Inalienable Rights and the Traditions of Constitutionalism


Location: Hesburgh Center & Jenkins and Nanovic Halls

This conference will explore and extend the work of the Commission on Unalienable Rights (COUR), an independent and nonpartisan body convened from 2019 through 2020 and composed of academics, philosophers, and practitioners. Its charge was to provide the US State Department with advice on human rights grounded in the nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On August 26, 2020, the Commission issued its final report, a document approved unanimously by all 11 COUR Commissioners that has since been translated into seven languages. We bring the work of the Commission into sharper focus and into dialogue with a broad range of interlocutors, including critics and including scholars and jurists from outside of the United States. The conference features an innovative and focused format that reflects this ambition, boasting five keynote addresses, a response from a member of the Commission, and a subsequent panel discussion. The objective for this arrangement is to foster substantive, balanced, engaged, and probative discussion of key ideas and issues generated by the Commission’s report.  We aim to generate an atmosphere of free inquiry, civil and collegial discourse, and lively intellectual exchange. 

Monday, November 15 

08:30 – Welcome and introduction 

THEME II (continued)

08:45 – Theme II Panel Discussion
Jane Adolphe (Ave Maria University School of Law), panelist
Nigel Biggar (Oxford University), panelist
Carlos Bernal (University of Dayton School of Law), panelist
Jeffrey Pojanowski (University of Notre Dame), moderator

10:00 – Break 

THEME III: The Commission report, international human rights, and constitutional traditions

10:15 – Theme III Keynote
Sherman A. Jackson
 (University of Southern California), keynote presenter
Chris Tollefsen (University of South Carolina, US Commission on Unalienable Rights), respondent

11:30  – Break

12:00 – Lunch 

13:30 – Theme III Panel Discussion
Timothy Shah
 (University of Dallas), panelist
Asifa Quraishi-Landes (University of Wisconsin Law School), panelist
Seth Kaplan (Johns Hopkins University), panelist
Emilia Justyna Powell (University of Notre Dame), moderator

14:45 – Break 

THEME IV: Human dignity, diversity, and tolerance in the United States

15:00 –  Theme IV Keynote
Martha Minow (Harvard University), keynote presenter
Jacqueline Rivers (Harvard University, US Commission on Unalienable Rights), respondent

16:15 – Break

16:30 – Theme IV Panel Discussion
Robert Destro
 (Catholic University of America), panelist
Ganna Yudkivska (European Court of Human Rights), panelist
Jim Cavallaro (University Human Rights Network), panelist
Daniel Philpott (University of Notre Dame), moderator

Further details about this event can be found here.