Federalist Society National Student Symposium to Feature Supreme Court Justice Thomas, Leading Conservative Legal Scholars

February 15, 2011

February 15, 2011 — The annual Federalist Society Student Symposium, one of the nation's largest gatherings of conservative legal scholars and students, will be held at the University of Virginia School of Law and the Boar's Head Inn on Feb. 25-26.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will deliver the keynote address during the 30th annual symposium's banquet dinner at the Boar's Head Inn on Feb. 26 at 7 p.m.

All events at the School of Law are open to the public, but events at the Boar's Head Inn are closed to the media. Guests can register online; registration is required for meals and receptions. Virginia Bar Continuing Legal Education credit will be available to practicing attorneys who sign up for it at the registration table.

The Federalist Society's annual student symposium is sponsored by a student chapter in an American law school each year and attracts leading conservative and libertarian scholars, judges and attorneys from across the nation.

Other symposium speakers this year include Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Debra Livingston of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Diane Sykes of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and John Allison, former chairman and CEO of BB&T Corporation.

U.Va. law professors Paul Stephan and G. Edward White and Law School Dean Paul G. Mahoney are also serving on panels, along with: Jonathan Adler (Case Western Reserve University); Michael Heller (Columbia University); Randy Barnett and Louis Michael Seidman (Georgetown University); Nelson Lund, Jeremy Rabkin, Neomi Rao and Todd Zywicki (George Mason University); Jeffrey Rosen and Renee Lettow Lerner (George Washington University); Clayton Gillette (New York University); John McGinnis (Northwestern University); William P. Marshall (University of North Carolina); and James Ely (Vanderbilt University).

The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to the U.S. Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. The society seeks both to promote an awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities.


Feb. 25
All events will be held at the School of Law except where noted.

3:30 p.m.
Registration (Caplin Auditorium Lobby)

6:15 p.m.
Welcome and Opening Remarks (Caplin Auditorium)
Dean Paul G. Mahoney, University of Virginia School of Law

6:30 p.m.
Debate: Economic Freedoms and the Constitution (Caplin Auditorium)
This debate will address whether the Constitution permits the extensive state regulation of economic affairs.

Randy Barnett, Georgetown University Law Center
Jeffrey Rosen, George Washington University Law School

Judge Debra Livingston, U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

8 p.m.
Panel I: Economic Theory, Civic Virtue, and the Meaning of the Constitution (Caplin Auditorium)

Justice Holmes's dissent in Lochner v. New York is known for the statement, "[A] constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of the citizen to the State or of laissez-faire." But is this belief consistent with the original Constitution? To what extent did the ideas of thinkers such as Adam Smith shape the founders' understanding of human nature and public virtue? In what ways do their economic and philosophical commitments continue to shape our constitutional government today?

James Ely, Vanderbilt University Law School
Renee Lettow Lerner, George Washington University Law School
Nelson Lund, George Mason University School of Law
G. Edward White, University of Virginia School of Law

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

9:45 p.m.
Cocktail Reception (Caplin Pavilion)

Feb. 26

8 a.m.    
Continental Breakfast (Withers-Brown Hall)

9 a.m.    
Panel II: Federalism and Interstate Competition (Caplin Auditorium)

This panel will assess American federalism as a competitive institution that offers a marketplace of state regulatory regimes. With the recession impacting some states more heavily than others, it is time to ask whether interstate competition is good for the nation? Should state-by-state approaches to issues such as health care, financial regulation, environmental protection and same-sex marriage be encouraged? Does competition among the states lead to the best outcome or a race to the bottom?

Jonathan Adler, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Clayton Gillette, New York University School of Law
John McGinnis, Northwestern University School of Law
Louis Michael Seidman, Georgetown University Law School

Judge William H. Pryor Jr., U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals

11 a.m.    
The U.S. Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (Caplin Auditorium)
John Allison, former chairman and CEO, BB&T Corporation

Introduction by Howard Husock, Manhattan Institute

12:30 p.m.    
Lunch (Withers-Brown Hall)

2 p.m.    
Panel III: The Welfare State and American Exceptionalism (Caplin Auditorium)

With the recent passage of President Obama's health care legislation, it is time to reassess whether it is possible to have a welfare state that meshes with the American constitutional tradition. Is the enduring presence of government entitlements antithetical to our system of government or is there a way to accommodate these programs without changing the historical American relationship between the individual and the government?

Michael Heller, Columbia Law School
William P. Marshall, University of North Carolina School of Law
Jeremy Rabkin, George Mason University School of Law
Neomi Rao, George Mason University School of Law

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

4 p.m.    
Panel IV: Economic Uncertainty and the Role of the Courts (Caplin Auditorium)

This panel will assess the role of the courts in an uncertain economic climate. Given the financial troubles plaguing the United States, how much emphasis should the judiciary place on the constitutional protection of private property? In a difficult economic climate, should a judge's empathy for those in financial distress affect his rulings? If a state defaults on its obligations, what is the appropriate role of the courts? On a broader level, to what extent do interpretive methods have financial consequences?

Paul G. Mahoney, University of Virginia School of Law
Paul Stephan, University of Virginia School of Law
Todd Zywicki, George Mason University School of Law

Judge Diane Sykes, U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

6 p.m.    
Cocktail Reception (Boar's Head Inn)

7 p.m.    
Banquet and Keynote Speech (Boar's Head Inn)
Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Supreme Court

Media Contact

Mary Wood

Chief Communications Officer University of Virginia School of Law