2017 Northwestern University Law Review Symposium

Friday, October 20, 2017

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Chicago, IL 

“A Fear of Too Much Justice”?

Equal Protection and the Social Sciences 30 Years After McCleskey v. Kemp

Call for Papers

Is statistical evidence of a racial disparity enough to demonstrate an Equal Protection violation? Thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court took on this question in McCleskey v. Kemp. Warren McCleskey, a Black Man, was convicted of murdering a White police officer and sentenced to death. On appeal, McCleskey offered statistical evidence showing that Georgia applied the death penalty in a racially biased manner that violated the Equal Protection Clause. Taking into account over 200 variables that might explain this disparity on grounds other than race, the statistical findings nonetheless showed that defendants charged with killing Whites were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those charged with killing Blacks and that Black defendants who killed Whites were most likely to receive death sentences. 

Yet, the Supreme Court was not persuaded. In extending previous decisions in this area, the Court closed the door on the social sciences being able to meaningfully contribute to Equal Protection deliberations. Discriminatory intent and individual malice are what the Court looks for. Social science evidence of systemic or structural injustice is thought to be irrelevant. 

Thirty years after McCleskey, social scientists continue to demonstrate racial disparities in criminal justice and many other areas of social life with remarkable acuity. Yet, despite new tools, methods, and insights, there is little jurisprudential space for this data to inform the Court’s decisionmaking.  

As part of an ongoing effort to think through the relationship between Critical Race Theory and empirical methods (eCRT), this symposium will re-examine the relationship between race, social science evidence, and the Equal Protection Clause. How has the Court’s dismissal of social science evidence as an indicator of racial discrimination warped the purpose and application of Equal Protection? Are there opportunities for a jurisprudential shift that emphasizes the importance of the social sciences for exposing practices inconsistent with the Fourteenth Amendment? And if so, what types of innovative social science methods might change how the Court thinks about discriminatory intent? We strive to understand how cutting edge interdisciplinary work might lead to novel responses and interventions to doctrinal impasses, such as those exhibited in McCleskey

We invite scholars from all fields to submit 500 word proposals for papers to be presented at the Symposium. Submissions can explore any topic (not only criminal justice/death penalty sentencing) relevant to understanding the relationship between Equal Protection and the social sciences and may do so from diverse approaches (historical, philosophical, qualitative, quantitative, etc.) Presenters will receive support for travel and accommodations, and will also have the opportunity to publish in the special symposium issue of the Northwestern University Law Review.  Papers accepted for publication will be due on Friday, November 17, 2017, with an expected length of 10,000 – 15,000 words.

For full consideration, please send your paper proposal to nulr@nlaw.northwestern.edu by Monday, August 7 at 5:00 PM Central Time. If you have any questions, please contact Adithi Grama, Symposium Editor, at a-grama2018@nlaw.northwestern.edu, or Ari Tolman, Editor-in-Chief, at atolman@northwestern.edu


Veena Dubal, Associate Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings 

Elizabeth Mertz, John and Rylla Bosshard Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin School of Law and Research Professor, American Bar Foundation

Laura Beth Nielsen, Professor and Director of Legal Studies, Northwestern University, Department of Sociology and Research Professor, American Bar Foundation

Osagie K. Obasogie, Haas Distinguish Chair, Professor of Bioethics, University of California, Berkeley

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law. 

Destiny Peery, Assistant Professor of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law


The Northwestern University Law Review is no longer accepting proposals for our 2017-2018 Symposium

The Law Review is no longer accepting symposium proposals for the 2017–2018 academic year. Submissions for future symposia will be accepted via email at NULRSymposium@gmail.com. If you have any questions, please feel free to email our Syposium Editor, Adithi Grama

When formulating symposium proposals, please keep in mind:

  1. The Law Review anticipates an in-person event occurring in September–October 2018 if the proposal calls for an in-person symposium. The first drafts would be due in August or September, with revised drafts due in late October, for inclusion in Northwestern University Law Review 113:6, which will be published in spring 2019. 
  2. The Law Review does not have a designated symposium grant or budget through Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and cannot guarantee any funding for travel/accommodations/meals for an in-person event, as the Law Review’s funding for symposia is extremely limited. The Law Review will work with organizers to obtain grant funding and other sources of sponsorship;
  3. Publication is not guaranteed to any speaker and the Northwestern University Law Review has full discretion in selecting pieces for publication in our print and online editions. Pieces should be around 10,000 words in length. The Law Review will offer publishing contracts to certain contributors based on the recommendations of the Law Review board and symposium organizers;
  4. This call for proposals is an open call made to the legal academic community. Nevertheless, in the same way that Northwestern Pritzker Law faculty receive article review prioritization, proposals led by or including members of the Northwestern Law faculty will also be prioritized in our review process. We encourage all proposals to include Northwestern faculty among their participants.

