The Columns

Annual Tucker Lecture to Explore Magna Carta’s Impact on U.S Constitutional Law

— by on March 13th, 2015

Professor A.E. Dick Howard of the University of Virginia School of Law will deliver the 2015 Tucker Lecture at Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Prof. Howard is one of the world’s leading experts on England’s Magna Carta, which this year reaches its 800th anniversary. This milestone has generated fresh scholarly and popular attention on the agreement that came to be known as the Magna Carta, a story recently chronicled in The Economist feature “How did a failed treaty between medieval combatants come to be seen as the foundation of liberty in the Anglo-Saxon world?

The lecture will take place Thursday March 26 at 12:00 p.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall on the campus of Washington and Lee. The title of Prof. Howard’s talk is “Magna Carta: 800 Years after Runnymede.” This event is free and open to the public.

During his talk, Prof. Howard will continue the discussion of the impact of the Magna Carta on American constitutional law that he explored in his book “The Road from Runnymede: Magna Carta and Constitutionalism in America.” He will trace the charter’s path from the first colonial charters, through revolutionary Americans’ case against British policies, through the making of the early American state constitutions and the federal constitution, and down to its central place in the shaping of American ideas of constitutional supremacy, due process of law, and the rule of law. Magna Carta is, Prof. Howard argues, a cornerstone of how Americans shape our constitutional law.

Widely acknowledged as an expert in the fields of constitutional law, comparative constitutionalism, and the Supreme Court, Howard is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Prof. Howard is a graduate of the University of Richmond and received his law degree from the University of Virginia. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he read philosophy, politics, and economics. After graduating from law school, he was a law clerk to Justice Hugo L. Black of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Active in public affairs, Prof. Howard was executive director of the commission that wrote Virginia’s current constitution and directed the successful referendum campaign for its ratification. He has been counsel to the General Assembly of Virginia and a consultant to state and federal bodies, including the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. From 1982 to 1986 he served as counselor to the Governor of Virginia, and he chaired Virginia’s Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution.

Prof. Howard has been twice a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C. He has served as president of the Virginia Academy of Laureates and has received the University of Virginia’s Distinguished Professor Award for excellence in teaching. James Madison University, the University of Richmond, Campbell University, the College of William and Mary, and, in 2000, Wake Forest University have conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. In the fall of 2001, he was the first Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Residence at Rhodes House, Oxford.

Prof. Howard has briefed and argued cases before state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. He is a regular guest on television news programs; during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, Prof. Howard provided gavel-to-gavel coverage for the “McNeil-Lehrer News Program.” He also interviewed the justices for the film being shown to visitors to the Supreme Court’s building in Washington.

In 2013 the University of Virginia recognized Howard with its Thomas Jefferson Award — the highest honor given to faculty members at the University. The award commended Howard “for advancing, through his character, work, and personal example the ideals and objectives for which Jefferson founded the University.”

The Tucker Lecture at Washington and Lee School of Law was first established by the W&L Board of Trustees in 1949 to mark the bicentennial of the University and the centennial of the Law School. It was named after John Randolph Tucker, hired in 1870 as the second teacher in legal education and named the first dean of the Washington and Law University School of Law in 1893.

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