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Closing Colloquy: Catholicism and the American Project

The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture’s “Higher Powers” Conference – November 2018

Liberalism and the Invisible Hand

The Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture’s “Higher Powers” Conference – November 2018

The Publius Paradox: On the Dangers of a Weak Executive

Chorley Lecture at the London School of Economics – June 2018

The Chorley Lecture is an annual lecture inaugurated in 1972 and named in honour of Lord Chorley of Kendal, the founding editor of the Modern Law Review. The Lecture, which is normally delivered in late May or early June at the London School of Economics & Political Science, is the most important occasion in the calendar of the Review. A version of the lecture is subsequently published as the lead article in the January issue of the following year’s Review.

At the Philadelphia convention assembled to draft a new Constitution, Alexander Hamilton argued “[e]stablish a weak government and you must at times overleap the bounds. Rome was obliged to create dictators.” Publius then expands upon this argument in several ways in the Federalist. Professor Vermeule suggests that Publius identifies a dynamic or mechanism, the “Publius Paradox,” that warrants great attention: Under particular conditions, excessive weakness of government may become excessive strength. If the bonds of constitutionalism are drawn too tightly, they will be thrown off altogether when circumstances warrant. After illustrating and then analysing this “Publius Paradox,” Professor Vermeule briefly discusses its implications, the main one being that constitutional law should be cast as a loosely-fitting garment — particularly the executive component of the constitution and the scope of executive powers.

Democratic Reformers or Illiberal Backsliders? Poland and the Challenges of Sovereign Politics in the West

First Things and the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland – May 2018

A panel discussion on the future of Poland and political sovereignty in the West in honor of the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence moderated by R. R. Reno, editor of First Things, and featuring Ryszard Antoni Legutko, Professor of Philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków; Jeremy A. Rabkin, Professor of Law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School; and, Adrian Vermeule, Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School.

How Harvard Law School Has Shaped the Law

Harvard Law School – October 2017

Harvard Law Review President Imelme Umana J.D./M.P.P ‘18 led a session titled “How Harvard Law School Has Shaped the Law,” with a panel of HLS faculty who contributed essays to the Harvard Law Review’s Bicentennial issue. The panel, which focused on critical approaches to law, legal education, the role of courts in our system of government, statutory interpretation, jurisprudence, and the administrative state, included Dean John Manning ’85 and Professors Kimberlé Crenshaw ’84, Jeannie Suk Gersen ’02, Vicki Jackson, Frederick Schauer ’72, and Adrian Vermeule ’93.

Their talk was part of the HLS in the World bicentennial summit which took place at Harvard Law School on Friday, October 27, 2017. Read more:

Concluding Panel at What Are Natural Rights? Conference

Thomistic Institute in New York City – April 2017

Speakers Charles Kesler, Fr. Dominic Legge, OP and Nigel Biggar were joined by panelists Sherif Girgis, Adrian Vermeule and Chad Pecknold, as well as Vincent Phillip Muñoz and Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP.

Chair Lecture on Law’s Abnegation: From Law’s Empire to the Administrative State

Harvard Law School – November 2016

Professor Vermeule delivered a chair lecture to commemorate his appointment as the Ralph S. Tyler Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. His talk was based on his book, Law’s Abnegation: From Law’s Empire to the Administrative State.

Ronald Dworkin once imagined law as an empire and judges as its princes. But over time, the arc of law has bent steadily toward deference to the administrative state. In Law’s Abnegation, Professor Vermeule argues that law has freely abandoned its imperial pretensions, and has done so for internal legal reasons. In area after area, judges and lawyers, working out the logical implications of legal principles, have come to believe that administrators should be granted broad leeway to set policy, determine facts, interpret ambiguous statutes, and even define the boundaries of their own jurisdiction. Agencies have greater democratic legitimacy and technical competence to confront many issues than lawyers and judges do. And as the questions confronting the state involving climate change, terrorism, and biotechnology (to name a few) have become ever more complex, legal logic increasingly indicates that abnegation is the wisest course of action. As Law’s Abnegation makes clear, the state did not shove law out of the way. The judiciary voluntarily relegated itself to the margins of power. The last and greatest triumph of legalism was to depose itself.

Panel Discussion on Professor Cass Sunstein’s Constitutional Personae

Harvard Law School – April 2016

Constitutional Personae: Heroes, Soldiers, Minimalists, and Mutes by Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School (Oxford U. Press, Oct. 7, 2015) with Harvard Law School panelists: Martha Minow, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor, Harvard Law School; Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law; and Adrian Vermeule, John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law.

Remembering Justice Scalia

Harvard Law School – February 2016

Reflections on the life and work of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow and Professors Charles Fried; Richard Lazarus; Lawrence Lessig; John Manning; Frank Michelman; Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule.

Panel Discussion on Professor Sanford Levinson’s An Argument Open to All: Reading ‘the Federalist’ in the 21st Century

Harvard Law School – December 2015

Visiting Professor of Law Sanford Levinson, with panelists: Adrian Vermeule, John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; Eric Nelson, Robert M. Beren Professor of Government, Harvard University; James T. Kloppenberg, Charles Warren Professor of American History, Harvard University; and Jill Lepore, David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History and Harvard College Professor.

Panel Discussion on Professor Vermeule’s The Constitution of Risk

Harvard Law School – April 2014

A panel discussion on The Discussion of Risk featuring Adrian Vermeule, Cass Sunstein, Mark Tushnet, and Richard Fallon. The Constitution of Risk is the first book to combine constitutional theory with the theory of risk regulation. It argues that constitutional rulemaking is best understood as a means of managing political risks. Constitutional law structures and regulates the risks that arise in and from political life, such as an executive coup or military putsch, political abuse of ideological or ethnic minorities, or corrupt self-dealing by officials. The book claims that the best way to manage political risks is an approach it calls ‘optimizing constitutionalism’ – in contrast to the worst-case thinking that underpins ‘precautionary constitutionalism’, a mainstay of liberal constitutional theory. Drawing on a broad range of disciplines such as decision theory, game theory, welfare economics, political science and psychology, this book advocates constitutional rulemaking undertaken in a spirit of welfare maximization, and offers a corrective to the pervasive and frequently irrational distrust of official power that is so prominent in American constitutional history and discourse.

Supreme Court 2010-2011 Term Review

Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference – June 2011

Professor Vermeule participated in a review of the major Supreme Court decisions of the October term at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 77th Annual Judicial Conference. The panel discussed the makeup of the Supreme Court and examined how justices ruled on specific court cases. They also spoke about court cases involving freedom of speech and the first amendment, federalism and campaign finance laws.