Apply now for the Originalism Summer Seminar

Come to Georgetown Law for a deep dive into originalism theory and practice


This summer, the Georgetown Center for the Constitution will again offer its week-long "boot camp" on originalism in theory and practice, open to students from all law schools, as well as to recent law school graduates. The 2019 Summer Seminar will run from May 20-24. It features an all star roster of professors and jurists decribing the cutting edge of originalism theory, as well as how best to utilize it in practice. It includes adherents of different variations of originalism, as well as a critic of originalism. As in past years, we will visit the Supreme Court of the United States.

Students attending the Originalism Summer Seminar will receive a $2,000 award for their participation. The five-day course runs from Sunday evening, May 20 to Friday evening, May 24, 2019. Morning sessions beginning at 8:00 a.m. followed with a daily luncheon and afternoon meetings each day. A reception and dinner will be held on on May 22 and the week concludes with a farewell reception on May 24. The application season closes February 15, 2019.

A complete roster of this year's speakers, lecture topics, and application instructions are available here.

NEXT: Georgetown Center for the Constitution Criminal Justice Series

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  2. Originalism . . . still younger than Kim Kardashian, still less popular than any Kardashian, but apparently well funded by right-wing donors seeking to politicize public employees in an effort to mitigate the effects of losing the American culture war.

    1. kanocu5675, a mindless spam-bot, provides more value to this board than you do.

      1. I sense you don’t like liberals, libertarians, moderates, or RINOs. How do you expect to change America’s course by lashing together an effective political coalition for extreme right-wingery if the only people you can tolerate constitute a relatively small portion of the American public and electorate?

        Or are you resigned to continuing failure in American politics, education, and culture?

        1. No, I don’t like people like you who mindlessly post the same drivel over and over without ever even trying to support your position.

          1. If you didn’t like repetitive partisan messages, you wouldn’t have spent much time at this blog.

            You don’t like content that conflicts with your opinions. Which, I am pleased to report, seem destined to continue to fail in American public life.

      2. jph12, stop feedingthe troll. The Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland is not a real identify, he’s a caricature invented by the Russians to sow discord and anger in the American political discourse. I mean, seriously, do you think that a person who was actually as stupid as the Rev. appears to be would know how to read and write, much less find his way to this blog?

    2. “Originalism . . . still younger than Kim Kardashian, . . .”

      Which just shows how ignorant of history the Rev. Kirkland is. It was 200 years ago, in 1819, that Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the opinion in Dartmouth College v. Woodward, an excellent demonstration of the use of originalism to determine the meaning of the Contracts Clause in the Constitution. Marshall not only examined the intent of the drafters of the Contracts Clause, but rejected such a subjective intent approach in favor of original public understanding originalism, for precisely the same reason that the original public understanding approach is considered superior today. The whole claim that originalism is a newly discovered theory developed solely for partisan reasons is a canard, a lie, a misdirection invented by the pathologically dishonest left. In point of fact, it was “living constitutionalism”, not even a theory but a vapid rationalization for ignoringthe text of the Constitution which is the much more recent invention, and it was invented for purely partisan reasons by New Dealers and their successors (fellow travelers in the church of collectivism), who found Constitutional limits on the power of the Federal Government inconvenient.

  3. How do you square constitutional originalism with the Second Amendment? As far as I can see, from both the plain meaning of the words and the writings of the founding fathers, the 2nd was originally meant to apply to all weapons from a bowie knife up to a battleship, but since the it has been narrowed so that only weapons used for domestic self-defence are considered protected.

    So do you consider that the 2nd should be enforced in its full original meaning by the courts? If so then you would, as far as I can see, have to support the right of any citizen to keep, say, a shoulder-launched surface to air missile and bear it in any public area, such as under the flight departure path of a major airport.

    I know the principle that “dangerous” or “unusual” weapons can be banned, but that makes no sense. All weapons are dangerous when pointed at you, and all new weapons are unusual when first invented. Also if a weapon is banned then few people will have one, making this a circular definition.

