With the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat vacated by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the United States Supreme Court and the federal judiciary have once again taken center stage in the national political discussion. That makes this a fine time to share three Acton Lecture Series events from the past year that provide insight into the role of the courts in American society throughout the history of the country.
First of all, we’re pleased to share for the first time Judge Joseph Scoville’s lecture entitled “The Growth of Leviathan: How the Federal Government Has Shed Its Constitutional Restraints”, which he delivered on January 5 of this year. In his address, Scoville – a retired United States Magistrate Judge for the western district of Michigan – reviews the main events in American Constitutional history responsible for the eclipse of the Constitutional checks and balances designed to limit federal power.
Next up, we have Ilya Shapiro, Cato Institute Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, who spoke at the Acton Institute on December 1, 2016. His lecture focuses on the importance of judges’ both having the right constitutional theories as well as the willingness to enforce them. Shapiro argues that too much judicial “restraint” — like that of Chief Justice John Roberts in the Obamacare cases — has led not only to the unchecked growth of government, but also toxic judicial confirmation battles in the Senate and even our nation’s current populist moment.
Finally, we have Ryan T. Anderson, who spoke at the Acton Institute on February 11, 2016 – just two days before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Anderson, the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, discussed the vitally important issue of religious liberty, laying out the challenges and opportunities faced by religious Americans in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision which judicially redefined marriage in the United States.