The Faculty Podcast

Listen to lectures by—and discussions with—the University of Chicago Law School's eminent faculty, as well as some very special guests.

January 29, 2015

Martha Minow, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, Harvard Law School,with comments by Martha Nussbaum, Aziz Huq, and Michael Schill.

What role if any should forgiveness play in law and legal systems? By forgiveness, I mean: a conscious, deliberate decision to forgo rightful grounds for whoever has committed a wrong or harm. Law may penalize those who apologize and in so doing make forgiveness by the victim less likely. Law may construct adversarial processes that render forgiveness less likely than it would otherwise be. Or law can give people chances to meet together, in spaces where they may apologize and forgive.

This lecture was presented on January 8, 2015, at the University of Chicago Law School as part of the Brennan Center Jorde Symposium.

January 8, 2015

Although people sometimes violate the law, there is more legal compliance than we can explain by ordinary economic theory – that legal sanctions deter noncompliance. In some domains of international law and constitutional law, there is no credible threat of legal sanctions, yet there is compliance. In some historic examples, “courts” lacking any sanctioning power resolved disputes arising in medieval Iceland, among 18th century pirates, and among 19th century gold-rushers. Professor McAdams explains these and other historic and contemporary examples of compliance by focusing attention on law’s expressive power. First, legal expression provides a salient means of coordinating behavior. Second, law reveals information about risks and attitudes. These two expressive powers are distinct from law’s coercive power.

Richard H. McAdams is Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law and Aaron Director Research Scholar at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded on January 6, 2015, as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series.

December 4, 2014

How Should We Interpret our Constitutions? 

A Debate between Professors Baude and Harel

Moderated by Professor McAdams

William Baude is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, where he teaches federal courts and constitutional law. His current research projects include papers on originalism, historical practice in constitutional law, federalism, the Supreme Court, and conflicts of law. His recent publications include "Rethinking the Federal Eminent Domain Power," and "Beyond DOMA: State Choice of Law in Federal Statutes." He also contributes to two legal blogs, the Volokh Conspiracy and SCOTUSBlog.

Alon Harel is Mizock Professor of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of Why Law Matters (2014) where he argues that (some) legal institutions and legal procedures are valuable and matter as such, irrespective of their instrumental value. His areas of expertise include legal and political theory, criminal law theory, constitutional law theory, human rights, and law and economics.

Richard H. McAdams is the Bernard D. Meltzer Professor of Law and Aaron Director Research Scholar. He writes on criminal law and procedure, social norms, the expressive function of law, inequality, and law and literature. He is co-editor of the 2013 volume on Fairness in Law and Economics and the author of the forthcoming book, The Expressive Powers of Law. He has served as a member of the National Science Foundation Advisory Panel for Law & Social Sciences, the editorial board of the Annual Review of Law and Social Science, and the Board of Directors of the American Law and Economics Association.

This event was sponsored by the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society and was recorded on November 25, 2014.

November 19, 2014

While scholars in most fields argue about how laws can be changed to maximize their effectiveness, scholars of international law still regularly debate whether many of the most prominent international agreements have any effect on state behavior. Part of the reason that this foundational question is still being debated is that answering it with observational data has proven to be all but impossible. This talk will explain why research on international law has made so little progress determining whether two core areas of international law—human rights law and the laws of war—help to improve people’s lives, and then will explore how researchers are starting to use experimental methods to gain traction on the topic.

Adam Chilton is Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded on November 4, 2014, as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series.

November 13, 2014

Richard A. Posner, Senior Lecturer in Law and a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, devoted a lunchtime keynote to discussing how judges might receive and view empirical research.

Richard A. Posner is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School. Following his graduation from Harvard Law School, Judge Posner clerked for Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. From 1963 to 1965, he was assistant to Commissioner Philip Elman of the Federal Trade Commission. For the next two years, he was assistant to the solicitor general of the United States. Prior to going to Stanford Law School in 1968 as Associate Professor, Judge Posner served as general counsel of the President's Task Force on Communications Policy. He first came to the University of Chicago Law School in 1969, and was Lee and Brena Freeman Professor of Law prior to his appointment in 1981 as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He was the chief judge of the court from 1993 to 2000.

