Legal History Roundtable

In the fall of 2019, the Boston College Law School Legal History Roundtable begins its 18th successful year. The Roundtable draws on Boston College Law School’s and Boston College’s strength and interest in legal history. It offers an opportunity for Boston College faculty and faculty from other area institutions, students, and members of the Boston College community to meet and discuss a pre-circulated paper in legal history. Meeting several times each semester, the Roundtable seeks to promote an informal, collegial atmosphere of informed discussion.

For the 2019-2020 academic year, Professor Mary Sarah Bilder, Professor Daniel R. Coquillette, Professor Frank Herrmann and Professor Daniel Farbman are conveners.

The Roundtable usually meets several times during the semester in the afternoon at 4:30 pm in the Library Conference Room of the Boston College Law School Library. Refreshments are available beginning at 4:15 pm, unless otherwise noted.

Papers will be available and linked below when appropriate before each presentation.

Fall 2019

Thursday, September 19
Martha Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University: Lunchtime
Co-sponsored with the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy

Professor Jones will give a public book talk for a Constitution Day Lecture, discussing her prize-winning book.

Before the Civil War, colonization schemes and black laws threatened to deport former slaves born in the United States. Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America recovers the story of how African American activists remade national belonging through battles in legislatures, conventions, and courthouses. They faced formidable opposition, most notoriously from the US Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott. Still, Martha S. Jones explains, no single case defined their status. Former slaves studied law, secured allies, and conducted themselves like citizens, establishing their status through local, everyday claims. All along they argued that birth guaranteed their rights. With fresh archival sources and an ambitious reframing of constitutional law-making before the Civil War, Jones shows how the Fourteenth Amendment constitutionalized the birthright principle, and black Americans’ aspirations were realized. Birthright Citizens tells how African American activists radically transformed the terms of citizenship for all Americans.

Tuesday, October 24
Roundtable with Bryan Garner, Law Prose, Inc.
Co-sponsored with Law Library in honor of its upcoming Law Dictionary exhibit

"Dictionaries and the Law"

At his presentation, Garner will discuss the history of legal lexicography and his own work on Black's Law Dictionary and other law-related dictionaries.

Bryan A. Garner is a noted speaker, writer, and consultant regarding legal writing and drafting, and regularly teaches Advanced Legal Writing at the Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law. Garner is editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary among many other leading works on legal style, and he is president of LawProse, Inc., the foremost provider of CLE training in legal writing, editing, and drafting.


Spring 2020

Thursday, January 30
Roundtable with Lael Weinberger, Harvard Law School, Berger-Howe Legal History Fellow 2019-20

"Judicializing International Relations: Internationalism, Courts, and American Lawyers in the Progressive Era"

This paper, part of Weinberger's project on internationalism in the legal profession, reconstructs an unfamiliar period at the start of the twentieth century when American lawyers across political divides tended to believe that world courts and robust international law were the future of international relations—even suggesting that law would replace diplomacy and that international litigation would replace war. From a modern vantage point the “legal internationalism” of the period looks unrealistic or even utopian. But its very unfamiliarity provides an ideal starting point for examining the intellectual, political, and legal conditions of possibility for legal internationalism.

Lael Weinberger is the Raoul Berger-Mark DeWolfe Howe Legal History Fellow at Harvard Law School. He is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago, where he studies American legal history. Lael earned a JD with high honors from the University of Chicago Law School and clerked for Judge Frank Easterbrook on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and for Chief Justice Daniel Eismann on the Idaho Supreme Court. Lael is currently writing a dissertation on American lawyers’ ideas about international law, world order, and human rights in the first half of the twentieth century. His research interests include constitutional law, international law, civil procedure, law and religion, and the legal profession.


Thursday, February 27

Roundtable with Professor Erin Braatz, Suffolk Law School

"Civilization & Sovereignty: The Birth of the “Native” Prison"

This paper describes the rise of so-called “native” prisons on the Gold Coast of Africa in the mid-nineteenth century (present-day Ghana) and argues that these prisons arose out of jurisdictional struggles between British colonial officials and indigenous leaders on the coast.  It then situates these struggles within the history of the global spread of the prison during the nineteenth century, contending that the prison played a central role in defining civilization and articulating changing notions of sovereignty. 

Erin Braatz is an assistant professor of law at Suffolk University Law School.  She received a J.D. and Ph.D. in Law and Society from New York University where she also held a Golieb Fellowship in Legal History.  Prior to joining Suffolk’s faculty, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Richard Stearns of the District of Massachusetts and the Honorable Juan Torruella of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  Her research examines the history of criminal law and punishment in British West Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as the history of the Eighth Amendment.


Thursday, April 2

Roundtable with Kunal Parker, Professor and Dean's Distinguished Scholar, University of Miami Law School

"The Turn to Process: Law, Politics, and Economics in America, 1900 - 1970"

Over the course of the first three quarters of the twentieth century, American legal, political, and economic thinkers increasingly turned away from thinking in terms of ends to thinking in terms of means. Why did this happen? What did this transformation look like? Parker is working on a book-length study of the turn towards processes, means, methods, techniques, procedures, and protocols in twentieth-century American legal, political, and economic thought that looks at the connections and differences across these three fields to help make sense of this shift.

Kunal M. Parker is a Professor of Law and Dean's Distinguished Scholar at the University of Miami School of Law. He is the author of of Common Law, History, and Democracy in America, 1790 - 1900: Legal Thought Before Modernism(Cambridge University Press, 2011) and Making Foreigners: Immigration and Citizenship Law in America, 1600 - 2000 (Cambridge University Press, 2015).



