Past Symposia


2018: Originalism 3.0 

On November 2nd, 2018, the Northwestern University Law Review held an important and timely dialogue organized by leading scholar of originalism Professor John O. McGinnis. As originalist modes of argument become more common in Supreme Court opinions and argument, understanding and debating this theory of constitutional interpretation has only become more relevant. Bringing together leading figures and exciting new voices in the field of constitutional interpretation and originalism, along with prominent critics of the theory, the symposium focused on interesting and hotly debated questions within originalism as the theory moves into its next chapter.

These important questions were be presented through new papers, and accompanying comments, by:

  • Professor Bernadette Meyler, with comments from Professor John Harrison
  • Professor Steven Calabresi, with comments from Professor Jamal Greene
  • Professor Larry Solum, with comments from Professor William Ewald
  • Professor William Baude & Professor Stephen Sachs, with comments from Professor Michael Ramsey
  • Professor Thomas Colby, with comments from Professor Randy Barnett
  • Professor John McGinnis & Professor Michael Rappaport, with comments from Professor Richard Kay 

Discussions were moderated by esteemed members of the Northwestern Law Faculty.


2017: "A Fear of Too Much Justice"? Equal Protection and the Social Sciences 30 Years After McCleskey v. Kemp

On October 20th, 2017, the Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium re-examining the relationship between race, social science evidence, and the Equal Protection Clause, thirty years after the Supreme Court decided McCleskey v. Kemp. Warren McCleskey, a Black man, was convicted of murdering a White police officer and sentenced to death. On appeal, McCleskey offered statistical evidence showing that Georgia applied the death penalty in a racially biased manner that violated the Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court was not persuaded. In extending previous decisions in this area, the Court closed the door on the ability of the social sciences to meaningfully contribute to Equal Protection deliberations. Writing in dissent, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. characterized the majority’s reluctance to consider evidence of discrimination as “a fear of too much justice.”

Thirty years after McCleskey, social scientists continue to demonstrate racial disparities in criminal justice and many other areas of social life with remarkable acuity. Yet, despite new tools, methods, and insights, there is little jurisprudential space for this data to inform the Court’s decisionmaking. With contributions from leading scholars of the connection between Equal Protection doctrine, empirical methods and Critical Race Theory (eCRT), this sympoisum strove to understand how cutting edge interdisciplinary work might lead to novel responses and interventions to doctrinal impasses, such as those exhibited in McCleskey.

Opening Address – Blind Justice

  • Professor Reva Siegel 

Panel – McCleskey's Lasting Impact on Equal Protection Doctrine

  • Professor Mario Barnes
  • Professor Osagie Obasogie and Zach Newman 
  • Moderator: Professor Destiny Peery

Panel – Equal Protection and the Social Sciences in Criminal Justice

  • Professor Paul Butler
  • Professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig
  • Professor Aya Gruber 
  • Moderator: Professor Deborah Tuerkheimer

Panel – Equal Protection and the Social Sciences Beyond Criminal Justice

  • Professor Bernadette Atuahene
  • Professor Russell K. Robinson 
  • Professors Kyneshawau Hurd and Victoria Plaut 
  • Professor Michele Goodwin
  • Moderator: Laura Beth Nielsen

Panel – Leveraging Social Science Evidence in the Courts Today

  • Honorable Edmond E. Chang
  • Honorable Sara L. Ellis
  • Honorable Virginia M. Kendall
  • Moderator: Professor Destiny Peery

Keynote Address – McCleskey v. Kemp: Field Notes from 1977–1991

  • Jack Boger


2016: "Democratizing Criminal Law"

On November 18 & 19, 2016, Professor Joshua Kleinfeld of Northwestern Law School and Professor Richard Bierschbach of Cardozo Law School, with the Northwestern University Law Review, held a symposium centered around defining and defending a shared vision of democratic criminal justice. This symposium aimed to identify and critically examine the core ideas of the democratization movement, to project the democratization movement's ideas into the national conversation, and to act publicly and collectively on matters of democratic criminal justice reform. 



Opening Remarks - Manifesto of the Democratization Movement

  • Professor Joshua Kleinfeld

Panel - Constitutional Foundations and Community Voice

  • Professor Laura Appleman
  • Professor Richard Bierschbach
  • Professor Josh Bowers
  • Moderator: Professor Bob Burns

Panel - Empirical Foundations: Shared Norms, Lay Intuitions, Legitimacy, and Compliance

  • Professor Janice Nadler
  • Professor Paul Robinson
  • Professor Tom Tyler
  • Moderator: Professor Kenworthey Bilz

Lunch - Why Prosecutors Rule the Criminal Justice System—and What Can Be Done About It

  • Judge Jed Rakoff, U.S. District Court, SDNY

Panel - Community and Racial Justice

  • Professor Paul Butler
  • Professor Dorothy Roberts
  • Professor Jonathan Simon
  • Moderator: Professor Jocelyn Simonson

Panel - De-Bureaucratization: Police and Prosecutors

  • Professor Stephanos Bibas
  • Professor Tracey Meares
  • Professor Charles Ramsey
  • Moderator: Professor Tom Geraghty


Panel - Philosophical Foundations: Criminal Law's Democratic Nature

  • Professor John Braithwaite
  • Professor Joshua Kleinfeld
  • Professor Alice Ristroph
  • Moderator: Professor Ekow Yankah

Roundtable - Policy Proposals

  • Moderator: Professor Richard Bierschbach

Roundtable - Toward a White Paper

  • Moderator: Professor Joshua Kleinfeld

Closing Remarks

  • Professor Richard Bierschbach 


2015: "Free Speech Foundations"

On October 25, 2015 the Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium centered around the origins and methodology underlying free speech jurisprudence. This symposium addressed implication, completeness, accuracy, normativity, and relevance of the major approaches to free speech interpretation. 


