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Heritage Event: Judicial Usurpation and the Constitution: Historical and Contemporary Issues

Recorded on February 17, 2005

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Allison Auditorium

In this lecture, Robert P. George explores the history of judicial interventions in the American democratic process to attempt to resolve divisive, morally charged issues of social policy. While defending the legitimacy of constitutional judicial review as a means of protecting the rule of law, Professor George criticizes the Supreme Court for frequently usurping powers allocated by the Constitution to the people acting through their elected representatives. He proposes answers to some common arguments advanced by proponents of sweeping judicial power to justify its exercise. Among the questions he addresses are those raised by judicial interference with Congressional efforts to ban slavery in the federal territories prior to the civil war; state and federal legislation to protect workers in the early decades of the twentieth century; and contemporary state and federal laws pertaining to abortion, pornography, and marriage.

Professor George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, at Princeton University. In addition to being the author of several books, most recently The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis, Dr. George is a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and previously served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights.