The Georgetown Center for the Constitution hosted Remembering the Life and Legacy of Laurence H. Silberman on Thursday, November 17th at Georgetown Law. In addition to his decades of teaching at Georgetown Law, Judge Silberman was a leader in constitutional interpretation and exemplified an unwavering commitment to the Constitution. To honor that legacy, a panel of distinguished Judge Silberman clerks discussed some of the Judge's most influential opinions, his approach to the law, and the lasting impact of his judicial work, while also sharing their own memories of the late Judge.
The Georgetown Center for the Constitution, founded in 2012, offers a variety of programs on constitutional law and theory at Georgetown Law, placing special emphasis on how best to remain faithful to the Constitution's text.
Led by Professor Randy Barnett, the Center sponsors lectures, faculty colloquia, conferences, visiting scholars, post-graduate fellowships, and student fellows. All of its activities are designed to engage scholars, students, and even Supreme Court justices in conversations about how to interpret and apply the document that sits under glass less than ten blocks away from Georgetown Law.
The Georgetown Center for the Constitution is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a gift to the scholarly community: a new online guide to originalist scholarship on the United States Constitution.
The Georgetown Center for the Constitution welcomes Alexa L. Gervasi as the Center’s Executive Director. She previously served as the Center’s first Program Manager while she was also a student in Georgetown Law’s evening program. Gervasi returned to the Center on August 19, 2022, to assume the position of Executive Director of the Center. In that role, Gervasi will oversee all aspects of the Center’s activities, with an emphasis on its Originalism Outside of Academia initiative.
Professors Randy Barnett and Evan Bernick argued that the 14th Amendment, which gave the federal judiciary and Congress new powers over the states, has been misinterpreted by conservative and liberal judges alike since its adoption in 1868.
Adopted in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment profoundly changed the Constitution, giving the federal judiciary and Congress new powers to protect the fundamental rights of individuals from being violated by the states. Yet, according to Randy Barnett and Evan Bernick, the Supreme Court has long misunderstood or ignored the original meaning of the amendment’s key clauses, covering the privileges and immunities of citizenship, due process of law, and the equal protection of the laws.
Barnett and Bernick contend that the Fourteenth Amendment was the culmination of decades of debates about the meaning of the antebellum Constitution. Antislavery advocates advanced arguments informed by natural rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the common law. They also utilized what is today called public-meaning originalism. Although their arguments lost in the courts, the Republican Party was formed to advance an antislavery political agenda, eventually bringing about abolition. Then, when abolition alone proved insufficient to thwart Southern repression and provide for civil equality, the Fourteenth Amendment was enacted. It went beyond abolition to enshrine in the Constitution the concept of Republican citizenship and granted Congress power to protect fundamental rights and ensure equality before the law. Finally, Congress used its powers to pass Reconstruction-era civil rights laws that tell us much about the original scope of the Amendment.
With evenhanded attention to primary sources, The Original Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment shows how the principles of the Declaration eventually came to modify the Constitution and proposes workable doctrines for implementing the key provisions of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment.