rights cases, historians, Constitutional experts, business owners, and judges.

“More than any other program Free to Choose Media has produced, A More or Less Perfect Union is relevant to audiences of every social, political, and economic background,” said Free to Choose President/CEO Robert Chatfield. “The Constitution is ours as a nation and we all have an interest in protecting it.”

Episode one, “A Constitution in Writing, examines the struggles and compromises in the creation of the document that defines the United States of America. From the battlefield at Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts, to Independence Hall, Boston Harbor, and the House of Burgesses in Virginia, Judge Ginsburg ponders:  Were the powerful words used by the Framers meant to be updated by courts as our nation evolves, or only by following the amendment process specified in the Constitution itself? Constitutional experts, citizens and–in dramatic recreations, the Framers themselves–weigh in on the unique document, the rule of law, the three branches of government separated to prevent tyranny, and the debate over originalism versus a living Constitution.

Episode two, “A Constitution for All, explores Constitutional amendments, including the Bill of Rights and amendments related to equal protection, slavery, and voting rights through significant Supreme Court decisions including Dred Scott v. Sandford and several cases affecting LGBTQ rights, with interviews at locations ranging from the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana to the Newseum in Washington, DC. Constitutional experts address hot-button historical and timely issues, including limits on rights of free speech, free press, bearing arms, and individual protections such as due process during arrest and trial, unenumerated rights, and unalienable rights.

For more than two centuries, Americans have fought to establish liberty, expand liberty and preserve liberty. A More or Less Perfect Union concludes with episode three, “Our Constitution at Risk, which shows how the Constitution is under pressure today and how, through action or inaction, all three branches of government are contributing to the problem. Judge Ginsburg asks: Are we ceding our rights so gradually that we don’t even know it is happening? Topics explored include affirmative action, racial profiling, the commerce clause, eminent domain, executive orders, treaties and executive agreements, illuminated through interviews with the descendants of Plessy v. Ferguson, with constitutional experts, local business owners, and others. Judge Ginsburg concludes, “The great safeguard of liberty is a government of laws and not of men. Our Constitution creates that government, but it works only if ‘we the people’ know the Constitution and protect it.”

To extend the conversation beyond the series, community engagement events across the U.S. will provide an opportunity for viewers to engage in conversations about the Constitution and related issues of governance. A companion book to the miniseries, “Voices of Our Republic,” edited by Judge Ginsburg, will be available January 28, 2020 via Skyhorse. The book is a collection of personal essays and thoughts about the Constitution from judges, journalists, academics, and everyday heroes, including Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Neil Gorsuch, and Sandra Day O’Connor, publisher Arthur Sulzberger, professor Alan Dershowitz, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and historians Joseph Ellis and Ron Chernow, along with Jack Nicklaus, Gene Simmons, and many others.

A More or Less Perfect Union, A Personal Exploration by Judge Douglas Ginsburg is a production of Free to Choose Media in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Jim Taylor is director. Barbara Potter is producer. Bob Chitester, Thomas Skinner and Robert Chatfield are executive producers. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge for WNET.

Major funding is provided by the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, The Dunn Foundation and Thomas Peterffy. Additional funding is provided by Judicial Education Project, C. Boyden Gray, Mrs. Richard Monroe Fairbanks III, Sarah Scaife Foundation and Fred M. Young, Jr.

 

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About Douglas H. Ginsburg

Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg has heard more than 3,000 cases as one of the top appellate judges in the nation. Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1986; he served as Chief Judge from 2001 to 2008. He received his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1973, and he clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the United States Supreme Court. He has been a professor at the Harvard Law School, Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and while on the bench he has taught at the University of Chicago and the New York University law schools. Judge Ginsburg is currently a Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, and a visiting professor at University College London, Faculty of Laws.

 

About Free To Choose Media

Free to Choose Media produces award-winning documentaries and series for public television, offering diverse voices, powerful stories and a fresh perspective on a range of important global and national issues.  For more than 30 years, Free To Choose production teams have traveled the world to explore topics and issues that stimulate thought and cultivate conversations.  For more information, visit the website, at www.FreeToChooseMedia.org.

 

About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including NatureGreat PerformancesAmerican MastersPBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

 

 

Photos
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In Episode 2, “A Constitution for All,” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union , Dr. Ibrahima Seck, director of research at the Whitney Plantation, describes the daily life of slaves on the plantation. The bell served as the clock, calling slaves to work before the sun came up, working until sundown, or as the slaves referred to it, working from “can’t see to can’t see.”Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Phoebe Ferguson (l) and Keith Plessy (r), descendants of Homer Plessy and John Ferguson of Plessy v Ferguson Supreme court case, met for the first time in the location where Homer Plessy was originally arrested in Episode 3, “Our Constitution at Risk,” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union. Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Charlie Birnbaum, a piano tuner, shares his fight for his home in Atlantic City due to an eminent domain claim by the government in Episode 3, “Our Constitution at Risk,” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union. Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Douglas H. Ginsburg, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, talks with historic interpretive actor Benjamin Franklin outside of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the PBS series, A More or Perfect Union. Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Lynne Jackson, a descendant of Dred and Harriet Scott and president and founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation details the struggles of her ancestors' path to freedom from slavery in Episode 2, “A Constitution for All,” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union. Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Douglas H. Ginsburg, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, visits the Montpelier Train Station in Orange County, Virginia, an example of “separate but equal” in Episode 2, “A Constitution for All” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union . Photo Credit: Jim Taylor

The ratification of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago earned women the right to vote, thanks to suffragettes. Women of all ages claim their Constitutional right in Episode 2, “A Constitution for All,” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union . Photo Credit: The Library of Congress

Douglas H. Ginsburg, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, and host of the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union , on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Newly sworn-in United States citizens are all smiles and waving flags during a naturalization ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union . Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Comedian Jeremy McLellan performs on-stage and talks about free speech being “the life blood of comedy” in Episode 3, “Our Constitution at Risk,” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union. Photo Credit: Jim Taylor

Douglas H. Ginsburg, Judge, US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, host of A More or Less Perfect Union , in front of Loudon County Courthouse In Leesburg, Virginia. Photo Credit: Barbara Potter

Sybil Haydel Morial is a descendant of a slave held captive at the Whitney Plantation. In Episode 2, “A Constitution for All,” in the PBS series, A More or Less Perfect Union , she shares her ancestor's story of captivity and life at the plantation. Photo Credit: Barbara Potter