Supreme Court

Judge Amy Coney Barrett's "Canards of Contemporary Legal Analysis"

A former Scalia clerk revisits Justice Scalia's famed lecture on legal canards and offers a defense of textualism.


In October 1989, Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a lecture on "Assorted Canards of Contemporary Legal Analysis" at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Last week, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a former Scalia clerk, revisited Justice Scalia's famed lecture in her own talk at CWRU.

In "Assorted Canards of Contemporary Analysis Redux," Judge Barrett added to Justice Scalia's list of canards, with a particular focus on addressing common misconceptions and caricatures of textualism. A video of the remarks is below. An article based upon the talk will be published in the Case Western Reserve Law Review.

Both Justice Scalia's and Judge Barrett's lectures were part of the Sumner Canary Memorial Lecture series at CWRU, established to honor the memory of Sumner Canary, a lion of the Cleveland legal community.

Last year's lecture was delivered by Judge Joan Larsen, and was recently published in the Case Western Reserve Law Review. 

Previous lecturers have also included then-Judge Neil Gorsuch, Judge Diane Sykes, then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and Judge Bill Pryor, and non-jurists such as Neal Katyal, Jack Goldsmith, and Randy Barnett. A full list of prior Canary lectures, including links to video (when available) and published versions of the remarks is available here.

It is an honor to be the current curator of this lecture series, and the law school is grateful to Nancy Canary for the support that makes this lecture series possible.

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  1. Ten speakers named. Nine conservatives, mostly hard-right conservatives. Is this the “heterodoxity’ the Conspirators regularly recommend that mainstream schools implement (when criticizing our nation’s stronger schools)?

    Did Judge Canary, the funder of this series, direct that hard-right conservatives be selected for these presentations?

    1. Anyone who peruses the range of speakers hosted at the law school, across numerous lecture series and conferences, will find a tremendous diversity of perspectives. The Canary lecture itself has hosted folks like Charles Ogletree and Guido Calabresi, among others. As for recent speakers, I can’t help it if the right-leaning folks I have invited have accepted my invitations more often than the left-leaning folks. We aim to sponsor talks by thoughtful jurists and legal thinkers, and we’ve certainly fulfilled that mission.

      1. You can and should invite as you wish.

        The lineup — which I just checked, and was far more ecumenical before the most recent or 12 years — is strong. Law students at Case Western appear to be fortunate that you can persuade such speakers to participate.

        That lineup is also, however, a poor reflection on those who (when not inviting homogeneous groups of partisan teammates) claim that the people operating our strongest law schools do not arrange enough diversity in general and are unfair to movement conservatives in particular.

        1. In order to evaluate whether this (or any) school arranges for “enough diversity” in programming, one should look at the full range of programming that school sponsors, not a single lecture series of program. The Canary lecture series complements other programming – including several other endowed lecture series – at the school, and the result is a wide range programming that presents views from a wide range of perspectives.

      2. A conservative will tell you that “Government is Evil” and will tell you that “Government is not the solution to the problem…government is the problem.”

        Please provide me to the video links of your conservatives. I’m not saying that you claim to have any, I’m just curious to see whether or not you do have any.

  2. Radny Barnett & Neil Gorsuch are “hard right”? Tell me, is there a “Hard Left”? An “Extreme Left”, or do we consider AOC, Tlaib, Sanders, Beto and Warren “Mainstream”?

    1. dangfitz, you must be new here? The Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland is a long-time commenter here who is either someone off his medications or someone who has fried his brains on illegal drugs.

      In other words, he is your typical member of, and commenter on, the Volokh Conspiracy.

  3. “A video of the remarks is below.”

    I was expecting a “video below”. Instead. one has to clink of the word “here” in “…and published versions of the remarks is available here.”

    Or, better yet, simply click on this link to the YouTube video ->

    1. Fixed. That was due to my posting ineptitude. I thought I had gotten the video linked properly within the post the first time. It’s now fixed.

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