2021 Originalism Symposium

Friday, February 12, 2021: 11am – 4:45pm ET

Join the Federalist Society at the University of Virginia School of Law at our third annual originalism symposium. This year’s symposium will explore how originalism — now more ascendent than ever — has responded to challenges and criticisms lodged against it in 2020. We’ll explore Bostock v. Clayton County’s internecine textualist duels, new objections to originalism from the right, the coming Supreme Court battles set against the backdrop of threats of court packing, and the politics of originalism.


Textualism After Bostock

Bostock v. Clayton County was a landmark decision in more ways than one. Of course, the holding was groundbreaking. But so too was the fact that all 3 Bostock opinions rooted themselves in textualist principles. How much does the Bostock split matter? Should we expect more or fewer divisions like those in Bostock? And how will the Court’s changes in personnel affect this divide?

Prof. Josh Blackman
South Texas College of Law
Prof. Tara Leigh Grove
University of Alabama School of Law
Prof. Michael Rappaport
University of San Diego School of Law

Originalism’s Conservative Foes

The conservative legal movement has championed originalism for decades. But there are growing signs of dissension — some argue that originalism has outlived its utility and should be abandoned. How should originalists respond to these challenges from the right?

Josh Hammer
Opinion Editor, Newsweek
Prof. Stephen Sachs
Duke University School of Law
Prof. John Yoo
UC Berkeley School of Law
The Honorable Gregory Maggs
Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (moderator)

Originalism, Institutionalism, and the Thomas Court

With the Court’s conservative wing ascendent, what should originalists expect in the coming years? Will one or more justices try to position themselves as the intellectual heir to Justice Scalia, or will different justices establish their own brands of originalism? What comes next in the judicial wars, and how will President Biden shape the judiciary?

John Malcolm
Director, Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
Prof. Jennifer Mascott
Antonin Scalia Law School
The Honorable Beth A. Williams
Former Assistant Attorney General, US Department of Justice
The Honorable Neomi Rao
Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (moderator)

Originalism’s Public Meaning

Supreme Court confirmation hearings tend to shine a bright spotlight on originalism. During Justice Barrett’s hearings, many prominent figures — from politicians to Hollywood celebrities — opined on the nature and merits of originalism. But how does the general public view originalism? And how much should originalists be concerned with the public’s conception of what originalism is?

Prof. Kurt Lash
University of Richmond School of Law
David Lat
Founding Editor, Above the Law
Elizabeth Slattery
Senior Legal Fellow, Pacific Legal Foundation
Prof. Evan Bernick
Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center (moderator)

Participant Biographies

Evan Bernick is a law clerk to the Honorable Diane S. Sykes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. From April 2017 to April 2019, he was a Visiting Lecturer at the Georgetown University Law Center and a Fellow of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. His scholarship focuses on constitutional interpretation and administrative law. He has published with the Georgetown Law Review, the William and Mary Law Review, and the George Mason Law Review, among other journals. He received his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2011, and he graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 2008.

Josh Blackman is a Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law in Houston who specializes in constitutional law, the United States Supreme Court, and the intersection of law and technology. Josh is the author of three books: Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (2013), Unraveled: Obamacare, Religious Liberty, and Executive Power (Cambridge University Press, 2016), and An Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should Know (2019).

Josh was selected by Forbes Magazine for the “30 Under 30” in Law and Policy. Josh has twice testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the constitutionality of executive action on immigration and health care. He is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. Josh is the founder and President of the Harlan Institute, the founder of FantasySCOTUS, the Internet’s Premier Supreme Court Fantasy League, and blogs at JoshBlackman.com. Josh is the author of nearly five dozen law review articles, and his commentary has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, L.A. Times, and other national publications.

View Josh’s C.V. here.

Tara Leigh Grove graduated summa cum laude from Duke University and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she served as the Supreme Court Chair of the Harvard Law Review. Grove clerked for Judge Emilio Garza on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and then spent four years as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Appellate Staff, where she argued fifteen cases in the courts of appeals. Grove has served as a visiting professor at both Harvard Law School and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.  Grove’s research focuses on the federal judiciary and the constitutional separation of powers. She has published with such prestigious law journals as the Harvard Law ReviewColumbia Law ReviewUniversity of Pennsylvania Law Review, New York University Law Review,University of Chicago Law ReviewCornell Law Review, and Vanderbilt Law Review.  Grove has received awards for both her research and her teaching, including the Walter L. Williams, Jr., Memorial Teaching Award in 2018 and the Paul M. Bator Award in 2016.  Grove’s articles are cited and discussed in leading Federal Courts casebooks, and she has served as the Chair of the Federal Courts Section of the Association of American Law Schools.

