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Natural Law and Constitutional Law: The Rosenkranz Debate at the Federalist Society - Hadley Arkes and Alex Kozinski

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The annual Lawyers' Meeting of the Federalist Society in Washington features a debate at lunch on Saturday (this year, November 17th). The event this year featured a debate/conversation on natural law with Hadley Arkes and Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth federal circuit. It was a spirited and engaging exchange between friends, and it ended up drawing a larger audience than the audience drawn the year before to hear Laurence Tribe debating Paul Clement over Obamacare. But we were taken with the remarkably warm reception as Arkes made the case anew for natural law in an audience not exactly primed to be sympathetic to it. We were pleased then by the reports of people who were hearing that case for the first time and coming away with an interest in hearing more.

In attendance at the meeting were several young lawyers who had been John Marshall Fellows this past summer, in seminars with Professors Arkes, Uhlmann and Eastman under the Claremont Institute. One of the Fellows set down for the other Marshall Fellows this account of the event:

I tend to stare at the audience during these talks and I was really struck by what I saw. Of all the discussions, I never saw an audience more engaged and sitting up at attention. They laughed for the first 4 minutes and then at about that time Hadley finished summarizing his main thesis of natural law - and their eyes...lit up. A large portion of the audience had an "aha" moment, as if Hadley was articulating a notion that they already felt but could not rationalize and he was able to conceptualize it into a usable framework. The rest of the "debate" was not really a debate at all, but practical testing of the theory to explore how to use their new intellectual tool.

Prof. Randy Barnett at the law school at Georgetown posted a report on another website and recommended the video recording. He was kind enough to add a "Warning: Start watching this and you won't be able to stop." We set down for our readers the link to the debate HERE.