The two conservative legal scholars also shared their thoughts on the Second Amendment and immigration reform.
Olens and Blackwell, who both live in Cobb, were invited to speak to nearly 400 students from the school’s magnet program. They met with students for a little more than an hour.
Olens said his typical day is “very reactive,” and he loves that there’s always a lot going on.
Blackwell described himself as a bit of a “law nerd” but said he likes that he gets to learn something new every day.
The Georgia Supreme Court hears roughly 700 major cases and about 1,200 minor cases annually.
Blackwell explained that he went into his field chasing the dream of becoming a GBI agent. Olens said he went into public service after learning from his aunt about the importance of giving back to the community.
Olens’ parents both died when he was still a child, so he grew up in New Jersey with his aunt, who owned a bakery and would give the day-old food to nonprofits in their community.
“You learn from your parents and when your parents or extended family are very generous, you learn that and to me that’s where law and public service come in,” he said.
Olens told students it’s not about how much money they make or the car they drive but whether they leave the world a better place.
“The practice of law puts you in a great position to try to improve the world, and being a public servant gives you the ability to improve your community and the world so I’ve always been very involved in the nonprofits,” he said.
Olens and Blackwell also answered questions involving recent political issues.
They addressed why Georgia was one of 28 states that sued the federal administration over the health care bill known as Obamacare.
“We argued that never before had the Constitution been used to invoke power by not doing an act,” Olens explained, adding that with nearly 30 states involved in the litigation, it was a huge ordeal.
“It was a great history in the making, and I’m sure there will be some great documentaries made about the argument,” he continued.
They were arguing on three issues — the commerce, spending and tax clauses — and they lost on the tax clause.
“The issue was from a Constitutional perspective,” Olens said. “Does Congress have the authority to get it to that level and did they do it in a way that was legal? And the court ruled 5-4 that it was legal.”
On gun rights
The two leading lawyers were also asked about their views on the Second Amendment.
Olens said he is a supporter of gun rights but recommended students read the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court Case, District of Columbia vs. Heller, to learn more about the limits and role of the Second Amendment.
“The only other thing I’m going to say … everyone seems to be playing with the 10 percent of the issue and not the 90 percent of the issue, which in my opinion is mental illness and the pathetic job that we as a country do to assist folks that need mental health improvement,” he said.
Olens told the teens that it wasn’t about putting individuals in institutions but that he personally thinks the country should be embarrassed with the lack of the appropriate programming it has in place for those with mental illnesses.
“It frankly bothers me that people want to keep talking about clips and all this stuff, and no one is talking about what would actually help the individuals who are committing these crimes,” Olens said.
Blackwell only chimed in briefly to request that the students look into the history of the Second Amendment and why the founding fathers believed it was needed.
“It was all about limiting the power of government,” he said. “The idea was that there is only so much the government could do if the people are armed. That was fundamentally the idea.
“I know some folks like to say, well that’s when people had muskets, now we’re talking about modern militaries and people can’t resist those with ordinary firearms.”
He explained that isn’t the case if the students look at the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan where “ordinary folks” without sophisticated training “gave an awful lot of trouble to our men and women in uniform, who are the best trained and best equipped fighting force in the history of the world.”
One student asked Olens if he thought Georgia would support an immigration bill that was more bipartisan.
Olens replied saying there needed to be a clearer definition of bipartisan when there are only six senators involved but said “our immigration system is broken.”
“Where local governments and state governments have been most frustrated is that the federal government is not enforcing existing laws,” he said. “It’s not that our country doesn’t have enough laws, we have too many laws, we actually need people to enforce the laws that are already there.
“We’ll see what happens. I think it’s very positive that (U.S. Sen.) Marco Rubio is one of the leaders of that issue, but let’s face it, Washington’s dysfunctional!”
After the presentation, North Cobb seniors Jacob Bearden and Leah Tongco said they thoroughly enjoyed hearing Olens and Blackwell speak and were especially happy that they took time to answer their questions.
“It was interesting to see how the local government can impact the national … how the local government fits into our entire government scheme,” Bearden said. “Attorney General Olens spoke about federal matters in addition to state matters and I’ve personally never made that connection before, so it was interesting to see it.”
Tongco, who said she was an aspiring journalist and keeps up with national news more than local, said it was refreshing to hear about the local side as well.
“It was really cool to see what’s going on the state level and to actually meet the attorney general and one of the Supreme Court justices, which doesn’t really happy very often,” she said.