Constitutional Interpretation and the Common Good

James Madison Program Constitution Day Event

September 17, 2020
Poster for McGinnis Constitution Day 2020 event

John O. McGinnisGeorge C. Dix Professor of Constitutional Law, Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University, and Robert P. GeorgeMcCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University

Stated most generally, the purpose of a constitution is to serve the common good of a political society. How does the Constitution of the United States serve the common good of the America polity and the American people? Does the fact that the Constitution is itself justified by its service to the common good have implications for how the Constitution should be interpreted? Are interpretative theories or approaches to the Constitution themselves justified by how well they serve the common good? What about the theory or approach (or family of theories and approaches) known as “originalism”? If we indeed believe that the Constitution is justified by its service to the common good, should we embrace originalism? Or should we reject it? If the latter, in favor of what alternative should it be rejected? Is a proper “common good constitutionalism” originalist? Or non-originalist?

John O. McGinnis is George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern Law School. Professor McGinnis clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. From 1987 to 1991, he was deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice.  He is the author of Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Government Through Technology (Princeton, 2013), and Originalism and the Good Constitution (with Rappaport; Harvard University Press, 2013). He is a past winner of Paul Bator award, given by the Federalist Society to an outstanding academic under 40. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and holds an M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford, in philosophy and theology.

Robert P. George holds Princeton University's McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and is the Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has served as chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and before that on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served as the U.S. member of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST). He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. A graduate of Swarthmore College, he holds M.T.S. and J.D. degrees from Harvard University and the degrees of D.Phil., B.C.L., D.C.L., and D.Litt. from Oxford University.

Registration and Accessibility

The lecture will be held via Zoom webinar. Registration is required and is available HERE.
To request accommodations provided by the Office of Disability Services, please contact the James Madison Program no later than Thursday, September 10, 2020.

Video:

Constitutional Interpretation and the Common Good

Location:

Zoom Webinar - See Description for Registration Link

Funded by:

The Bouton Law Lecture Fund

Presentations: