Bench Memos

Kudos on USD Originalism Conference

I’m very pleased to report that the Originalism Works-in-Progress Conference that I took part in this past Friday and Saturday at the University of San Diego amply exceeded my hopeful expectations (so much so that I didn’t wonder why I wasn’t outdoors enjoying San Diego’s beautiful weather).

The conference attracted a diverse array of scholars from some twenty or so law schools (only some of whom are listed at the site linked above): various proponents of different versions of originalism, a number of critics of originalism, and others who may not necessarily have staked out a methodological position on originalism but who are interested in exploring historical evidence of the meaning of constitutional provisions. There were liberals and conservatives (in rather different proportions than in legal academia generally), and there were well-known senior scholars as well as rising young academics.

Several of the presentations addressed interrelated questions about Congress’s power:  under the Commerce Clause, under the different subparts of the Necessary and Proper Clause, under Article I, section 8 generally, and under the 13th and 14th Amendments. Others explored methodological challenges that originalism faces. The discussion among the participants was both vigorous and civil—a model (so it seemed to me) of sound collegiality.

Congratulations to Michael Rappaport, Michael Ramsey, and Steven Smith, all of the University of San Diego law school’s Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism, for making the conference such a success.

Just a reminder, too, of the Center’s Originalism Blog, which aims to be “a ‘one stop site’ for those who are interested in originalism from any perspective.”


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