The Supreme Court's Traditionalist Turn

Sep 18, 2023, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
100 Arthur Lewis Auditorium, Robertson Hall



Event Description

Today’s Supreme Court professes a commitment to originalism—the idea that the Constitution’s meaning is fixed at ratification and binds judges today. But in interpreting the Constitution, the Court often looks to the post-ratification practices of other actors: Presidents, Congresses, or states. The Court has held, for example, that certain practices of the political branches must be constitutional because they represent longstanding traditions—or that certain rights are (or aren’t) protected by the Constitution because they have (or haven’t) traditionally enjoyed protection under state law. This tradition-based method of interpretation has driven many recent high-profile cases, on guns, abortion, religion, speech, and more. But it turns out to be hard to square with originalism. And it has surprising logical implications that may give an originalist Court pause, and its critics fodder.

Sherif Girgis joined Notre Dame Law School in 2021. His work in constitutional theory and legal philosophy has appeared in the New York University Law Review, the Virginia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the American Journal of Jurisprudence, the Cambridge Companion to Philosophy of Law, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He coauthored What Is Marriage?, cited in a Supreme Court dissent, and Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, released by Oxford University Press.

Now completing his Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton, Girgis earned his J.D. at Yale Law School and clerked for Justice Samuel Alito. Girgis earned a master’s degree (B.Phil.) from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and a bachelor’s from Princeton, Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude.

This event is supported by the Bouton Law Lecture Fund.

  • Co-sponsored by the Jack Miller Center
  • Co-sponsored by the University Center for Human Values


Lecture Series
The Antonin Scalia Constitution Day Lecture