Feedback on the visits of the Supreme Court to the Faculty of Law of Notre Dame | News | Law School


Three U.S. Supreme Court justices visited the University of Notre Dame campus during the first month of this fall semester.

Associate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame Law School alumnus and former faculty member, taught a week-long seminar on statutory interpretation to third-year law students at the start of the semester. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the Tocqueville 2021 Lecture, sponsored by the Notre Dame Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government, on September 16 at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Finally, Associate Justice Samuel Alito spoke about the emergency role of the Supreme Court on September 30 in the McCartan courtroom at the Eck courthouse.

Visits are part of a long tradition at Notre Dame, where members of the country’s highest court have been welcomed to campus to share their knowledge and views on the law. Here is a look at a few other visits by Supreme Court justices over the past 20 years.

Ruth bader ginsburg

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Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the McCartan Courtroom, 2016

When Associate Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited the campus in 2016, more than 7,000 people gathered in the Purcell Pavilion for her conversation with former Notre Dame Law student Ann Claire Williams ’75 JD, then judge at the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Justice Ginsburg also set aside time to meet with students and speak at the Law School in the McCartan Courtroom, hosted by Professor Jennifer Mason McAward, former Clerk of Retired Judge Sandra Day O’Connor .

Ginsburg encouraged law students “to help mend the tears of society” through their work as lawyers.

“The law exists to serve,” she said. “The law exists to help a society stay together in harmony. “

Sonia sotomayor

Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the McCartan courtroom, 2015

Deputy Justice Sonia Sotomayor shared personal anecdotes as well as her views on the Supreme Court and the law during an appearance at Notre Dame in 2015.

“I’ve always tried to approach the law as a learning process, to try to understand how other people have approached particular issues,” she told NBC News correspondent Anne Thompson ’79. during their public conversation at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. “I believe people really expect the law to have a fixed meaning that gives them some comfort in their human relationships.”

Sotomayor spoke with students from Notre Dame Law School during that same visit. She spoke to law students and answered their questions in the McCartan courtroom.

Samuel alito

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Samuel Alito in the McCartan courtroom, 2014

Deputy Judge Samuel Alito visited Notre Dame Law School in 2014 and 2015.

In 2014, he served as guest chair of Judge James J. Clynes Jr .. The day’s events included a conversation between Judge Alito and Notre Dame law professor William Kelly in the McCartan courtroom. Kelley was a law clerk early in her career for Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

Alito returned to Notre Dame in 2015 for a panel discussion on a book, “Italian Constitutional Justice in a Global Context”, co-authored by Paolo Carozza, professor at Notre Dame Law School and director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies .

Clarence thomas

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Justice Clarence Thomas teaches at ND Law, 2014

Associate Judge Clarence Thomas visited Notre Dame Law School in 2013 as guest chair of Judge James J. Clynes Jr.

For two days he taught educational law and federal criminal law. By popular demand, the Federal Criminal Law course session was opened to all law school students. Additionally, he spent time with law school student groups including the Federalist Society and the Black Law Students Association.

Judge Thomas and Notre Dame Law Professor Nicole Stelle Garnett, one of his former clerks, participated in a conversation in the McCartan courtroom which focused on the childhood influences of justice, his judicial philosophy and its expectations of court clerks.

Thomas returned to law school in 2014 to teach an intensive seminar course, Religious Freedom and the Settlement Clause, with Professor Richard Garnett. Students enrolled in the course spent the week closely examining the text and background of the Settlement Clause, as well as Supreme Court decisions dealing with Church-State issues and religious freedom.

Anthony kennedy

From left to right, Professor Jeff Pojanowski, Judge Anthony Kennedy and Professor Randy Kozel in London, 2012

In 2012, Deputy Judge Anthony Kennedy visited the London Global Gateway at the University of Notre Dame. He met students and professors from the Notre Dame London Law Program. The faculty included two of its former clerks: Professors Randy Kozel and Jeff Pojanowski.

Justice Kennedy discussed the role of the United States Constitution in shaping American identity and the role of the Constitution as a model throughout the world. He further noted the powerful influence of British constitutional tradition on the US Constitution and its core values.

John roberts

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Chief Justice John Roberts addresses ND law students, 2008

In 2008, Chief Justice John Roberts held a one-day position at Notre Dame Law School as guest chair of Justice James J. Clynes Jr ..

The Chief Justice met and spoke with students and faculty at a series of events throughout the day. One of those events was a conversation with Notre Dame law professor William Kelley on stage at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Some quotes from the conversation:

  • “It’s easier to ask questions than it is to answer them,” Roberts joked, talking about the difference between arguing cases in the Supreme Court as a trial attorney and hearing cases from across the bench as a trial lawyer. as Chief Justice.
  • In interviews with potential clerks, Roberts is known to ask candidates to tell him a joke after asking them about the law. “We spend a lot of time together and I want to know that I will enjoy their company,” he said.
  • He reviews his written opinions at least 20 times. “On the front of the notice, for record keeping purposes, I always write down what project this is,” he said. “You’ll never see less than 20 drafts until I give my final opinion.”

Antonin Scalia

Antoninscalie 2007
Judge Antonin Scalia at ND Law, 2007

Deputy Judge Antonin Scalia has spoken twice at Notre Dame and received an honorary degree from the University during his years on the Supreme Court.

In 2007, Justice Scalia delivered the opening lecture at a conference hosted by the Notre Dame Law Review and Professor Anthony J. Bellia, who served as Scalia’s clerk at the Supreme Court. In his lecture, “The Importance of Structure in Constitutional Interpretation,” Scalia discussed the unique function of the judiciary in the US government and analyzed several cases that the Supreme Court has decided.

Scalia has already spoken at Notre Dame during the spring semester of 1997, when he gave a talk entitled “On Interpreting the Constitution” in DeBartolo Hall. Also in 1997, the University awarded Scalia an honorary degree at the start.

Guillaume Rehnquist

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Chief Justice William Rehnquist at Law School, 2002

Chief Justice William Rehnquist spoke at Law School in 2002 as the guest chair of Justice James J. Clynes Jr ..

His lecture focused on the use of military courts in the United States during wartime. The historical perspective focused on what the Supreme Court had said in the past about the use of these courts. It was a hot topic as the Chief Justice delivered his speech on the first anniversary of September 11.

Rehnquist also attended a First Amendment class taught by Professor Richard Garnett, who worked for the Chief Justice during the Supreme Court tenure of 1996-97.


Nancy I. Romero

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