Home > Calendar > Pierre Genest Lecture: Professor Jamal Greene

Pierre Genest Lecture: Professor Jamal Greene

Date: 15-Jan-2020
Time: 12:30 PM - 02:30 PM
Location: 1002
Link: RSVP

THE RIGHTS EPIDEMIC

The Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835 that “scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.” Tocqueville’s hyperbole has become an unmistakable truth in our age. Increasingly, our most divisive social and political issues reach courts as cases about constitutional rights. Does the Constitution protect a woman’s right to choose whether to abort a fetus, or does the fetus have rights the state is bound to protect? Does the Second Amendment give Americans the right to bear arms, or does it protect our right as a democratic people to regulate dangerous weapons for the safety of all? Does the Constitution’s guarantee of equality to all persons prevent a public university from considering race in admissions, or does that very same guarantee enable state colleges to compensate for hundreds of years of race-based disadvantage? But what has our reliance on judicial action at the expense of political negotiation done to our sense of justice and our sense of cohesion? Catastrophic division from within threatens to define the next American century in much the way the triumphs of the Greatest Generation and the rise of the middle class defined the last one. This lecture illuminates the role that U.S. constitutional law – by consistently framing the issue of rights in presumptively absolute terms – has played in eroding our moral center, and how courts can help walk us back to the middle.

Jamal Greene is the Dwight Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, where he teaches constitutional law, comparative constitutional law, the law of the political process, First Amendment, and federal courts. His scholarship focuses on the structure of legal and constitutional argument. Professor Greene is the author of numerous articles and book chapters and is a frequent media commentator on constitutional law and the Supreme Court. Prior to joining Columbia's faculty he was an Alexander Fellow at New York University Law School. Professor Greene served as a law clerk to the Hon. Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for the Hon. John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. He earned his J.D. from Yale Law School and his A.B. from Harvard College.