Published: March 18, 2024 By

On March 12, the Byron R. White Center for American Constitutional Law and the American Constitution Society (ACS) at Colorado Law hosted a lunch talk on “Reclaiming the Constitutional Text from Originalism” with Georgetown Law Professor Victoria Nourse.  Professor Nourse is former Chief Counsel to then-Vice President Biden, U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner, and writer for CNN and Ms. Magazine. Professor Nourse shared her research on the Supreme Court’s continuing trend towards originalism, potential ways to respond to originalist approaches, and how the Justices have applied originalist principles in their decisions. Victoria Nourse

The event brought an enthusiastic audience of students, staff, faculty, and community members. Byron White Center Director Professor Suzette Malveaux opened the event, thanking Professor Nourse for her important critique of originalism’s use of textualism, especially in the context of understanding executive power. ACS’s incoming president M.R. Dickey then introduced Professor Nourse, who presented her research and statistics on the increased presence of originalist references and principles in the Supreme Court’s opinions since 2019.  

Touching on subjects such as abortion, gun rights, the right to privacy, and presidential immunity, Professor Nourse remarked, “No area is free from originalism.” Contextualizing the Court’s recent decision in Trump v. Anderson, Professor Nourse noted: “Originalism is not consistent, the Courts will hone in on one word and take it out of context. While originalism is lauded as a theory to reduce judicial bias, in practice, judges adding their own meaning increases the risk of bias.” 

Following her presentation, the White Center’s Student Senior Fellow Michaela Calhoun engaged Professor Nourse in a fireside chat, asking her about executive power, combating originalism in practice, and similar topics.  

Reflecting on the event, 3L Austin McCreary remarked, “This has been one of my favorite White Center events. I truly enjoyed the statistical data that illustrated the impact and use of originalism in SCOTUS decisions.” 

This sentiment was shared by numerous attendees, as Mary Slosson, 3L, shared, “This was my favorite White Center event this year; I wanted the talk to continue because I was learning so much!”  

This month, the White Center is excited to host constitutional law events with the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society—organizations of different political stripes. This initiative is a testament to the Center's commitment to fostering the expansion of knowledge and stimulating public discussion on matters of Constitutional law. As Professor Nourse stated to a student inquiring about what to do in the courts as originalism becomes more prevalent, “the doctrines are up for grabs.” 

The Byron White Center is eager to foster and nurture these discussions, encouraging a greater understanding of ideas surrounding originalist approaches.  

In fact, as 1L Victoria Matson stated, “Our Constitutional Law professor attended the talk, and later that afternoon we applied Professor Nourse’s principles of constructive responses to originalism. Particularly, we applied Professor Nourse’s discussion of contextualizing originalism to a case where the originalist evidence was inconclusive and required adjusting our approaches to the problem to a more contemporary meaning.” She continued, adding “it was great to see the concept applied in an engaging way!”  

Victoria Nourse


Prof. Malveaux, echoed, “This is the kind of impact and engagement the Center is proud to offer to our students and the larger community.”  

The White Center thanks Professor Nourse for her groundbreaking research and engaging presentation on originalism.  

View a recording of the event here.