On May 25, 1920, Robert T. Meyer was reading to his elementary students when the county attorney entered his classroom. A teacher at a private school in Hampton, Nebraska, run by the local Zion Lutheran Church, Meyer was giving a German-language lesson. He knew a state law, enacted during the xenophobic hysteria at the end of the Great War, banned foreign language instruction. Even so, he continued speaking German. He was later indicted, found guilty, and fined. Meyer appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court. And on June 4, 1923, it ruled in his favor, issuing one of the most sweeping defenses of individual freedom in history.

Please join the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice on March 31, 2023, when we celebrate the centenary of this monumental moment for liberty and the foundation for so much in the years that followed. We will begin with our keynote speaker and the foremost historian of the decision, Professor William G. Ross of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. He will detail the case’s background and drama, including the characters involved, what led the Court to rule as it did, and its immediate aftermath. Then we will welcome four different panels of experts to discuss the various ways the decision has shaped numerous areas of constitutional law, including the right to earn a living, the right to raise a family, the First Amendment’s protections of speech and religion, and the incorporation of the Bill of Rights against the states. Our last panel will then consider the continuing influence of Meyer on unenumerated rights as we look to the future.

Please join us! Our conference will be in person in Washington, D.C. at a convenient location just a couple blocks from the Supreme Court. If you’re not in the D.C. area or unable to join us, it will also be streamed online. It will be free of charge, with a free lunch and a reception.

Register with the form below!

Registration: Meyer v. Nebraska

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Special Guests

Scott Bullock
President, Institute for Justice
William G. Ross
Albert P. Brewer Professor of Law and Ethics, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law
David E. Bernstein
University Professor & Executive Director of the Liberty & Law Center, George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School
Renée Flaherty
Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice
Michael Bindas
Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice
Susan Lawrence
Associate Professor & Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
David M. Wagner
Founder and President, Free Families Foundation
Julie Silverbrook
Senior Director of Partnerships & Constitutional Scholar in Residence, iCivics
Angela Carmella
Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law
Dale Carpenter
Judge William Hawley Atwell Chair of Constitutional Law, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law
James Y. Stern
Professor of Law, William & Mary Law School
Dana Berliner
Senior Vice President & Litigation Director, Institute for Justice
Julia D. Mahoney
John S. Battle Professor of Law & Joseph C. Carter, Jr. Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law
Anthony Sanders
Director of the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice
Elizabeth B. Wydra
President, Constitutional Accountability Center
Alexa Gervasi
Executive Director, Georgetown Center for the Constitution
Kermit Roosevelt
David Berger Professor for the Administration of Justice, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Conference Agenda

9:00 a.m.

Welcome and Introduction

Scott Bullock, President of the Institute for Justice

9:15 a.m.

Keynote Address

William G. Ross, Albert P. Brewer Professor of Law and Ethics, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law

10:00 a.m.

“. . . the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life . . .”: Meyer and the Right to Earn a Living

• David E. Bernstein, University Professor & Executive Director of the Liberty & Law Center, George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School
• Kermit Roosevelt, David Berger Professor for the Administration of Justice, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
• Moderator: Renée Flaherty, Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice

11:00 a.m.

Break

11:15 a.m.

“. . . to marry, establish a home and bring up children . . .”: Meyer and the Family

• Michael Bindas, Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice
• Susan Lawrence, Associate Professor & Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
• David M. Wagner, Founder and President, Free Families Foundation
• Moderator: Julie Silverbrook, Senior Director of Partnerships & Constitutional Scholar in Residence, iCivics

12:30 p.m.

Lunch

1:30 p.m.

“. . . to acquire useful knowledge . . . to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience . . .”: Meyer, the First Amendment, and Incorporation

• Angela Carmella, Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law
• Dale Carpenter, Judge William Hawley Atwell Chair of Constitutional Law, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law
• James Y. Stern, Professor of Law, William & Mary Law School
• Moderator: Dana Berliner, Senior Vice President & Litigation Director, Institute for Justice

2:45 p.m.

Break

3:00 p.m.

“. . . and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men . . .”: The Future of Unenumerated Rights

• Julia D. Mahoney, John S. Battle Professor of Law & Joseph C. Carter, Jr. Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law
• Anthony Sanders, Director of the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice
• Elizabeth B. Wydra, President, Constitutional Accountability Center
• Moderator: Alexa Gervasi, Executive Director, Georgetown Center for the Constitution

4:15 p.m.

Reception

Please join us for a cocktail reception celebrating the end of the conference!