'Keeping Faith with the Constitution' lecture March 29

March 14, 2012

Pamela Karlan, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery professor of public interest law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, will present Luther College's Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture Thursday, March 29 at 7 p.m. in Valders Hall of Science, Room 206.

An informal pre-lecture reception for Karlan will be held in the Valders Hall of Science Atrium at 6:15 p.m.

Both the reception and lecture are open to the public with no charge for admission.

In her lecture, titled "Keeping Faith with the Constitution," Karlan will discuss the U.S. Constitution, specifically how it has endured and how it is interpreted.

According to Karlan, in recent decades a common-sense understanding of the Constitution has been overshadowed by alternative conceptions of the Constitution and the proper way to interpret it. Originalism—an exclusive reliance on public understandings of the text at the time it was ratified—has been vigorously championed by a wide range of judges, politicians and scholars.

Karlan will describe and defend an approach to constitutional interpretation that is richer than originalism, is more consistent with the history of U.S. constitutional practice, and more persuasive in explaining why the Constitution remains authoritative more than two hundred years after the nation's founding. 

She will argue that the question that properly guides interpretation is not how the Constitution would have been applied at the founding, but rather how it should be applied today in order to sustain its vitality in light of the changing needs, conditions and understandings of our society. 

According to Karlan, to be faithful to the Constitution is to interpret its words and to apply its principles in ways that preserve the Constitution's meaning and democratic legitimacy over time.

Karlan is one of the nation's leading experts on voting and the political process. Her primary scholarly interests lie in the areas of constitutional law and constitutional litigation, with an emphasis on voting rights and antidiscrimination law. 

She has published dozens of scholarly articles as well as three casebooks and a monograph, "Keeping Faith with the Constitution."

In her clinical work, Karlan supervises law students on cases before the Supreme Court involving civil rights plaintiffs, criminal defendants, public officials and nonprofit organizations. 

A former law clerk to District Judge Abraham D. Sofaer and Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Karlan has served as assistant counsel and remains a cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

From 2003-06 she served on the California Fair Political Practices Commission. 

Karlan is a member of the American Law Institute, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. She is the recipient of three awards for excellence in teaching.

Karlan holds the bachelor of arts, master of arts, and juris doctoral degrees from Yale University.

Pamela Karlan