  • Logan Sawyer, Professor of Law, University of Georgia
  • Jane Manners, Bernard and Irene Schwartz Fellow, New-York Historical Society
  • William Sullivan, Professor of Law and Executive Director, American Bar Foundation and Northwestern University Law School
  • Mitra Sharafi, Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Ajay K. Mehrota, Professor of Law and Executive Director, American Bar Foundation and Northwestern University Law School
  • Professor Daniel Ernst, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Professor Anna Lvovsky, Harvard Law School
  • Nikolas Bowie, Reginald Lewis Law Teaching Fellow at Harvard Law School
  • Professor James Whitman, Yale University, Law School
  • Professor Malick Ghachem, MIT History Department
  • Professor Eric Muller, Moore Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina Law School
  • Professor Michael Vorenberg, Brown University, History Department
  • Hannah Farber, Postdoctoral Fellow/Visiting Assistant Professor, Boston College History Department
  • Professor Mary Beth Basile Chopas, UNC Law School
  • Professor Samantha Barbas, SUNY-Buffalo Law School
  • Professor John Fabian Witt, Yale Law School
  • Professor Daniel J. Sharfstein, Vanderbilt Law School
  • Professor Stewart Jay, University of Washington School of Law
  • Elizabeth Papp Kamali, Assistant Professor, Harvard Law School Ph.D. candidate
  • Professor Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Harvard Law School
  • Brad Snyder, Professor of Law at University of WisconsinRobert Gordon, Professor, Stanford Law School
  • Peter Pihos, dissertation completion fellow at Penn's School of Arts and Sciences
  • Daniel Klerman, Professor of Law at USC Law School
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Professor of Law and History at Harvard University
  • Emily Kadens, Baker and Botts Professor in Law at the University of Texas Austin
  • Sir John Baker, St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge
  • Anne Fleming, Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School
  • Michael Hoeflich, John H. & John M. Kane Professor of Law, University of Kansas
  • Pauline R. Maier, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of History, MIT
  • Jack Rakove, William Robertson Co Professor of History and American Studies, Stanford Law School
  • Gerard N. Magliocca, Professor of Law, Indiana University School of Law—Indianapolis
  • Hon. Margaret H. Marshall, MA Supreme Judicial Court
  • Aniceto Masferrer, Professor of Legal History, University of Valencia and President, the Society for Comparative Legal History' (ESCLH)
  • Kristen Stilt, Northwestern University Law School
  • Abigail Chandler, University of Massachusetts-Lowell
  • Hendrick Hartog, Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor of the History of American Law and Liberty of Princeton University
  • Jedidiah Kroncke, Raoul Berger-Mark DeWolfe Howe Fellow, Harvard Law School
  • Intisar Rabb, Professor, Boston College Law School
  • Professor Kif Augustine-Adams, J. Reuben Clark Law School, BYU
  • Professor Bernard Bailyn, Harvard University
  • Karen Beck, Curator of Rare Books, Boston College Law School
  • Professor Warren Billings, Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, University of New Orleans History Department
  • Professor Barbara Black, Columbia Law School
  • Professor Susanna Blumenthal, University of Michigan Law School
  • Professor Emeritus Morris Cohen, Yale University Law School
  • Professor Kristin Collins, Boston University Law School
  • Professor Cornelia Dayton, University of Connecticut History Department
  • Professor Christine Desan, Harvard Law School
  • Professor Charles Donahue, Harvard Law School
  • Professor Mary Dudziak, Judge Edward J. and Ruey L. Guirado Professor of Law, History and Political Science, University of Southern California
  • Professor William B. Gould IV, Stanford University Law School
  • Professor Ariela Gross, University of Southern California Law School
  • Professor Paul Halliday, University of Virginia History Department
  • Professor Richard Helmholz, University of Chicago Law School
  • Professor Francis R. Herrmann, S.J., Boston College Law School
  • Professor Marilynn Johnson, Boston College History Department
  • Professor Bernie D. Jones, Suffolk University Law School
  • Professor Carolyn Jones, University of Iowa Law School
  • Professor Laura Kalman, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Professor Linda Kerber, University of Iowa History Department
  • Professor Ken Kersch, Director of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, Boston College
  • Professor Marjorie Kornhauser, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Arizona State University
  • Professor Pnina Lahav, Boston University School of Law
  • Professor Kenneth Mack, Harvard Law School
  • Professor Joyce Malcolm, Bentley College History Department
  • Professor Ray Madoff, Professor of Law, Boston College Law School
  • Dr. Maeva Marcus, Editor of the Documentary History of the Supreme Court
  • Professor Jennifer Mnookin, University of Virginia Law School
  • Professor William Nancarrow, Curry College History Department (former Ph.D. candidate at Boston College)
  • Professor James Oldham, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Professor Ileana Porras, Visiting Professor at Boston College Law School
  • Professor James Rogers, Boston College Law School
  • Professor David Seipp, Boston University Law School
  • Professor Jed Shugerman, Harvard Law School
  • Mr. Anthony Taussig, London
  • Dean William Treanor, Fordham University Law School
  • Professor Russell Versteeg, New England School of Law
  • Dr. Michael von der Linn, Antiquarian Book Department, Law Book Exchange
  • Professor Robert Williams, University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law
  • Professor Michael Wilrich, Brandeis University History Department