This month marks the 25th anniversary of Justice Clarence Thomas’s elevation to the Supreme Court. More than any member of the Court over the last half-century, Justice Thomas has advanced a jurisprudence of originalism explicitly informed by the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
On October 25, the Claremont Institute and Federalist Society will consider the mark that Justice Thomas continues to make on American law in a two-part panel discussion with prominent legal scholars and members of the appellate bar. What should we make of Justice Thomas’s bold call to reconsider areas of constitutional law, including the Commerce Clause power, the authority of the administrative state, and the First Amendment? How should those who favor judicial restraint think about his privileging of the Constitution’s original meaning over the doctrine of stare decisis? And what can his jurisprudence teach us about the proper relationship between the Declaration and the Constitution?
3:45 p.m. - Registration
4:00 p.m. - Panel I: The Lone Jurist
Justice Thomas has not shied, as one scholar observed, from calling on the Court “to join him in scraping away precedent and getting back to bare wood”—the original meaning of the Constitution. This panel will focus on Justice Thomas’s unique contributions to the law, with a particular focus on his dissenting and concurring opinions calling for a wholesale reexamination of areas of constitutional doctrine that he considers to have deviated from their original meaning—in areas ranging from federalism, to administrative law, to the First Amendment, to criminal procedure.
Gregory Katsas, Partner, Jones Day; Former Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division; Former Law Clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas
Neomi Rao, Associate Professor of Law, George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law; Former Associate White House Counsel; Former Law Clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas
Jeffrey Wall, Special Counsel, Sullivan & Cromwell; Former Assistant to the Solicitor General; Former Law Clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas
Elizabeth Wydra, President, Constitutional Accountability Center
(Moderator) Brian Callanan, Staff Director and General Counsel, Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
5:00 p.m. - Break & Light Refreshments
5:15 p.m. - Panel II: The Declaration as the Central Idea in American Constitutionalism
Justice Thomas has argued that the principle of equality at the heart of the Declaration of Independence “precedes and underlies the Constitution” and provides “the best defense of limited government, of the separation of powers, and of judicial restraint that flows from the commitment to limited government.” This panel will focus on Justice Thomas’s understanding of the Declaration in American constitutionalism and how that understanding has shaped his jurisprudence. More broadly, the panel will compare and contrast Justice Thomas’s interpretive approach with competing theories of interpretation among conservative jurists.
John S. Baker, Jr., Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
John C. Eastman, Founding Director, Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Claremont Institute; Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service and Former Dean, Chapman University Fowler School of Law
Ken Masugi, Adjunct Faculty, Johns Hopkins University; Former Special Assistant to then-Chariman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Clarence Thomas
Roger Pilon, Vice President for Legal Affairs, Cato Institute
(Moderator) Michael Pack, President, Claremont Institute; Publisher, Claremont Review of Books; Former President, Manifold Productions
Reception to follow.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 3:45 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Kennedy Caucus Room (Room 325)
Russell Senate Office Building
2 Constitution Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002