PR: Federal Court Program in Pittsburgh Invites International Experts To Explore Italian Influence on the U.S. Constitution and Individual Rights

Media Contact:


Joshua C. Lewis, Clerk of Court
(412) 208-7500

Reporters interested in covering the event must contact the Clerk of Court by noon on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.


PITTSBURGH, PA ( — Duquesne University President Ken Gormley will lead a lively public discussion on Friday, September 15, 2017 to deconstruct some of the Italian influences that became part of the U.S. Constitution ranging from the “pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to “cruel and unusual punishment.”The free event features an internationally known author, as well as three judges, and three professors from Italy and the U.S. who will be part of two panels on Friday, Sept. 15 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Courtroom 8A on the 8th floor of the Joseph F. Weis Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Pittsburgh.

The session is scheduled in conjunction with Constitution Day — the anniversary of signing the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.  The program is dedicated to the memory of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and a reception follows.

“The Court is delighted to host Italian judges and other distinguished guests for this important discussion of Italian influences on the U.S. Constitution,” said U.S. District Court Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti. “I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the U.S. Constitution and honor Justice Scalia than by bringing together this international team of jurists and scholars for this program.”

Author John Bessler will set the stage for a stimulating conversation with the audience using excerpts from his book The Birth of American Law:  An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution.  The subject of the book is 26-year-old, 18th Century Italian philosopher Cesare Beccaria who influenced the framers of the Constitution and early presidents with his ideas of justice including the consistent application of the law in criminal and other cases.  Beccaria is believed to have had an impact on Thomas Jefferson’s thinking and writings that, ultimately, made their way into the Constitution.

Hosted by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania under the leadership of Chief Judge Conti, and the Honorary Consul of Italy in Pittsburgh Dr. Carla Lucente, the program will include such panelists as Third Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith and Judge Raffaele Sabato, of Naples, who serves on the highest appellate court in Italy.  Dr. Catherine Flumiani, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. will also provide remarks.

The first panel will deal with Beccaria’s influence as a criminologist and jurist on some of the most enduring principles in the Constitution. Panelists also will analyze with the audience Beccaria’s belief in the importance of a written Constitution, the protection of individual rights, and due process in criminal proceedings.

The second panel will look at the life and contributions to the American Revolution of Filippo Mazzei, an Italian physician-turned-businessman and diplomat, arms importer and possible secret agent for the U.S.

Mazzei was a friend of Thomas Jefferson and some believe that he influenced Jefferson’s phrasing in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal ….”

The event is presented by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Honorary Consulate of Italy in Pittsburgh.  Sponsors include the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA), the Pittsburgh chapter of the Federal Bar Association, and the National Italian American Bar Association.

Chief Judge Conti and Professor Carla E. Lucente, Ph.D., Honorary Consul of Italy in Pittsburgh, designed the program to explore and highlight the numerous contributions Italians made to the formation of the U.S. Constitution.

Panelists are highly regarded U.S. and Italian judges, lawyers, law professors, and representatives of Italian diplomatic, cultural, and judicial institutions.

Panelists include:

Dr. Ken Gormley will be the moderator.  He is a Constitutional scholar, law professor, and President of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. His most recent book is American Presidents and the Constitution: A Living History (2016).

John Bessler is the author of The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution (2014). The book is about Cesare Beccaria, an Italian criminologist and jurist whose thinking influenced the framers of the U.S. Constitution and early presidents. Bessler also has written books on Eighth Amendment issues, including the death penalty, cruel and unusual punishment, and other topics.

Judges and Lawyers on the Panel:

Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, is an international lecturer on the rule of law in addition to his judicial duties. The Third Circuit encompasses three states and Puerto Rico.

Judge Raffaele Sabato, of Naples, is a Counsel of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the highest appellate court in Italy.  He is an expert on European law and international judicial cooperation, administration, reform, and training.

Judge Luca Monteferrante is an Administrative Judge and Counsel to the Administrative Court in the Molise region of Italy as well as a Member of the Research Department of the Italian Council of State.  He also is on the faculty of the Italian National School of Administration and the Italian National School of Economics and Finance.

Joseph A. Sena, Jr. practices law in White Plains, NY and is President Emeritus of the National Italian-American Association.

Professors on the Panel:

Elizabeth F. Defeis, is a Distinguished Professor and former Dean of the Seton Hall University School of Law.  She is a television producer and host who has produced a series on Italians and the Creating of America.

Giovanni Guzzetta is a professor of Constitutional Law at the Law School of the University of Rome Tor Vergata.   He is a member of the Supreme Judicial Council for Administrative Justice.

Donatella Morana is a professor of public law at the Law School of the University of Rome Tor Vergata.


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