The Cooley Book Prize, Judicial Lecture & Symposium honors the renowned legal scholar and jurist Thomas McIntyre Cooley. 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. He authored several highly influential books, including A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations Which Rest Upon the Legislative Power of the States of the American Union. Our two-day conference begins with the Cooley Judicial Lecture delivered by a federal judge. The next day, a day-long invitation-only symposium will be held among constitutional law professors from area universities, who will discuss critical papers written by scholars about the award-winning book.  The award winner will join these scholars to discuss the issues raised by the book and papers, which will be published in a special issue of the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy.

The 2020 Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 will be awarded to Professor Keith E. Whittington of Princeton University for his book, Repugnant Laws: Judicial Review of Acts of Congress from the Founding to the Present (University Press of Kansas, 2019). Mr. Whittington will receive the Cooley Prize at an award ceremony in May 2020.  The evening event will also feature the Thomas M. Cooley Judicial Lecture, to be delivered by the Honorable Neomi Rao of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“This book is a must-read for any serious student of our Constitution and how it actually works,” said Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett, director of the Center for the Constitution. Repugnant Laws presents the most comprehensive account of every Supreme Court decision reviewing the constitutionality of a federal statute since the nation’s founding.

“Facts matter and this book provides them,” Barnett said.  “From now on, no discussion of the practice of judicial review can ignore the book’s empirical findings. The most cynical political scientist will need to come to grips with its conclusion that ‘the justices are not lapdogs, and they have often bitten the hand of the party that put them on the bench.’ At the same time, idealists will need to incorporate its findings that the ‘justices have proven themselves to be allies of [their] political coalition leaders.’”

The third annual event will be held at Georgetown Law in May of 2020.

Critical papers about Whittington’s book will be provided by:

The Center for the Constitution established the Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize, Symposium & Judicial Lecture to recognize exceptional books written that advance our understanding of, and commitment to, our written Constitution.

Professor Richard H. Fallon, Jr. of Harvard Law School received the second Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 for his book, Law and Legitimacy in the Supreme Court (Harvard University Press, 2018). 

“Professor Fallon’s deeply scholarly and fair-minded book systematically examines a much-neglected topic in constitutional theory: exactly what makes a constitution legitimate—not merely in the sense that it is accepted by the general public, but that it is morally legitimate and ought to be accepted,” said the Center’s faculty director, Professor Randy Barnett.  “The book then uses its answer to this question to assess how the U.S. Constitution ought to be interpreted. While respectfully and knowledgeably critiquing originalism, Professor Fallon nevertheless affirms the importance of ‘original public meaning’ even to nonoriginalists.”

The first Cooley Prize was awarded to professors Gary Lawson (Boston University School of Law) and Guy Seidman (IDC Herzliya—Radzyner School of Law).  Their book, A Great Power of Attorney: Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution (Kansas University Press, 2017), explores what type of legal document the Constitution is and how that affects the powers it grants to government officials and the duties they owe the public.