Each year, the Georgetown Center for the Constitution sponsors the Salmon P. Chase Lecture and Colloquium on the Constitution to bring scholars together to discuss some aspect of our constitutional history and the Thomas Cooley Book Prize and Symposium to award a book that deepens our understanding of the Constitution.
Together with the Supreme Court Historical Society, the Center sponsors the annual Salmon P. Chase Distinguished Lecture and Faculty Colloquium on some aspect of our constitutional history. Each lecture is delivered in the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court and hosted by a Justice. The next day, a group of scholars meets at Georgetown Law to discuss papers on the topic of the lecture. The lecture and papers are then published in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy.
Topics and lecturers to date have been:
• 2014: The 150th anniversary of Salmon P.
Chase becoming Chief Justice of the United
States (by historian James Oakes)
• 2015: The 150th anniversary of the adoption
of the 13th Amendment (by historian Eric
• 2016: The 225th anniversary of the adoption
of the Bill of Rights (by political scientist Colleen
Sheehan) (2016 Salmon P. Chase Lecture can be viewed here)
• 2017: The Career of Justice James Wilson (by
law professor William Ewald)
• 2018: The 150th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Cooley’s Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations which Rest Upon the Legislative Power of the States of the American Union (1868) (by historian Charles McCurdy).
• 2019: The 200th Anniversary of McCulloch v. Maryland (by law professor Sanford Levison)
The annual Thomas Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 honors a book for its contribution to our understanding of the Constitution. The faculty symposium helps promote the book to a wider audience of scholars by gathering a select group of experts to discuss critical papers about the book, which are published in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. Thomas McIntyre Cooley was a longstanding Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where he also served as the Dean. Cooley was a renowned legal scholar who authored several highly influential treatises, including A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations Which Rest Upon the Legislative Power of the States of the American Union and The General Principles of Constitutional Law in the United States of America.
The second annual Thomas Cooley Book Prize was awarded to Harvard Law Professor Richard Fallon for his recent book, Law and Legitimacy in the Supreme Court. On April 11th, the evening before the Cooley Prize Symposium, the Center held its first annual Thomas Cooley Judicial Lecture to honor his work as a judge. The inaugural Cooley Lecturer was Judge Joan Larsen of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Like Thomas Cooley, Judge Larsen, was both a member of the Michigan Law School faculty and a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. To draw academic attention to the book, a group of 25-30 scholars gathered at Georgetown Law on Friday, April 12th, 2019 to discuss and critique four faculty commentaries on the book.
The first recipients of the annual Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 were professors Gary Lawson (Boston University School of Law) and Guy Seidman (IDC Herzliya—Radzyner School of Law) for their book, A Great Power of Attorney: Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution (Kansas University Press, 2017), which explores the type of legal document that is the Constitution and how this affects the powers it grants to government officials and the duties they owe to the public.