A New Era For Constitutional Law and Theory
If 1987 marked the downfall of originalism, then 2017 might be known as the comeback, thanks to Judge Gorsuch, an originalist who has testified to his adherence to the “original public meaning.”
Twenty years ago Robert Bork, a self-professed originalist, failed to earn enough votes to make it to the Nation’s highest court. And originalism ventured into an isolated wilderness. Now, Judge Gorsuch, who has brought originalism out of obscurity, is also bringing originalism squarely into the mainstream. Given an impending confirmation vote for him in late spring, Judge Gorsuch’s ascension to the bench will likely normalize originalism in many academic and political circles.
This is important for two of many reasons. First, state-of-the-art originalism, as a method of constitutional interpretation, is arguably the best-suited for the task. Second, originalism has the ability to appeal to individuals of all stripes, from left to right on the political spectrum.
Of all the labels swirling around to describe Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch before his confirmation hearings beginning March 20th, patriotic is likely among them, according to Tara Helfman, who is on loan from Syracuse Law School while she works as a Georgetown Center for the Constitution Visiting Scholar.
Helfman’s recent slate of articles reflect her ongoing scholarship that includes executive powers, the Constitution and originalism. While at Georgetown for the 2017 spring semester, Professor Helfman hosts GULC students in her “Freedom and the Framers” reading group, where she guides students through an exploration of the ideas and events that helped shape the American Constitution.
The purpose of the group, Professor Helfman says, is to allow students to enrich their understanding of constitutional doctrine and thereby become “useful and effective lawyers. [The reading group] is a lot more free-wheeling than a normal Socratic-oriented course. We read interesting things, and everyone is motivated to be there because they’ve chosen to be there. It’s not for credit.”