Introducing the Global Constitutionalism Seminar E-Book Series


Judith Resnik

Yale Law School

EDITORS’ NOTE: the IACL Blog is partnering with Yale Law School to promote their Global Constitutionalism Seminar E-Book Series. We will be publishing one post a month over the next few months describing each of the annually published e-books. This interview with the current Director of the seminar series, Professor Judith Resnik, provides the background to the series. Check out the publication schedule at end of this interview.

Tell us a little bit about the series

Each year since 1996, Yale Law School has welcomed a small group of judges to join in a private three-day seminar to discuss their work as jurists on constitutional and supreme courts in many parts of the world. The Global Constitutionalism Seminar provides an opportunity for exchanges about important questions of constitutional and international law.

As the volumes to be published in this blog reflect, we select specific areas of law on which to focus – from structural questions such as allocation of authority in constitutional orders, the impact of non-domestic law, and the remedial authority of judges, to topics such as the role of religion, the challenges of national security, immigration, the interaction between constitutions and family life, and commitments to equality. On occasion, we revisit an arena we have discussed before. This past fall, the focus was on litigation related to climate change and an array of problems falling under what we termed “judging under stress.”

Each year, an intensive effort is made to gather readings so that case law, commentary, and analyses from jurisdictions across the world can be shared in advance. After we identify topics, a small group of law professors and judges work together to edit a particular chapter. We ask for relevant materials from participants. We then cull the thousands of pages proposed so as to have manageable amounts of reading for each topic.

The “we” is deliberate. Without the work of judges and faculty, and the enormous contributions of thoughtful and committed Yale Law students and of administrative staff, the annual volumes would not exist. And in the last three years, one of those former students (and now a law professor), Clare Ryan, became a co-editor.

In the last several years, we have taken the volumes prepared for the fall seminar and turned them into E-books. We did so because we thought that, in addition to the small group of justices who come to the Seminar, the volumes would be useful to others. The electronic versions began in 2012 when I became the chair of the Seminar and the editor of the books. Jason Eiseman, Associate Law Librarian for Technology & Digital Initiatives at Yale Law School, deserves special mention for converting the materials into various downloadable formats. And, of course, thanks are due to the contributors who have licensed the sharing of their work for a broad audience.

What inspired this project?

The project was prompted by the need for serious and careful analyses of problems that supreme and constitutional courts face around the globe and by the view that a productive way to do so would be to have a small number of people who are sitting justices come yearly to participate in sustained discussions on specific topics. As I mentioned, I became the Chair in 2012. The Seminar began in 1996 when Anthony Kronman, who was then dean, and Paul Gewirtz launched the project in conjunction with many others, including Yale Law School professors Bruce Ackerman, Akhil Amar, Robert Burt, Drew Days, Owen Fiss, Paul Kahn, Harold Hongju Koh, John Langbein, and Jed Rubenfeld, and with constitutional court justices including Aharon Barak (Israel), Stephen Breyer (United States), Pedro Cruz Villalón (Spain), Lech Garlicki (Poland), Dieter Grimm (Germany), Frank Iacobucci (Canada), and László Sólyom (Hungary).

Since then, the subsequent deans – Harold Hongju Koh, Robert Post, and now Heather Gerken – have enabled the Seminar to flourish. In its founding years, the resources for Yale Law School’s Global Constitutionalism Seminar were provided by Betty and David A. Jones, Sr. ’60, and by Mary Gwen Wheeler and David A. Jones, Jr. ’88, who helped to build bridges across oceans and legal systems. Since 2011, this Seminar has been part of the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights at Yale Law School. Our debt to the vision of Peter and Patricia Gruber is profound, as they have supported a myriad of efforts to make a world that is both more fair and more just than is the world we now inhabit.

What challenges have you faced getting this project off the ground and keeping it going, now several decades on? And what have been the ‘lessons learnt’?

The work began in the 1990s when the project of constitutional democracy appeared to have a robust future. Today, in many countries around the world, the values of judicial independence and egalitarian treatment of individuals are under attack. The Seminar continues to see the potential for constitutional law to generate and to reflect commitments to fair treatment, and that constitutional discourse and practices are aspects of meeting the challenges of conflicts over rights and government structures. As for the materials, the task has been to select from an abundance of resources to shape a manageable set of readings that clarify conceptual and legal challenges for courts. Given the contemporary political upheavals around the globe, the annual meetings and the e-volumes – like the work of many readers of this blog – feel all the more important.

What do you hope to see as the series’ contribution to academic discourse and to constitutional or public law more broadly?

We hope this yearly book will be of interest and use, and we welcome readers to adapt it – to take chapters from any of the volumes to teach and engage for their own analyses and work. I have assigned chapters in law school courses and found them to be accessible and productive for students, even as the books are designed for justices on the constitutional and supreme courts of the world.

What audiences globally are you seeking to reach, and why?

We seek to reach as wide a readership as possible. Our work is driven in part by a recognition that the experiences of judicial systems other than the one in which a person works and lives can enrich understandings from within and beyond that particular place.

Are there any other projects of the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights at Yale that might interest readers of this series?

The Global Constitutionalism Seminar is one of several programs in international justice and human rights funded by the Gruber Program. The program also supports the Gruber Distinguished Lectures in Global Justice and Women’s Rights, which feature lecturers who have served causes of global justice and women’s rights and who speak on topics such as reproductive health, gender equality, and the rights of refugees. More information about the lectures and a list of speakers can be found here.  And this Seminar and the e-books are one of many programs at Yale Law School aiming to contribute to generative interactions within and across borders of countries and of academic disciplines.

Publication Schedule

Thursday 7 November 2019

Fragile Futures and Resiliency

Thursday 5 December 2019

Global Reconfigurations, Constitutional Obligations and Everyday Life

Thursday 6 February 2020

Reconstituting Constitutional Orders 

Thursday 5 March 2020

Acts of State, Acts of God

Thursday 2 April 2020

The Reach of Rights

Thursday 7 May 2020

Sources of Law and of Rights

Thursday 4 June 2020

Government's Authority

Thursday 2 July 2020

Law's Borders