Georgetown Center for the Constitution Awards Cooley Book Prize to Yale Law School’s Jack M. Balkin

March 14, 2024

WASHINGTON – The Georgetown Center for the Constitution is pleased to announce that Jack M. Balkin, Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School, has been awarded the Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 for his book Memory and Authority: The Uses of History in Constitutional Interpretation (Yale University Press, 2024). In his book, Balkin shows how lawyers and judges channel history through standard forms of legal argument, invoking history selectively to construct authority for their claims and undermine the authority of opposing views.

The 2024 Cooley Prize will be presented to Balkin at the Center’s annual event at the National Archives, which will also feature the 2024 Thomas M. Cooley Judicial Lecture. The date of the event and the name of the lecturer will be announced at a later date.

The Center’s faculty director, Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett, explained the Cooley Book Prize decision: “Memory and Authority is a major contribution to the current debate about the proper uses of history in interpreting and applying the original meaning of our written Constitution, as well as in constitutional discourse generally. Jack Balkin’s explication of what he calls ‘framework originalism’ has long defied the common misperception that originalism is just for political conservatives.” Balkin has long lectured in the Center’s Originalism Summer Seminar.

“I am grateful to the Georgetown Center for the Constitution and honored to receive an award that has recognized so many distinguished books and authors,”said Balkin.

“Professor Balkin is one of the major figures in constitutional law today, and his scholarship has profoundly influenced the debate about originalist jurisprudence. He is well deserving of the Cooley Book Prize,” said Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor.

The Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize, Symposium & Judicial Lecture honors Thomas McIntyre Cooley, a longstanding chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and a professor and dean at the University of Michigan Law School. Cooley 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 (1868).

Past Cooley Prize winners are:

  • Walter Stahr, for Salmon Chase: Lincoln’s Vital Rival (Simon & Schuster, 2022).
  • Stanford University Professor Michael W. McConnell for The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power under the Constitution (Princeton, 2020);
  • Princeton University Professor Sean Wilentz for No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding (Harvard, 2018);
  • Princeton Professor Keith Whittington for Repugnant Laws: Judicial Review of Acts of Congress from the Founding to the Present (Kansas, 2019);
  • Harvard Law Professor Richard H. Fallon, Jr. for Law and Legitimacy in the Supreme Court (Harvard, 2018), and
  • Professors Gary Lawson of Boston University School of Law and Guy Seidman of IDC Herzliya-Radzyner School of Law for A Great Power of Attorney: Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution (Kansas, 2017).