The Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Lee Edwards on the History of the Conservative Movement

On Thursday December 7th, Dr. Lee Edwards spoke with Buckley Fellows over dinner in New Haven. One Fellow spoke with Dr. Edwards before the dinner seminar, and her thoughts are printed below. 

Dr. Edwards, distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation, is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books. Dr. Edwards also is adjunct professor of politics at the Catholic University of America and chairman of a foundation that dedicated the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2007.

By: Aryssa Damron

With all the political discord on the right tonight, Dr. Lee Edwards thought it was high-time to write a book showing that this was not always the case. In his new book, Just Right: A Life in Pursuit of Liberty, Edwards traces his political life from Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump and gives us hope for the future of the movement based on how it has grown in the past.  Edwards says his life has shown him that persistence is important in every aspect of his life and has helped him and the movement achieve all it has so far. Continue reading

Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett on the Constitution and Originalism

On November 4th, 2017, Randy Barnett spoke at the Buckley Program’s conference on The Constitution and the Courts.

Randy Barnett is a professor of legal theory at the Georgetown University Law Center and as well as Director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. He is a leading scholar in constitutional originalism, and has written twelve books, including his most recent: “Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People,” released in 2016. A graduate of Harvard Law, he worked for years as a prosecutor in the Cook County States’ Attorney’s Office in Chicago. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies and the Bradley Prize, and has been a visiting professor at Penn, Northwestern, and Harvard Law School.

By: Sophia Morales

Sophia: You’re director at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution – could you start by telling me a little bit about your organization?

Randy: We’ve been at Georgetown since 2012, with the mission to examine how written constitutions can be faithfully interpreted and applied. The center is committed to the idea of originalism as the appropriate method of interpretation. That’s the approach, but there are still disagreements among originalists, and everyone working at the center is dedicated to pursuing and exploring different theoretical interpretations. One of our main goals is to bring some diversity to the law school in the form of diverse views on the constitution, which is why we have our student fellows program. We also have annual lectures, an originalist bootcamp where  law students can study originalism for a week in the summer, and a new book prize named for Justice Thomas Cooley.

Sophia: What would you consider the biggest challenge to interpreting the Constitution in the present day?

Randy: The biggest challenge is winning the debate over whether to interpret the constitution according to its original meaning or whether judges should get to update it. Originalism is actually doing well in the debate right now, but we’re trying to make the argument more widely known, to advocate it, and to develop it – which is a lot of what we focus on at the Center for the Constitution. We don’t have all the answers. For example, there’s some debate about exactly what the scope of meaning is – is it limited to the public meaning? Does it include its legal meaning? Does it include the practices at the time?

Sophia: In your opinion, what do we need to keep in mind when interpreting the Constitution?

Randy: The meaning of the constitution should remain the same until it’s properly changed by amendment. We have to remember that the Constitution is the law which governs those who govern, and those who are to be governed by it can’t change those laws any more than we can change the laws that govern us. The amendment in article five of the constitution is the way we should be able to change it – judges and congressmen can’t do so because they are the ones who are supposed to be governed by it.

Sophia: Is there any Constitutional issue in particular that you feel is especially misinterpreted on a wide scale?

Randy: There is a lot about the Constitution that is either misinterpreted or ignored. Among them are the enumerated powers of Congress which Congress has greatly exceeded. That’s the biggest one. If we could bring Congress back within its powers, the states could do a lot more, and the competition between states could protect freedom better than the courts can. Freedom is the most important thing we have to protect. It states clearly in the Declaration of Independence that the purpose of government is to secure individual liberties and the purpose of the Constitution is to hold the government to that function.

Sophia: You mentioned that appointment of justices to the supreme court is hugely important in defending originalism. Do you think that things are looking up under the current administration?

Randy: I think we dodged a huge bullet. The courts under President Obama had really moved away from originalism, and if we had 8 more years of that than ⅔ of appointments to the supreme court would be anti-originalist. President Trump has honored his commitment to appoint originalist judges, and he deserves a lot a credit for that. There’s a lot of good news right now. In the short run, we’re getting some great judges, and academics have been developing the theory of originalism to make it more resistant to criticism. There were a few people in opposition back when Bork was nominated, and now only one has testified against Gorsuch – that’s largely a result of the progress that has been made on the theory of originalism. It’s a lot harder to disparage.