Josh Hammer is opinion editor of Newsweek, a syndicated columnist, a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation, counsel and policy advisor for the Internet Accountability Project, a contributing writer for American Compass, and a campus speaker through Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Young America’s Foundation, and the Federalist Society. His writings have appeared in many leading lay publications, and he has also published formal constitutional scholarship. Josh previously worked at a large law firm and served as a law clerk for Judge James C. Ho on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Josh earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and a B.S. from Duke University. He was a 2018 John Marshall Fellow with the Claremont Institute.

Professor Kurt Lash teaches and writes about constitutional law. Founder and director of the Richmond Program on the American Constitution, Professor Lash has published widely on the subjects of constitutional history, theory and law, including The Fourteenth Amendment and the Privileges or Immunities of American Citizenship (Cambridge University Press, 2014), The Lost History of the Ninth Amendment (Oxford University Press, 2009), and The American First Amendment in the Twenty-first Century: Cases and Materials (with William W. Van Alstyne) (5th ed., Foundation Press). He is currently working on a two-volume collection of original documents relating to the framing and ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Titled “The Reconstruction Amendments: Essential Documents,” the work will be published by University of Chicago Press in Spring 2021. An elected member of the American Law Institute, Professor Lash also serves on the advisory committee for the Reconstruction Amendments exhibit at the National Constitution Center. Professor Lash’s work has appeared in numerous legal journals including the Stanford Law JournalGeorgetown Law JournalVirginia Law Review, and Notre Dame Law Review. He has been a visiting professor at Northwestern University School of Law and is the former director of the University of Illinois College of Law Program in Constitutional Theory, History, and Law.

David Lat founded Above the Law, one of the nation’s most widely read legal news websites, and he now writes a newsletter on Substack about law and legal affairs, Original Jurisdiction. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in New York; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Gregory E. Maggs is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.  He is a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and the U.S. Army War College.  He clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and the late Judge Joseph T. Sneed.  Before becoming a judge, he taught for more than 25 years at the George Washington University Law School, where he also spent several years as the Senior Associate Dean and Interim Dean.  He was in the U.S. Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, from 1990-2018, retiring in the rank of colonel after serving as a prosecutor, military judge, and West Point professor.  He has written textbooks on constitutional law, military justice, and counter-terrorism law.  He also has authored numerous law review articles, including a series of guides to sources of the original meaning of the Constitution.

John Malcolm is the Vice President of the Institute for Constitutional Government and Director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, where he writes on a variety of legal issues.

An honors graduate from Columbia College and Harvard Law School, John clerked for federal judges in the Northern District of Georgia and on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  For 10 years, John worked at the Department of Justice as an Assistant United States Attorney, an Associate Independent Counsel, and a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division.  John received numerous awards for his service, including the Director’s Award for Superior Performance by an Assistant United States Attorney. 

From 2004 through 2009, he served as an Executive Vice President and Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy Operations for the Motion Picture Association.  John then served as a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at Pepperdine Law School.  From 2010 to 2012, John was the General Counsel at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. 

John has also been actively involved in many charitable and civic organizations, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2019 to serve on the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation, the largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans.

Jennifer Mascott is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School. Professor Mascott writes in the areas of administrative and constitutional law and the separation of powers. Her scholarship has been cited by the Supreme Court and has been published in the Stanford Law Review and several other journals. She is a former law clerk to Justice Thomas and to then-Judge Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit, and testified in the Senate in support of Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Professor Mascott previously served as Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Department of Justice as well as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. She has also held the positions of Public Member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and Vice Chair of the Judicial Review and Supreme Court Committee within the ABA’s Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. Professor Mascott also previously served as the Faculty Director of the Antonin Scalia Law School’s Supreme Court and Administrative Law clinics. Professor Mascott graduated from the George Washington University Law School, where she earned the highest cumulative graduating GPA on record at the school. Prior to law school, Professor Mascott held several positions in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, including that of Press Secretary for two former House members and Deputy Press Secretary for the Senate Republican Conference.   