Free Speech Values

  • Professor Alexander Tsesis
  • Professor Jack Balkin

The Anti-Chilling Function of the First Amendment

  • Professor Ashutosh Bhagwat
  • Professor James Lindgren

Technology & Speech

  • Professor Helen Norton
  • Professor Toni Massaro

Free Speech & Competing Interests

  • Professor Andrew Koppelman
  • Professor Mary-Rose Papandrea


2014: "Institutional Design and General Welfare"

On March 22 & 23, 2014 the Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium focusing on the relationship between institutional design and the general welfare. This symposium addressed questions surrounding the scope of institutional design, and whether it can be used to further welfare goals like economic growth.


The Role of Constitutional Text in Creating Self-stabilizing Constitutions: A Tour of the Takings Clause

  • Professor Barry Weingast
  • Professor Tonja Jacobi

The Relationship between De Jure and De Facto Property Rights 

  • Professor Mila Versteeg

Optimal Abuse of Power

  • Professor Adrian Vermeule

Norms and the Enforcement of Laws

  • Professor Daron Acemoglu

In Defense of Faction

  • Professor Jide Nzelibe

Does Institutional Design Make a Difference?

  • Professor Stephen G. Calabresi 


2013: "100 Years Under the Income Tax"

On April 5, 2013, the Tax Program at Northwestern and Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the income tax.


Expectations: The motivation and rhetoric behind the federal income tax

  • Professor Robin Einhorn
  • Professor Erik Jensen
  • Professor Marjorie E. Kornhauser
  • Moderator: Dr. Joe Thorndike

Realities: How has the structure of the income tax evolved?

  • Professor Anuj C. Desai
  • Professor Henry Ordower
  • Professor Tracey M. Roberts
  • Moderator: Professor Robert Peroni

Complications in implementation and some unintended consequences

  • Professor Stephanie McMahon
  • Professor Brian Galle
  • Moderator: Professor David Cameron

The Past and the Future: A focus on corporate taxation

  • Professor Adam Rosenzweig
  • Professor Stephanie Hoffer
  • Professor Dale Oesterle
  • Moderator: Jeffrey Sheffield, Lecturer, NULS Tax Program and Kirkland & Ellis


2012: "Festschrift in Honor of Professor Martin H. Redish"

On March 30, 2012, Northwestern University and the Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium celebrating the career of Professor Martin H. Redish.


The conference featured three academic panels: Federal Jurisdiction, Civil Procedure, and Constitutional Law.

The participants included:

Civil Procedure Panel:

  • Professor Richard D. Freer
  • Professor Richard Marcus
  • Professor Linda S. Mullenix
  • Professor Jay Tidmarsh
  • Moderator: Professor James Pfander

Constitutional Law Panel:

  • Professor Lawrence C. Alexander
  • Professor Corey Brettschneider
  • Professor Andrew M. Koppelman
  • Professor Eugene Volokh
  • Moderator: Professor Stephen B. Presser

Federal Jurisdiction Panel:

  • Professor Erwin Chemerinsky
  • Professor Richard H. Fallon
  • The Honorable Alex Kozinski
  • Professor William P. Marshall
  • Moderator: Steven Calabresi

Tribute Panel:

  • Mr. Matthew Arnould
  • Professor Andrew I. Gavil
  • Professor Andrea M. Matwyshyn
  • Ms. Abby M. Mollen
  • Professor Howard M. Wasserman
  • Professor Christopher S. Yoo


2011: "The Legacy of Justice Stevens"

Forthcoming Pieces Include:

  • Diane Marie Amann's symposium article, Justice Stevens, Originalist
  • Bill Barnhart's symposium article, Justice Stevens and the News Media: An Exercise in Exposition
  • Alan E. Brownstein's symposium article, Continuing the Constitutional Dialogue: A Discussion of Justice Stevens' Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Jurisprudence
  • Steven G. Calabresi's symposium article, The Rise and Fall of the Separation of Powers
  • Erwin Chemerinsky's symposium article, A Fixture on a Changing Court: Justice Stevens and the Establishment Clause
  • Co-authors Lee Epstein, William M. Landes, and Judge Richard A. Posner's symposium article, Unanimous Decisions in the Supreme Court
  • Aziz Huq's symposium article, The Institution Matching Canon
  • Dawn Johnsen's symposium article on Justice Stevens' on the terrorism cases
  • Andrew M. Koppelman's symposium article, Justice Stevens, Religious Enthusiast
  • Simon Lazarus's symposium article, Stripping the Gears of National Government: Justice Stevens' Stand Against Judicial Subversion of Progressive Laws and Lawmaking
  • Stefanie A. Lindquist's symposium article, Supreme Court Prequel: Justice Stevens on the Seventh Circuit
  • Thomas W. Merrill's symposium article, Justice Stevens and the Chevron Puzzle

To view videos from the symposium or for more information please see "The Legacy of Justice Stevens."

2010: "Political Science and the Law" 2009: "Maturing Internet Studies" 2008: "Original Ideas on Originalism" 2007: "Ordering State-Federal Relations Through Federal Preemption Doctrine" 2006: "Censorship and Institutional Review Boards" 2005: "The First Century: Celebrating 100 Years of Legal Scholarship"