The conservative legal movement has shown remarkable success at defining the terms of the debate over jurisprudence, while the various visions of liberal theories of law that confront conservative orthodoxy have struggled to gain currency in the political sphere. Conservative legal theorists have coalesced around a relatively compact and politically effective set of ideas while their liberal critics have offered a diverse series of responses. In the face of conservative victories, can liberals forge a coherent response? Or will differences among liberals get in the way? What events might shake up the current state of the debate?
On December 1, the Brookings Institution hosted a conference on the asymmetry between liberal and conservative visions of jurisprudence. Participants discussed how modern conservative orthodoxy arose, the competing visions of liberal jurisprudence, and the prospects for political backlash against conservative orthodoxy and for a resurgence of liberal jurisprudence.
Following each panel, the participants took questions from the audience.
Lloyd M. Bensten Chair in Law and Professor of History
Former Brookings Expert
Professor - The George Washington University School of Law
President and CEO - National Constitution Center
Contributing Editor - The Atlantic
William L. Matheson & Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law
Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law
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President-elect Bolsonaro has embraced tough-on-crime measures that egregiously violate basic human rights and eviscerate the rule of law. Responding to Brazil’s 63,880 homicides in 2017, Bolsonaro calls for increasing protection for police officers who kill alleged criminals and arming citizens. He calls for further militarizing urban policing, reducing the age of criminal liability from 18 to 16, reinstating the death penalty, authorizing torture in interrogations and imprisoning more people... Brazil’s police are already notorious for being one of the world’s deadliest in the use of force. In many favelas, Brazil’s retired and current police officers operate illegal militias that extort and control local communities, murdering those who oppose them and engaging in warfare with Brazil’s highly-violent gangs and in social cleansing. Bolsonaro is simply threatening to turn the rest of the police into state-sanctioned thugs.