Sophia Morales is a junior in Trumbull College. 

Penn Law Professor Amy Wax on Birth Control and Marriage

Amy Wax ’75, the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, addressed Buckley Fellows and guests on October 26th on the topic of “What Is Happening to the Family and Why?”. The following is one Fellow’s reflection on her talk.

Birth control destroyed marriage, according to Amy Wax (who cites Cheap Sex by Mark Regnerus). The advent of the pill has been the most significant change in incentive structure that has propelled the crumbling of marriage norms. Birth control came as a technological shock. The secular trend of female emancipation accelerated with the vote and with increased access to education, but that couldn’t have happened without reliable contraception. Birth control, after all, is what allowed women to participate in the workforce by allowing them to control their fertility.

Women have traditionally held the position of “gatekeeper” to sex. Women could set the terms for sex, terms with which men had to comply in order to access physical pleasure. These terms typically required men to be well-socialized enough to be a desirable marriage prospect. Put bluntly, most men had to get married or engaged to procure a steady supply of sex. Continue reading

Jonathan Turley on Expanding the Supreme Court

On November 4th, 2017, Professor Turley spoke at the Buckley Program’s conference on The Constitution and the Courts.

Professor Turley joined the GW Law faculty in 1990, and in 1998, became the youngest chaired professor in the school’s history.  He has written more than three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals including those of Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, and Northwestern Universities. He is a member of the USA Today board of contributors and the recipient of the “2005 Single Issue Advocate of the Year”. More than 400 of his articles on legal and policy issues regularly appear in national newspapers. 

The Buckley Program had the chance to interview Professor Turley at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited from a longer interview.

By: Jake Fischer

Jake:  Could you elaborate on the basics of your plan for the expansion of the Supreme Court? Continue reading

Cato’s Ilya Shapiro on Religious Freedom in the Courts

On November 4th, 2017, Ilya Shapiro spoke at the Buckley Program’s conference on The Constitution and the Courts.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review. He has contributed to a variety of academic, popular, and professional publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Weekly Standard, New York Times, and National Review Online. Before joining Cato, he was a special assistant/adviser to the Multi-National Force in Iraq on rule-of-law issues and practiced at Patton Boggs and Cleary Gottlieb. Before entering private practice, Shapiro clerked for Judge E. Grady Jolly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He holds an AB from Princeton University, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School.

The Buckley Program had the chance to interview Mr. Shapiro at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited from a longer interview.

By: Jake Fischer

Jake: One of the main things that I thought was interesting was considering how far does the religious liberty extend when it affects others. You spoke about coercing people into taking action that is against their religion but, especially with health care, there are some religions, for example Jehovah’s Witnesses, who may be opposed to any sort of emergency treatment on religious grounds. Do you think that these religious protections should extend to allow them to avoid paying for these parts of health insurance for their employees? Continue reading

Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell on his Career and Originalism

On November 4th, 2017, Professor Michael McConnell spoke at the Buckley Program’s conference on The Constitution and the Courts.

Michael W. McConnell is the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. From 2002 to the summer of 2009, he served as a Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  He has published widely in the fields of constitutional law and theory, especially church and state, equal protection, and the founding. In the past decade, his work has been cited in opinions of the Supreme Court second most often of any legal scholar. He is co-editor of three books: Religion and the Law, Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought, and The Constitution of the United States. McConnell has argued fifteen cases in the Supreme Court.

The Buckley Program had the chance to interview Professor McConnell at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited from a longer interview.

Ethan: What stands out as some of the more meaningful or memorable experiences from your career in law? Continue reading

Adam White on the Proper Role of Bureaucrats

On November 4th, 2017, Adam White spoke at the Buckley Program’s conference on The Constitution and the Courts.

Adam J. White is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and director of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, where he also teaches Administrative Law. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he previously practiced law at Boyden Gray & Associates PLLC and Baker Botts LLP, litigating regulatory and constitutional issues. His articles appear in The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Commentary, and other publications, and he is a contributing editor for National Affairs, City Journal, and The New Atlantis.

The Buckley Program had the chance to interview Mr. White at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited from a longer interview.

By: Alexander Sikorski

Alexander: Do you think that unelected officials threaten our democracy? Continue reading