Harvard's Richard Fallon wins the 2019 Cooley Book Prize

Georgetown Law's Center for the Constitution Announces $50,000 Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize Winner

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


I am very pleased to announce that the Georgetown Center for the Constitution will award its second annual Thomas M. Cooley Book Prize of $50,000 to Professor Richard H. Fallon, Jr. of Harvard Law School for his book, Law and Legitimacy in the Supreme Court (Harvard University Press, 2018).

The Center will award the Cooley Prize – established last year to draw academic and public attention to a book that makes an important scholarly contribution to our understanding of the Constitution – on April 11, 2019 at Georgetown Law. The evening event will also feature the inaugural Thomas M. Cooley Judicial Lecture, to be delivered by the Honorable Joan Larsen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

How a written constitution ought to be interpreted is a major focus of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, which was founded in 2012. Professor Fallon's deeply scholarly and fair-minded book systematically examines a much-neglected topic in constitutional theory: exactly what makes a constitution legitimate—not merely in the sense that it is accepted by the general public, but that it is morally legitimate and ought to be accepted. The book then uses its answer to this question to assess how the U.S. Constitution ought to be interpreted. While respectfully and knowledgably critiquing originalism, Professor Fallon nevertheless affirms the importance of 'original public meaning' even to nonoriginalists.

Following the Cooley Judicial Lecture, a day-long invitation-only symposium will be held on April 12, 2019 featuring critical papers about Fallon's book by Georgetown Law's own Professor Lawrence Solum and Professors Gillian Metzger (law, Columbia), Scott Soames (philosophy, USC), and Keith Whittington (politics, Princeton). Professor Fallon will join these scholars and a group of constitutional law professors from area universities to discuss the issues raised by the book and papers, which will be published in a special issue of the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. I look forward to the symposium at which his many important insights will be thoroughly explored.

The Cooley Book Prize and Judicial Lecture honors the renowned legal scholar and jurist Thomas McIntyre Cooley. Cooley was a longstanding chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, where he also served as the dean. He 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. In December 2018, the Georgetown Center for the Constitution's annual Salmon P. Chase Distinguished Lecture and Faculty Colloquium will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Cooley's Constitutional Limitations.

Last spring, the Center awarded the first Cooley Prize to professors Gary Lawson (Boston University School of Law) and Guy Seidman (IDC Herzliya—Radzyner School of Law). Their book, A Great Power of Attorney: Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution (Kansas University Press, 2017), explores what type of legal document the Constitution is and how that affects the powers it grants to government officials and the duties they owe the public.