To allow our board to assess your proposal, please describe your idea and its contribution to legal scholarship as fully as possible, including its originality, timeliness, and how it fosters diversity of legal scholarship. Please also submit an addendum that includes the following elements:

  1. A list of potential symposium speakers (ideally between 5 and 7) that you believe would add to the academic quality of the event and who may welcome an invitation to publish and/or speak;
  2. An anticipated source of funding, with a rough budget if possible;
  3. The name and contact information of the proposed Symposium Director, who will serve as the point person for coordination and decisions with the Law Review executive board;
  4. A tentative timeline for publication drafts and a date for a physical symposium. Although the Law Review would prefer an in-person event held at the law school, a proposal need not have a physical event to be considered.

Past Symposia

2016: "Democratizing Criminal Law"

On November 18 & 19, 2016, Professor Joshua Kleinfeld of Northwestern Law School and Professor Richard Bierschbach of Cardozo Law School, with the Northwestern University Law Review, held a symposium centered around defining and defending a shared vision of democratic criminal justice. This symposium aimed to identify and critically examine the core ideas of the democratization movement, to project the democratization movement's ideas into the national conversation, and to act publicly and collectively on matters of democratic criminal justice reform. 



Opening Remarks - Manifesto of the Democratization Movement

  • Professor Joshua Kleinfeld

Panel - Constitutional Foundations and Community Voice

  • Professor Laura Appleman
  • Professor Richard Bierschbach
  • Professor Josh Bowers
  • Moderator: Professor Bob Burns

Panel - Empirical Foundations: Shared Norms, Lay Intuitions, Legitimacy, and Compliance

  • Professor Janice Nadler
  • ProfessorPaul Robinson
  • Professor Tom Tyler
  • Moderator: Professor Kenworthey Bilz

Lunch - Why Prosecutors Rule the Criminal Justice System—and What Can Be Done About It

  • Judge Jed Rakoff, U.S. District Court, SDNY

Panel - Community and Racial Justice

  • Professor Paul Butler
  • Professor Dorothy Roberts
  • Professor Jonathan Simon
  • Moderator: Professor Jocelyn Simonson

Panel - De-Bureaucratization: Police and Prosecutors

  • Professor Stephanos Bibas
  • Professor Tracey Meares
  • Professor Charles Ramsey
  • Moderator: Professor Tom Geraghty


Panel - Philosophical Foundations: Criminal Law's Democratic Nature

  • Professor John Braithwaite
  • Professor Joshua Kleinfeld
  • Professor Alice Ristroph
  • Moderator: Professor Ekow Yankah

Roundtable - Policy Proposals

  • Moderator: Professor Richard Bierschbach

Roundtable - Toward a White Paper

  • Moderator: Professor Joshua Kleinfeld

Closing Remarks

  • Professor Richard Bierschbach 


2015: "Free Speech Foundations"

On October 25, 2015 the Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium centered around the origins and methodology underlying free speech jurisprudence. This symposium addressed implication, completeness, accuracy, normativity, and relevance of the major approaches to free speech interpretation. 


Free Speech Values

  • Professor Alexander Tsesis
  • Professor Jack Balkin

The Anti-Chilling Function of the First Amendment

  • Professor Ashutosh Bhagwat
  • Professor James Lindgren

Technology & Speech

  • Professor Helen Norton
  • Professor Toni Massaro

Free Speech & Competing Interests

  • Professor Andrew Koppelman
  • Professor Mary-Rose Papandrea


2014: "Institutional Design and General Welfare"

On March 22 & 23, 2014 the Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium focusing on the relationship between institutional design and the general welfare. This symposium addressed questions surrounding the scope of institutional design, and whether it can be used to further welfare goals like economic growth.


