Lectures & Events

How the Separation of Powers Informs the Executive Duty to Defend the Law
The Sumner Canary Lecture
OCT 2, 2014
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Moot Courtroom (A59)
CLE Credit
1 hour of in-person CLE credit available, pending approval

Do executive branch officials in the federal and state governments have an obligation to defend the law? In 2011 the Justice Department decided that it could no longer defend constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court. Since then, several state Attorneys General followed suit, refusing to defend state laws barring the recognition of same-sex marriage. In Ohio, Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a brief opposing the constitutionality of a state campaign law, even as the Attorney General’s office was defending the law in federal court. In this lecture, Judge Pryor will consider the obligation of government officials to defend validly enacted laws in light of established separation of powers principles, drawing on his experience as a state Attorney General, a federal judge, and a law professor.
Speaker Information
William H. Pryor Jr
Judge William H. Pryor Jr.
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

William H. Pryor Jr. is a federal circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. President George W. Bush appointed Judge Pryor during a Senate recess in 2004, and the Senate confirmed his appointment in 2005.

In 2013, President Obama appointed Judge Pryor to serve four years on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a seven-member, bipartisan agency that establishes federal sentencing guidelines and policies.

Judge Pryor also serves, by appointment of Chief Justice Roberts, on the Committee on the Budget for the Judicial Conference of the United States and previously served for seven years on the Committee on Judicial Resources.

Since 2006, Judge Pryor has served each fall semester as a distinguished visiting professor of federal jurisdiction at the University of Alabama School of Law.

Judge Pryor served as Attorney General of Alabama from 1997 to 2004. When first appointed, he was, at 34, the youngest attorney general in the nation. He was later elected and reelected to that office in 1998 and 2002. In his reelection, Pryor received the highest percentage of votes of any statewide candidate.

In 1987, Judge Pryor graduated, magna cum laude, from Tulane Law School where he was editor in chief of the Tulane Law Review, a member of Order of the Coif, received the George Dewey Nelson Memorial Award for the highest grade point average in the common-law curriculum, and was a charter member and president of the Tulane Federalist Society.

After graduating from Tulane, Judge Pryor served as a law clerk for Circuit Judge John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

After his judicial clerkship, Pryor engaged in a private practice of commercial litigation in Birmingham and, for six years, served as an adjunct professor of admiralty at the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University. In 2013, he returned to Cumberland to teach a seminar each spring on Justice Antonin Scalia’s method of interpreting legal texts.

Judge Pryor is a member of the American Law Institute, the boards of advisory editors of the Tulane Law Review and the Yale Law & Policy Review. He is a life fellow of the Alabama Law Foundation, a former vice-president of the Alabama Center for Law & Civic Education, and a former chairman of the Federalism and Separation of Powers Practice Group of the Federalist Society. In 2002 and 2003, Pryor served as a member of the State and Local Senior Advisory Committee of the White House Office on Homeland Security. Judge Pryor has been awarded honorary doctorates of law from John Marshall Law School in Atlanta and Regent University in Virginia.

Judge Pryor has lectured and published widely. He has lectured at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and dozens of law schools and universities. He has published writings in the Columbia Law Review, Virginia Law Review, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Yale Law & Policy Review, Tulane Law Review, and several other law reviews and journals. He has published op-eds in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Times, and USA Today. He has testified before committees of the U.S. Senate on capital punishment, environmental law, and the role of the judiciary. A champion debater in college, Judge Pryor has debated at National Lawyers’ Conventions of the Federalist Society, on National Public Radio, and at the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom.

Judge Pryor is married with two adult children.

Additional Information
Free and open to the public, register at the door.

Browse Lectures
Current LecturesPast Lectures

Get the latest news from CWRU Law directly to your inbox