April 19, 2021

On Friday, April 16, as part of the Catholic Law Faculty Research Series, the Law School’s newest faculty member, J. Joel Alicea, presented his article, Liberalism and Disagreement in American Constitutional Theory (107 Va. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2021)).

To start the discussion, Alicea used the most recent Supreme Court confirmation as a means of understanding what Alicea refers to as the standard approach to constitutional theory—one which posits constitutional theory as a debate between originalism and non-originalism. In his work, Alicea suggests that this standard approach hides certain aspects of the theoretical debate, inhibits one’s ability to really think through some of them, and causes us to focus on methodologies rather than a justification for a theorist's methodology. Through his article, Alicea identifies problems with the standard approach, looks at Liberalism (which Alicea defines as a theoretical position that encompasses rationalism and individualism), and addresses counter-arguments and objections to this new theoretical approach.

In addition to hearing from Alicea, the group had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Professor Richard Fallon as the Law School’s first “Virtual Visiting Scholar.” Fallon is the Story Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, as well as an Affiliate Professor in Harvard University’s Government Department. Fallon is an expert on constitutional law and theory, as well as on the federal courts and the Supreme Court in particular. He was recently appointed by President Biden as a commissioner to join with other scholars in considering the topic of Supreme Court reform. As a Virtual Visiting Scholar, Fallon consulted with Professor Alicea on his research agenda and participated in Alicea’s presentation by offering commentary and questions. Fallon expressed his excitement about being involved in research that takes such a novel approach to constitutional theory. Professor Alicea’s presentation marks the end of a year-long series of faculty scholarship presentations which have been organized and moderated by Professor Cara H. Drinan, Director of Faculty Research.