November 22, 2023

The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (Catholic Law) hosted a symposium entitled “Free Speech and Civility in American Law Schools” on Wednesday, November 15. Presented by Catholic Law’s Bench & Bar Programs and as part of its First Amendment Initiatives, the symposium consisted of panels that discussed the growing difficulties of engaging in civil discourse within the academy. Academic Freedom Alliance and Knight Foundation were both sponsors of the symposium.

Lukianoff and ZimmermanAfter welcomes made by Associate Dean of Bench and Bar Programs, Professor A.G. Harmon, and Catholic Law Dean, Stephen C. Payne, the symposium included four panels throughout the day, as well as a lunchtime lecture and closing remarks. The first panel, dedicated to discussing what exactly has allowed for the recent flourishing of so-called shoutdown culture, was led by Greg Lukianoff, CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), and Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman of the University of Pennsylvania.

Bartholet, Kennedy, and Whittington

The second panel, moderated by Deputy General Counsel Jennifer Bradley Lichter of The Catholic University of America, addressed the effects of the growing roadblocks to civil discourse and included remarks by Dr. Keith E. Whittington of Princeton University and professors Elizabeth Bartholet and Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School.

Deborah Enix-Ross

The lunchtime lecture, entitled “Civility and Law Schools and the Effect on the Legal Profession,” was delivered by Deborah Enix-Ross, Immediate Past President of the American Bar Association.

Strossen and Ginsburg

The third panel, moderated by Catholic Law professor Marshall J. Breger, concerned finding solutions to the erosion of free speech within law schools and included remarks from Nadine Strossen, professor emerita of New York Law School; Tom Ginsburg, professor of at the University of Chicago Law School; and Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Blatt, Duncan, and Clement

The fourth panel was moderated by Catholic Law professor Robert A. Destro and focused on solutions to threats to free speech within the legal profession. Panelists included Lisa Blatt, chair of Williams & Connolly’s Supreme Court and Appellate practice; Paul D. Clement, former Solicitor General of the United States; and Judge Kyle Duncan of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Mark Alexander

Closing remarks were made by Mark Alexander, dean of Villanova Law School. The conference concluded with a reception in the Louise H. Keelty and James Keelty, Jr. Atrium.

To view the symposium on Cathollic Law's YouTube channel, click here.