This talk was recorded on October 23, 2014.

November 7, 2014

Two of the best ideas of the last half-century describe strategies for using legal remedies to solve social problems. One is the concentration of liability on a well-situated problem solver, or “least cost-avoider,” who can always contract out the work to be done (thus reflecting Chicago’s Very Best and Biggest Idea, the Coase Theorem). But another is the opposite of the first, for it involves the distribution, or spreading, of legal responsibility across many potential problem solvers, who might cooperate or work alone. Comparative negligence and Superfund liability for environmental harms reflect this strategy.  

This Chicago’s Best Ideas talk explores this tug-of-war, or evolutionary pattern, involving the two opposing strategies. How does law know which to use? Most important, what is the likely evolution of law as citizens call on Big Government to solve their big problems, like climate change or access to health care, and how does technological change alter the likely balance between these two strategies?

Saul Levmore is the William B. Graham Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded on October 21, 2014, as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series.

October 13, 2014

Supreme ​Court ​Preview: ​ Constitutional ​Interpretation ​at ​the ​Roberts ​Court 

Hear Professors ​Justin ​Driver, ​Jennifer ​Nou, ​and ​David ​Strauss​ discuss ​what ​divides ​the ​current ​Court ​and ​what ​unites ​it. ​Their ​lecture ​will ​be ​followed ​by ​a ​lively ​Q&A ​session ​with ​alumni ​and ​guests ​in ​attendance.

This First Monday alumni event was recorded on October 1, 2014 in Washington, DC.

June 5, 2014

Professor Brown-Nagin's talk examines the legacy of The Honorable Constance Baker Motley—and break new ground in the study of civil rights, women's rights, and the legal profession. A protégée of Thurgood Marshall, Motley litigated in southern courtrooms during the 1940s and 1950s, when women lawyers scarcely appeared before the bar.  She captivated onlookers who had rarely seen a woman or a black lawyer, much less the extraordinary combination—a black woman lawyer. 

In 1966 Motley then became the first African-American woman appointed to the federal judiciary.  After a long confirmation battle, she ascended to the United States District Court in New York.  In her new post, Motley sometimes ruled as segregationists had feared and as liberals had hoped. Typically, Motley deferred to constraints of the judicial role. Therefore, Professor Brown-Nagin  concludes, Motley's judicial career demonstrates that—more often than not and regardless of who presides—courts preserve hierarchy.  

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, Professor of History at Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and Co-Director, Program in Law and History at Harvard University.

This talk, the 2014 Fulton Lecture in Legal History, was recorded on May 8, 2014.

June 3, 2014

In a naïve model of judging, Congress writes statutes, which courts know about and then slavishly apply. But a Chicago lawyer might doubt this model, believing judges are maximizing something other than compliance with the law. In this CBI, Professor Henderson examines judicial compliance with a mandatory Congressional command, and uses it to offer a richer and more nuanced model of judicial behavior.

M. Todd Henderson is Professor of Law and Aaron Director Teaching Scholar at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded on April 15, 2014, as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series.

May 29, 2014

Professor Todd Henderson leads an engaging discussion with Yammer Founder and CEO, David Sacks. 

David has been involved in the Internet space more than 10 years as an entrepreneur, executive and investor, starting with PayPal in 1999. He was PayPal's chief operating officer and product leader, taking the company from startup to IPO and eventual sale to eBay for $1.5 billion. Subsequently, he founded Geni.com, a genealogy website that enables millions of family members to collaboratively build an online family tree. Geni was acquired by MyHeritage in 2012. He also produced and financed the movie "Thank You For Smoking." Also in 2012, David sold Yammer to Microsoft for $1.2 billion.
David holds a B.A. in Economics from Stanford University and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.

This talk was recorded on May 2, 2014.