“The Fourteenth Amendment at 150,” a CJE Symposium

Institute for Justice · February 9, 2018

This year, the Fourteenth Amendment turns 150. The Institute for Justice’s Center for Judicial Engagement (CJE) and the Antonin Scalia Law School’s Liberty & Law Center are pleased to announce a symposium to reflect on the 150th anniversary of the adoption of Fourteenth Amendment. The day-long symposium will be held Friday, September 21, 2018, at the George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia.

The Amendment’s sesquicentennial is an occasion for both celebration and reflection. It is a time to celebrate the Amendment’s radical recalibration of the American experiment, securing the basic liberties of all citizens from infringement by state and local governments. But it is also a time to reflect on the role the courts have played in limiting the full reach of the Fourteenth Amendment’s liberty-maximizing provisions by re-writing or completely ignoring them.

After the Civil War, the U.S. amended the Constitution to expressly ban the practice of slavery. But in spite of the Thirteenth Amendment, Southern states embarked on an aggressive agenda to limit the rights of free blacks-to recreate slavery in all but name. For example, some states capped wages of black Americans; banned them from selling their own products unless their white employers gave them permission; and barred them from practicing any occupation except “farmer” without a license from a judge—among many other proscriptions. The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified on July 28, 1868, was supposed to stop abuses like these by ensuring that the federal constitution would protect individual rights from abuse by the states.

Did the Fourteenth Amendment succeed? Are the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections limited in nature, or expansive? The symposium will feature legal scholars, historians, and litigators who will discuss these questions and other current and emerging issues arising out of the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Privileges or Immunities Clause, and the incorporation of the Bill of Rights through the Fourteenth Amendment. Please mark September 21 down on your calendars, and stay tuned for further details on the conference.

In the meantime, check out this short IJ video on the Fourteenth Amendment.