    Or do you consider that the meaning of the 2nd should be understood in the context of modern technological civilization. In which case, how do you distinguish your position from any other “living constitution” theory?

    Or is there a third option I am missing

    1. To be fair, the Scalia, the patron saint of originalism, had no problem with circular reasoning when it came to banning non-traditional things.

    2. Please show us any historical, legal, or academic reference that shows, “. . . the 2nd was originally meant to apply to all weapons from a bowie knife up to a battleship. . . .”

      1. First, there is the prefatory clause. While it doesn’t restrict the right, it makes it clear that the context is a state militia rather than just personal defence and hence the right must apply to all kinds of military weapons.

        Second, battleships (or at least, ships fitted with cannons for both offensive and defensive purposes) were in private hands at the time, and were seen as part of the available military resource. (Links not allowed here, but Google for “privateer 1812”).

        As far as I know, at the time the only arms that could not be physically carried by a single man were cannons, which were privately traded as described in the link above. I haven’t found any references to field cannons in private hands, but I also can’t find anything regulating them either. I suspect the idea would have been considered too eccentric to be worth passing laws about.

    3. Timothy Cunningham’s important 1771 legal dictionary defined “arms” as “any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.”

      Using this contemporary definition then it would not include a battleship, and would fit well with the current SCOTUS doctrine applying to “bearable arms”

      The “dangerous and unusual” principle is less defensible under this interpretation, and shoulder-fired missile would seem to fall near the edge of being (or not being) a “bearable arm”

      1. “Useth in wrath to cast at […] another” would seem to include cannons; it certainly doesn’t preclude things that cannot be carried by one person.

        With battleships we get into the distinction between a weapon and a weapons system, which is not an 18th century concept. But I suspect that the people of the time would have regarded a law saying “you can own cannons but you can’t put them on a ship” to be silly.

  4. Will there be any attempt to explain why people that were disenfranchised by original intent should be persuaded by it?

    1. Wouldn’t that apply to any interpretation though? At the time of its ratification the constitution disenfranchised blacks and women, and all but enshrined slavery, so the entire text would be tainted, no matter how you interpret it

      1. It’s not about it being “tainted”, it’s about having rights.

        Simply put, there is a butt-load of SCOTUS cases that, under “original intent”, would have gone to tyranny.

        So if you’re in the “would be tyrannized under original intent” crowd, why should you endorse an interpretation that gives the state and fed that kind of power?

  5. An originalism “boot camp” featuring an “all star roster” and “cutting edge” theories.

    “Hey guys, how can we attract those hip, young millennials to our school of thought on constitutional interpretation?”

    “Have you tried just jamming a bunch of buzzwords into a paragraph? It doesn’t matter if their applicable in the context, just throw them anywhere.”

    “Oh, and make sure to offer money too. The kids these days love buzzwords and money. Feel the synergy!!”

    1. Yeah, but you also get to meet Ed Meese.

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  7. Haven’t done the research, but doubt that the founders would have sanctioned an unauthorized loaded cannon placed so as to cover a coastal shipping lane.

    The Second Amendment (like the others) can only be construed within the context of its ratification, or within the context of what makes you feel good today, keeping in mind that what feels good today might not feel good tomorrow. Think about it . . . take your pick, these are the only two logical choices.

    1. The whole idea of rights is that they don’t require government sanction. Then as now there were laws against attacking lawful shipping that could be used to punish someone who actually fires the cannon, and just having it there isn’t actually hurting anyone

      1. So your interpretation of the 2nd would rule that laws against threatening and brandishment as unconstitutional. Interesting.

  8. Soooo….which type of Originalism are we talking about here:

    Strict Construction
    Original Intent
    Original Meaning
    Semantic Originalism
    Framework Originalism

    Any others?

    1. Original public meaning . . . otherwise some will manufacture, or choose meanings to support personal notions. Examples would include opinions that “shall not be infringed” applies only “in the home.”

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