September 8, 2015 Print

The U.S. judicial system should be the last line of defense for protecting individual rights from the overreaching power grabs of government officials, but too often the courts only serve to approve and enable the worst abuses of government power. Randy Barnett, the Cormack Waterhouse professor of legal theory at Georgetown University Law Center, is at the forefront of a movement to restore judicial review to its proper role of limiting government and protecting individual liberty. Barnett will present the Liggio Lecture at Atlas Network’s 2015 Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner, Nov. 11–12 in New York City.

“[Ten years ago], Barnett was one of a handful of academics on the fringes of conservative legal thought,” a recent New Republic profile explains. “Today, their views are taking hold within the mainstream of our politics. Barnett and his compatriots represent the vanguard of a lasting shift toward greater libertarian influence over our law schools and, increasingly, throughout our legal system. They’re building networks for students and young lawyers and laying the foundation for a more free-market cast of federal judges in the next presidential administration. Their goal is to fundamentally reshape the courts in ways that will have profound effects on society.”

Barnett argues in a recent Washington Times analysis that this doctrine of judicial review was well understood by delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and, for the most part, held in both legal rhetoric and judicial practice until the early 20th century at the dawn of the progressive era. Presidents on both the left and right began appointing Supreme Court justices who would reflect popular will rather than thwart it. As judicial opinions stray continually further afield from the Constitution’s limited enumeration of government power, however, Barnett insists that it’s time for judges to stop deferring to legislators and officials, instead holding government to its constitutional mandate.

“In the future, presidents need to select judges with a demonstrated commitment to following and enforcing the original meaning of the text of the Constitution — judges who have the backbone to stand up for our republican constitution against the other branches, and even to a majority of the public,” Barnett wrote. “Protecting the liberties of We the People demands no less.”

Join Professor Randy Barnett for his presentation of the annual Liggio Lecture at Atlas Network’s 2015 Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner, Nov. 11–12 in New York City.

Listen to a podcast interview with The Federalist, Randy Barnett Offers A New Vision of Constitutional Conservatism.”