Thursday, September 17, 2020
The idea that we should interpret the Constitution based on the original understanding of those who ratified it was long championed by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Yet originalism has moved far beyond Justice Scalia, as important a figure as he remains. Originalism has not only become more visible on the Supreme Court and in the federal judiciary, it’s prevalent—pervasive even—in law schools. And originalist approaches to constitutional interpretation are advocated across the political spectrum—including by liberal and progressives, not just by conservatives.
In conversation with CMC's George Thomas, Yale Law School's Akhil Amar and Northwestern Law School's Steven Calabresi, will discuss important remaining and emerging questions about originalism: What are we speaking of when we seek to understand the original meaning? Why should we be bound by original meaning? How concretely or abstractly do we apply original meaning to current issues? What if original meaning is indeterminate? What are the differences between originalism as practiced by judges and originalism as argued for by academics? And if everyone is an originalist today, does originalism have a core meaning?
Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, where he teaches constitutional law in both Yale College and Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale College, summa cum laude, in 1980 and from Yale Law School in 1984, and clerking for then Judge (now Justice) Stephen Breyer, Amar joined the Yale faculty in 1985 at the age of 26. His work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than three dozen cases. He regularly testifies before Congress at the invitation of both parties and ranks among America’s five most-cited mid-career legal scholars. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the American Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Scholar Award. A frequent contributor to news outlets, both printed and televised, he is the author of dozens of law review articles and several books, including among other award winning books, “America’s Unwritten Constitution” (2012—named one of the year’s 100 best nonfiction books by The Washington Post), “The Law of the Land” (2015), and “The Constitution Today” (2016—named one of the year’s top ten nonfiction books by Time magazine). He is Yale’s only currently active professor to have won the University’s unofficial triple crown—the Sterling Chair for scholarship, the DeVane Medal for teaching, and the Lamar Award for alumni service. (Source: Yale Law School)
Steven G. Calabresi is the Clayton J. & Henry R. Barber Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. He is also a Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School, Fall 2013-2016; a Visiting Professor of Political Theory at Brown University for 2016-2017; and the Chairman since 1986 of the Federalist Society's Board of Directors. Professor worked in the West Wing of President Ronald Reagan’s White House; was a special assistant for Attorney General Edwin Meese III; and clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and for Judges Robert H. Bork and Ralph K. Winter on the federal courts of appeals. Calabresi has written over seventy law review articles and essays. He is a co-author on three books: “The Unitary Executive: Presidential Power from Washington to Bush;” “The Constitution of the United States” (3rd edition); and “The U.S. Constitution and Comparative Constitutional Law: Texts, Cases and Materials.” Calabresi has taught constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, federal jurisdiction, administrative law, state constitutional law, and the separation of powers. He is a graduate of both Yale College and Yale Law School. (Source: Northwestern Pritzker School of Law)
George Thomas, Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions at Claremont McKenna College and director of the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World, will moderate the conversation.
Professors Amar and Calabresi's Athenaeum conversation is sponsored by the Salvatori Center’s Lofgren Program in American Constitutionalism.