Scalia speaks at ND law conference
Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, October 30, 2007
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made an unpublicized appearance at the Notre Dame Law School on Oct. 19 to speak at a conference for law students on the separation of powers in federal government.
Though notice of the conference was made on the Law School Web site, Scalia’s name appeared only on the conference schedule and not on the official list of conference participants.
The University community was not notified that a Supreme Court justice would speak in accordance with a request by Scalia, said Law School spokesperson Melanie McDonald.
“The reason we did not publicize it was because that was Justice Scalia’s preference,” McDonald said. “He wanted the conference to be an educational endeavor, and if it was publicized that he was going to be there, it would have become a mob scene.”
In addition, it is common protocol not to widely publicize the event when a Supreme Court Justice will be attending, said law professor A.J. Bellia, a cosponsor of the conference.
“This really was not a public lecture,” Bellia said. “It is the preference of the U.S. Marshals, who are responsible for Justice Scalia’s security, that we didn’t openly publicize that he would be there.”
Organizers also desired to keep the conference’s focus on law rather than politics, he said.
“It really was not a political conference where we just discussed Justice Scalia’s viewpoints, and it involved many other highly-respected scholars,” Bellia said. “It was a meeting of some of the best judicial minds in order to discuss the relationship of the federal powers and what role the judicial system should play in that relationship.”
Scalia delivered the conference’s opening lecture on the importance of structure in constitutional interpretation. He spoke about the function of the judiciary in American government and analyzed several cases that have gone before the court, McDonald said in a press release. After the talk, Scalia responded to questions and then met informally with students, McDonald said.
The conference’s topic was chosen by the graduate students who run the Notre Dame Law Review, and focused mostly on how federal courts should interpret the constitution and what role the American legal system should play in the government.
“The goal of this conference was to address fundamental questions of American constitutional governance,” Bellia said.
Questions of how federal courts should interpret legal texts, whether federal courts should enforce structural limits on congressional power and what place international law takes in the American federal system have been debated by courts, scholars and politicians during recent years, he said.
“These are not just questions of our day; these are questions of the American ages,” Bellia said.
The conference, entitled “Separation of Powers as a Safeguard of Federalism,” was sponsored by Bellia and the Notre Dame Law Review.
The conference also included prominent legal scholars from Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, Georgetown University Law School, USC Gould Schools of Law, George Washington University Law School and University of Texas School of Law.