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02/24/2022

Eric Segall on the Originalism Conference and Engaging with Disagreement
Michael Ramsey

A Dorf on Law, Eric Segall: Of Originalism, Political Polarization, Tolerance, and the Importance of Talking to the Other Side. From the introduction: 

Last Friday and Saturday I attended the 13th annual Originalism Conference at the University of San Diego. There were seven papers presented by legal academics and discussed over two days in a room full of approximately 45 self-identifying originalists, two non-originalists (myself and Professor Tom Colby), and one person who as a matter of self-identification straddles the line (an ice storm in the Midwest and Covid issues led to slightly fewer non-originalists at the conference than usual). For the record, my guess is that most of the professors there were members of the Federalist Society, though that organization had nothing to do with the conference. 

I commented on six of the seven papers and, as you'd expect, most of what I said was critical of originalism in general and the way the papers used originalism in particular. Although there was the expected pushback from almost everyone in the room, the conversations were friendly, civil, and I think helpful to the presenters. In any event, the debates helped me get a better understanding of numerous legal issues and how originalists viewed them. There was also substantial and robust debate and disagreement between and among the 45 or so originalists, all in the service of healthy academic discourse. 

I am pretty sure Professors Michael Rappaport and Michael Ramsey, who run run the program, would appreciate me saying the conference is open to all and non-originalists and anti-originalists are more than welcome to attend and are even appreciated. Given how much originalist discourse is going to (sadly) be presented to judges in the future, I recommend this conference highly to everyone, especially those who believe, as I do, that judicial focus on originalism is quite undesirable. 

All of which brings me to Ilya Shapiro, Elie Mystal, the Federalist Society, and our current state of social media and academic discourse. . . .

And in conclusion:

We need to listen to people who disagree with us, even to those who do so strongly, much more than we need to surround ourselves with people who think just like us. That is why I went to the Originalism Conference full of people with whom I mostly disagree. It is in those fora where I learn the most, and maybe, just maybe, do the most good.

Agreed, and thanks to Professor Segall for his kind words about the conference and for his participation in it.  There's a lot more of value in the post, most of which I agree with as well.