Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dissent and the Supreme Court: An ICH Seminar

[We hear that there are still some seats available for this seminar, so we are moving this up.  If you are interested, please sign up right away.]

The Institute for Constitutional History is pleased to announce another seminar for advanced graduate students and junior faculty, "Dissent and the Supreme Court."
A dissent on the nation's highest court may be no more than an angry reaction to the majority or frustration that the rest of the court does not share the dissenter's views.  But in some cases the dissent is more than disagreement; it is part of a constitutional dialogue that may affect the immediate case or take years before the dissenting argument is accepted by the Court. It took over twenty years before Hugo L. Black's dissent in Betts v. Brady (1942) became accepted in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), but in every Sixth Amendment case that came up, the justices had to speak to the argument Black had made.  In this seminar, we will look at the conversations that dissenters have with other members of the Court, the other branches of government, and the public, and examine in depth some of the iconic dissents.
The instructor is Melvin I. Urofsky, professor emeritus of history at Virginia Commonwealth University.  He is the longtime editor of the Journal of Supreme Court History and has written widely on American constitutional development.  His most recent books are the prize-winning Louis D. Brandeis: A Life (2009) and Dissent and the Supreme Court (2015).

The seminar meets Monday nights, 6:00-8:00 p.m., September 12, 26, October 10, 24, November 7, and 21, 2016, at The George Washington University Law School, 2000 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20052.  It is designed for graduate students and junior faculty in history, political science, law, and related disciplines.  All participants will be expected to complete the assigned readings and participate in seminar discussions.  There is no tuition or other charge for this seminar, though participants will be expected to acquire the assigned books on their own.

Although the Institute cannot offer academic credit directly for the seminar, students may be able to earn graduate credit through their home departments by completing an independent research project in conjunction with the seminar.  Please consult with your advisor and/or director of graduate studies about these possibilities.  Space is limited, so applicants should send a copy of their c.v. and a short statement on how this seminar will be useful to them in their research, teaching, or professional development.  Materials will be accepted only by email at until June 15, 2016.  Successful applicants will be notified soon thereafter.  For further information, please contact Maeva Marcus at (202) 994-6562 or send an email to

The Institute for Constitutional History (ICH) is the nation's premier institute dedicated to ensuring that future generations of Americans understand the substance and historical development of the U.S. Constitution. Located at the New York Historical Society and the George Washington University Law School, the Institute is co-sponsored by the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Political Science Association. The Association of American Law Schools is a cooperating entity. ICH prepares junior scholars and college instructors to convey to their readers and students the important role the Constitution has played in shaping American society. ICH also provides a national forum for the preparation and dissemination of humanistic, interdisciplinary scholarship on American constitutional history.