The Role of Constitutional Text in Creating Self-stabilizing Constitutions: A Tour of the Takings Clause

  • Professor Barry Weingast
  • Professor Tonja Jacobi

The Relationship between De Jure and De Facto Property Rights 

  • Professor Mila Versteeg

Optimal Abuse of Power

  • Professor Adrian Vermeule

Norms and the Enforcement of Laws

  • Professor Daron Acemoglu

In Defense of Faction

  • Professor Jide Nzelibe

Does Institutional Design Make a Difference?

  • Professor Stephen G. Calabresi 


2013: "100 Years Under the Income Tax"

On April 5, 2013, the Tax Program at Northwestern and Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the income tax.


Expectations: The motivation and rhetoric behind the federal income tax

  • Professor Robin Einhorn
  • Professor Erik Jensen
  • Professor Marjorie E. Kornhauser
  • Moderator: Dr. Joe Thorndike

Realities: How has the structure of the income tax evolved?

  • Professor Anuj C. Desai
  • Professor Henry Ordower
  • Professor Tracey M. Roberts
  • Moderator: Professor Robert Peroni

Complications in implementation and some unintended consequences

  • Professor Stephanie McMahon
  • Professor Brian Galle
  • Moderator: Professor David Cameron

The Past and the Future: A focus on corporate taxation

  • Professor Adam Rosenzweig
  • Professor Stephanie Hoffer
  • Professor Dale Oesterle
  • Moderator: Jeffrey Sheffield, Lecturer, NULS Tax Program and Kirkland & Ellis


2012: "Festschrift in Honor of Professor Martin H. Redish"

On March 30, 2012, Northwestern University and the Northwestern University Law Review held a symposium celebrating the career of Professor Martin H. Redish.


The conference featured three academic panels: Federal Jurisdiction, Civil Procedure, and Constitutional Law.

The participants included:

Civil Procedure Panel:

  • Professor Richard D. Freer
  • Professor Richard Marcus
  • Professor Linda S. Mullenix
  • Professor Jay Tidmarsh
  • Moderator: Professor James Pfander

Constitutional Law Panel:

  • Professor Lawrence C. Alexander
  • Professor Corey Brettschneider
  • Professor Andrew M. Koppelman
  • Professor Eugene Volokh
  • Moderator: Professor Stephen B. Presser

Federal Jurisdiction Panel:

  • Professor Erwin Chemerinsky
  • Professor Richard H. Fallon
  • The Honorable Alex Kozinski
  • Professor William P. Marshall
  • Moderator: Steven Calabresi

Tribute Panel:

  • Mr. Matthew Arnould
  • Professor Andrew I. Gavil
  • Professor Andrea M. Matwyshyn
  • Ms. Abby M. Mollen
  • Professor Howard M. Wasserman
  • Professor Christopher S. Yoo


2011: "The Legacy of Justice Stevens"

Forthcoming Pieces Include:

  • Diane Marie Amann's symposium article, Justice Stevens, Originalist
  • Bill Barnhart's symposium article, Justice Stevens and the News Media: An Exercise in Exposition
  • Alan E. Brownstein's symposium article, Continuing the Constitutional Dialogue: A Discussion of Justice Stevens' Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Jurisprudence
  • Steven G. Calabresi's symposium article, The Rise and Fall of the Separation of Powers
  • Erwin Chemerinsky's symposium article, A Fixture on a Changing Court: Justice Stevens and the Establishment Clause
  • Co-authors Lee Epstein, William M. Landes, and Judge Richard A. Posner's symposium article, Unanimous Decisions in the Supreme Court
  • Aziz Huq's symposium article, The Institution Matching Canon
  • Dawn Johnsen's symposium article on Justice Stevens' on the terrorism cases
  • Andrew M. Koppelman's symposium article, Justice Stevens, Religious Enthusiast
  • Simon Lazarus's symposium article, Stripping the Gears of National Government: Justice Stevens' Stand Against Judicial Subversion of Progressive Laws and Lawmaking
  • Stefanie A. Lindquist's symposium article, Supreme Court Prequel: Justice Stevens on the Seventh Circuit
  • Thomas W. Merrill's symposium article, Justice Stevens and the Chevron Puzzle

To view videos from the symposium or for more information please see "The Legacy of Justice Stevens."

2010: "Political Science and the Law" 2009: "Maturing Internet Studies" 2008: "Original Ideas on Originalism" 2007: "Ordering State-Federal Relations Through Federal Preemption Doctrine" 2006: "Censorship and Institutional Review Boards" 2005: "The First Century: Celebrating 100 Years of Legal Scholarship"