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The Supreme Court's Text and History

Join Zephyr for this evening salon with Profs. Michael McConnell (Stanford Law School) and Jonathan Gienapp (Stanford, Department of History). We will be discussing the Supreme Court's recent use of text and history as methods of constitutional interpretation.

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The Supreme Court's Text and History
The Supreme Court's Text and History

Time & Location

Apr 17, 2024, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Zephyr Backyard, 560 College Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA

About the Event

All are invited to join us at the Zephyr Backyard on the evening of 17 April for an evening of discussion with Profs. Michael McConnell (Stanford Law School) and Jonathan Gienapp (Stanford, Department of History) about the Supreme Court's recent use of text and history.

Text and history have been front and center in many controversial and consequential Supreme Court opinions over the past several years, and will be pivotal in the Roberts Court’s evolving jurisprudence. This emphasis reinvigorates and reshapes fundamental questions that have dominated methodological and substantive debates about constitutional interpretation over the past half century. Pressing questions include: How is the Court using text and history, and how should it? What are the ramifications of the Court’s use of these methods for other modes of constitutional interpretation, above all the long-running struggle between originalism and living constitutionalism? Why has the Court appealed to history in some instances but not others? What is the future and stakes of these methodological and substantive debates? These questions point to the broadest one, as old as the republic itself: what role should history play in constitutional interpretation? This conversation will probe these and related questions.

Dinner will be provided. Please RSVP so that Zephyr can have an accurate headcount.

About the speakers

Michael W. McConnell is the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. From 2002 to 2009, he served as a Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He was nominated by President George W. Bush, a Republican, and confirmed by a Democratic Senate by unanimous consent. McConnell has previously held chaired professorships at the University of Chicago and the University of Utah, and visiting professorships at Harvard and NYU. He teaches courses on constitutional law, constitutional history, First Amendment, and interpretive theory. He has published widely in the fields of constitutional law and theory, especially church and state, equal protection, and separation of powers.

Jonathan Gienapp is Associate Professor of History and Associate Professor of Law. He specializes in the constitutional, political, legal, and intellectual history of the early United States. His primary focus to date has been the origins and development of the U.S. Constitution, in particular the ways in which Founding-era Americans understood and debated constitutionalism across the nation's early decades. His historical interests often intersect with modern legal debates over constitutional interpretation and theory, especially those centered on the theory of constitutional originalism. He is also especially interested in the method and practice of the history of ideas.


This event is open to the general public.

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