Judge Rao was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in March 2019. She graduated from Yale College in 1995 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1999. Following graduation, she served as a law clerk to Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and, in the 2001 October Term, as law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. Between her clerkships, Judge Rao served as counsel for nominations and constitutional law to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. In 2002, she joined the international arbitration group of Clifford Chance LLP in London, England. From 2005-2006, she served as Special Assistant and Associate White House Counsel to President George W. Bush. From 2006 to 2017, Judge Rao was a professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, where she taught constitutional law, legislation and statutory interpretation, and the history and foundations of the administrative state. In 2014, she founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State, a non-profit Center that promotes academic scholarship and public policy debates about administrative law. In July 2017, she was appointed to serve as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management Budget. She served in this position until her appointment to the D.C. Circuit.

Michael Rappaport is the Director of the Center for the Study of Constitutional Originalism and is the founder of the Originalism Blog. He has taught overseas at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, and at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. He is also a member of the Administrative Law & Regulation Executive Committee of The Federalist Society.

Rappaport worked in the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice and practiced appellate law with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C.  He was a law clerk to Judge Dolores Sloviter of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Stephen E. Sachs is the Colin W. Brown Professor of Law at Duke University School of Law, where he teaches civil procedure, constitutional law, and conflict of laws. He joined the Duke faculty after practicing in the litigation group of Mayer Brown LLP. Sachs clerked for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and for Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He received undergraduate degrees from Harvard University and from Merton College, Oxford, and received his J.D. from Yale Law School.

Elizabeth Slattery is a senior legal fellow and deputy director of PLF’s Center for the Separation of Powers. She’s an evangelist for the separation of powers, spreading the good news about the Constitution’s greatest protection for Americans’ individual liberties.

Elizabeth has written for the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, the Cato Supreme Court Review, and The Federalist Society Review, among other publications, and her work on the need to end improper judicial deference to federal regulators was cited by Justice Neil Gorsuch. Her opinion pieces have appeared in The Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostSCOTUSblogNational Review Online, and many other outlets. She has testified before Congress and is a frequent legal commentator in print, radio, and television. As creator and former host of a popular podcast about the Supreme Court, she captivated listeners around the world with her interviews and trivia segments.

Elizabeth is also one of the authors of PLF’s recent report “The Regulatory State’s Due Process Deficits.”

Elizabeth previously worked at The Heritage Foundation and is a member of The Federalist Society’s Civil Rights Practice Group Executive Committee, the Maryland State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and the American Bar Association’s Public Education Division.

She’s a graduate of Xavier University, where she studied history and music and where the Jesuits taught her to question everything. She received her J.D. from George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

Beth A. Williams served as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy at the United States Department of Justice from August 2017 to December 2020.   In that role, she served as the primary policy advisor to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, and as the Chief Regulatory Officer for the Department.  Ms. Williams also led the judicial nomination process for the Department, assisting in the selection and confirmation of more than 230 Article III judges to the bench, more than any President has appointed in a single term since 1980.  Prior to becoming Assistant Attorney General, Ms. Williams was a litigation and appellate partner at a national law firm, where her practice focused on complex commercial, securities, and First Amendment litigation. From 2005-2006, Ms. Williams served as Special Counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where she assisted with the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the United States Supreme Court.  Ms. Williams graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude, with a degree in History and Literature, and she earned her law degree from Harvard Law School, where she served as Executive Editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

John Yoo is the Emanuel Heller Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. 

His tenth book, Defender-in-Chief: Trump’s Fight for Presidential Power, was published in the summer of 2020 by St. Martin’s Press.  Professor Yoo’s other books examine presidential power, terrorism, the laws of war, military and law enforcement technology, and the Constitution’s separation of powers. 

Professor Yoo has published more than 100 articles in academic journals on subjects including national security, constitutional law, international law, and the Supreme Court.  He also regularly contributes to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and National Review, among others.

Professor Yoo has served in all three branches of government.  He was an official in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on national security and terrorism issues after the 9/11 attacks.  He served as general counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.  He has been a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and federal appeals Judge Laurence Silberman.  He has been a visiting professor at Seoul National University in South Korea, the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, Keio University in Japan, Trento University in Italy, the University of Chicago, and the Free University of Amsterdam.

Professor Yoo graduated from Yale Law School and summa cum laude from Harvard College. At Berkeley, Professor Yoo directs the Public Law and Policy program and the Korea Law Center and is a winner of the Federalist Society’s Paul Bator award.

Federalist Society at UVA Law’s Symposium Committee

Thanks to the members of the Federalist Society at UVA Law’s symposium committee for making this event possible.