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The U.S. Supreme Court’s perceived shift toward a conservative ideology was among the topics debated by two renowned professors at a recent event presented by the Jewish United Fund / Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. The debate was held at Jenner & Block’s Chicago office.
Conservatism at the Court has typically been characterized by the term “originalism,” or the philosophy that says the Court’s decisions ought to be based on what the framers of the Constitution intended at the time, said Professor Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago Law School.
However, Professor Stone asserted that originalism is not what makes today’s Court conservative. He argued that modern conservatism is about the Justices’ “personal values” rather than their political methodology. “In that sense, the Court is becoming more conservative because the Justices are using more conservative personal values when deciding cases,” he said.
Professor Stephen Presser of Northwestern Law School agreed that the court is moving in a conservative direction, but said it’s because the Court still applies the concepts of originalism, especially when ruling in the areas of race, religion and other high-stakes social issues.
The debate was hosted by Partner Debbie L. Berman, who, among other things, is currently a member of the JUF/Jewish Federation’s board of directors, and is the 2005-06 Chair of the JUF/Jewish Federation Leadership Development Committee and Campaign Chair of the JUF Lawyers Division.