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Weekend Conference on Law, Individual Rights and the Judicial System
March 4-5, 2006, Denver, Colorado

Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law. — Ayn Rand

The American legal system is in real trouble. Many solutions have been offered–limitations on tort damage awards, restrictions of intellectual property rights, limits on class action suits, increases and decreases in various criminal penalties, and even changes in the Senate confirmation procedure for Supreme Court Justices. Many of the reforms sought do not address the fundamental issues involved, and therefore will ultimately fail. But how does one decide whether a particular reform is appropriate?

To establish and preserve a free society, citizens must recognize, as the foundation of that society, the principle of individual rights. Rights are "the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context" and provide "the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society" (Ayn Rand, "Man's Rights").

The fundamental question to be asked in evaluating any of the proposed reforms to the legal system is whether this change better ensures and protects individual rights, and, if so, how. This weekend conference, the first to focus on the application of Objectivism to legal issues, will seek to bring a richer understanding of individual rights to four topics: 1) judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, 2) property rights as they relate to eminent domain, 3) unenumerated rights, and 4) the right to privacy. These lectures relate to some of the most significant legal issues in America today.

The Schedule

Saturday, March 4
8:45 a.m.Lin Zinser – Opening Remarks
9:00 - 10:30Tara Smith – Why Originalism Won't Die
10:45 - 12:15Dana Berliner – Reading Public Use Out of the Fifth Amendment, Part I
12:15 - 1:30Lunch on your own
1:30 - 3:00Eric Daniels – Unenumerated Rights, Part I
3:15 - 4:45Amy Peikoff – Is There a Right to Privacy? Part I
5:00 - 7:00Social Hour – Cash Bar
 
Sunday, March 5
9:00 - 10:00Dana Berliner – Reading Public Use Out of the Fifth Amendment, Part II
10:15 - 11:15Eric Daniels – Unenumerated Rights, Part II
11:30 - 12:30Amy Peikoff – Is There a Right to Privacy? Part II
12:30 - 1:30Buffet Sandwich Luncheon (included)
1:30 - 3:30James McCrory, Steve Plafker, Michael Conger – Panel Discussion

About the Speakers and Lectures

Tara Smith, PhD, will open the conference with a lecture on Why Originalism Won't Die: Common Mistakes in Competing Theories of Judicial Interpretation. In the debate over judicial interpretation of the Constitution, the theory of Originalism (advocated by Antonin Scalia, among others) has been subjected to seemingly fatal criticisms. Despite the exposure of flaws that would normally bury a theory, however, Originalism continues to attract tremendous support. What explains its resilient appeal? Why do many continue to regard it as the most reasonable basis for judicial interpretation? This lecture will answer these questions by identifying the fundamental weakness of the leading alternatives to Originalism and by demonstrating that the heart of Originalism's appeal–its promise of judicial objectivity –is illusory. All camps in this debate, we will see, suffer from serious misunderstandings of the nature of objectivity.

Dana Berliner, JD, of the Institute for Justice, will present two lectures on Reading "Public Use" out of the Fifth Amendment: A Look at the Use of Eminent Domain for Private Parties in the United States. Eminent Domain, the power of government to take private property, is limited by the U.S. Constitution to "public use" and requires "just compensation" when property is taken. Without a proper understanding of the importance of property to individual rights, fuzzy language and exceptions have eroded the limitations on this governmental power. Part I will trace the history of the law of eminent domain, its inclusion in the Constitution, its subsequent interpretation by courts and other branches of government, and the relationship of the public use issue to the debate about "judicial activism" in the courts.

Part II will focus on more recent developments in the issue of eminent domain, covering the development and litigation of the Kelo case at the U.S. Supreme Court, focusing on both the litigation strategy and the constitutional analysis in the majority, concurring and dissenting opinions. Ms. Berliner will also discuss the subsequent popular and political backlash, and show the difficulty of implementing philosophically consistent policy in legislation.

Eric Daniels, PhD, will discuss Unenumerated Rights: From Calder v. Bull to Lawrence v. Texas. The Founding Fathers intended to create a government to secure individual rights. They listed and laid out numerous rights in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but they also added the Ninth Amendment to guarantee "unenumerated rights." What are these rights? How can they be protected? Has this been a successful means of protecting individual rights?

These two lectures will explore the history of the framing of the Ninth Amendment and the implementation of unenumerated rights in major court decisions from the Founding to the present. They will explore how individual rights–both enumerated and unenumerated–have fared under the changing philosophies of interpretation and theories of jurisprudence that American courts have embraced.

Amy Peikoff, JD, PhD, will give two lectures entitled Is There a Right to Privacy?, in which she will explain why she opposes the current legal recognition of a right to privacy. In the first lecture, she will discuss the history of the right to privacy in the United States, including descriptions of the cases in which a right to privacy has been recognized, and summaries of the main arguments given in favor of such a right. In her second lecture, Dr. Peikoff will present what she thinks is the proper approach to the legal protection of privacy, an approach based on Ayn Rand's philosophy.

The conference will conclude on Sunday afternoon with a panel discussion by Jim McCrory, Steve Plafker and Michael Conger, officers of TAFOL, The Association For Objective Law, seeking to provide an integrated perspective on the issues discussed throughout the weekend sessions. These lectures, presented over one weekend, March 4 - 5, 2006, promise to be a unique experience, applying Objectivism to the philosophy of law.

About the Conference

If you...

  • Wonder how to analyze legal issues from an Objectivist perspective,
  • Are curious about how to properly interpret the U.S. Constitution,
  • Want to better understand the Supreme Court's decisions on abortion, education, voluntary sexual acts, and eminent domain,
  • Need CLE credit and would enjoy lectures devoid of the usual statist bias, or
  • Want to combine a weekend of intellectual stimulation, preceded or followed by a few days of skiing in beautiful Colorado

...this conference is for you.

The conference will be held at the Sheraton Denver West Hotel, 360 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, Colorado 80228. There is a special room rate of $79 per night, plus $10 for each additional person. Make hotel reservations by February 13 (at guaranteed rates) with Sheraton Denver West, 303-987-2000, reference code FRCO3A. An airport shuttle to the hotel costs approximately $28.00 per person.

For more information, contact Lin Zinser at lin@zinser.com.

The conference has been accredited with 13 CLE general credits.

Conference prices:

  • Student: $150
  • Regular: $300
  • Attorney CLE: $375
 


Front Range Objectivism is an independent organization not supported or sanctioned by any other organization.