Policy and Practice Research Lab
Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law (CAROL)
The Kellogg Institute Lab on Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law (CAROL) bridges research and practice to advance the core values of democracy, freedom, and human dignity in service of the common good. The lab engages civil society actors, national political bodies, and international organizations by advising on matters of constitutional development and reform, the functioning of democratic institutions, and respect for the rule of law.
The Mission of the CAROL Policy and Practice Lab
The Kellogg Institute's Policy and Practice Research Labs support high-impact, high-yield research. The CAROL lab’s mission is to exert a tangible influence on the practice of constitutional democracy and the rule of law around the world.
By bridging rigorous scholarly inquiry and sound policy, the lab works tirelessly to promote human flourishing in a variety of public contexts. These include CAROL conferences, judicial seminars, public testimony, advisory briefs and expert consultations on matters of constitutional reform and the rule of law, a budding repository of resources for practitioners and the interested public, and collaborative programming for Notre Dame students.
Our Civic Challenge
The basic institutions of liberal democracy and law are under enormous stress in the United States and internationally. As alternative authoritarian models gain footing and openly challenge the fundamental premises of the rule of law and the constitutional protection of basic human freedoms, they undermine an already fragile international consensus that no nation should be immune from external scrutiny for the treatment of its citizens.
The erosion of democratic foundations, coupled with endemic weakness in the basic elements of the rule of law – guarantees of due process, independent judiciaries, and access to legal remedies – pose a fundamental challenge to the possibility for sustainable development, particularly in those countries where dire poverty, weak institutions, and human rights violations converge. Roughly half of the world’s population lives under these dire conditions. The Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law lab addresses itself to the concern that too little attention is paid to the benefits that a well-structured constitution and the rule of law provide for people throughout the world.
Constitutionalism and the Common Good
The Kellogg Institute Lab on Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law (CAROL) bridges research and practice to advance the core values of freedom, human development, and democracy in service of the common good. Freedom, in this context, means people’s ability to make their own plans and to participate in self-government. Human development indicates the centrality of the dignity of persons in our understanding of the common good. Too many people have no economic, political, or social outlet for their unique ambitions and gifts. Finally, though democratic nations are far from perfect, the CAROL lab puts forward democracy - rule of, by, and for the people - as a core value.
Our unique contribution consists in our abiding conviction that stable, rights-protecting constitutions and the rule of law are fundamental for the realization of these values and, ultimately, for the flourishing of billions of the world’s poorest and most oppressed. Indeed, it is our view that constitutionalism and the rule of law exert an outsize impact.
Broad Appeal, Actionable Scholarship
Following the mandate of the Kellogg Institute to respond to these pressing global challenges through research excellence, CAROL generates actionable scholarship. The lab unites the theoretical study of law with the practical policies and benefits brought about by well-ordered constitutions and laws.
Not everyone is (or should be) interested in legal principles that govern private property, the separation of powers, or the admissibility of evidence in a criminal trial. Everyone, however, is interested in better economic, educational, and social opportunities for themselves and their children. CAROL exists to close the gap in a way that instructs and encourages academics, policymakers, jurists, and the general public to cooperate in working for the uplift of human beings.
CAROL’s charge is to translate the basic principles of constitutionalism and the rule of law into practices and reforms that can strengthen democracy and integral human development around the world. The lab engages civil society actors, national political bodies, and international organizations by advising on matters of constitutional development and reform, the functioning of democratic institutions, and respect for the rule of law.
Therefore, the CAROL lab functions as an important center for research that is both theoretically grounded and practical in its application. Its scholarship addresses judicial independence and reform, protection of due process and access to justice, the separation and balance of powers, federalism and regionalism, constitutional interpretation, the legal guarantees of free electoral democracy, minority protections, religious liberty, and other fundamental features of a free, lawful, and flourishing society.
2021 Conference: Inalienable Rights and the Traditions of Constitutionalism
Date: November 14-16, 2021
Location: University of Notre Dame
Our Theme: Human Rights
Human rights - what they are, and what they demand of us - are among the most celebrated yet contested ideals of liberal democracy. The Constitutionalism and Rule of Law (CAROL) at the University of Notre Dame proudly presents its inaugural conference, entitled “Inalienable Rights and the Traditions of Constitutionalism,” to address these monumental questions. This conference will feature compelling talks, earnest discussion, and a warm intellectual community, all on the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame.
Our Focus: The COUR Report
This conference will explore the work of the Commission on Unalienable Rights (COUR), a body convened from 2019 through 2020 and composed of academics, philosophers, and practitioners. Its charge was to provide the U.S. government with advice on human rights grounded in the nation’s founding principles and international principles of rights. On August 26, 2020, the Commission issued its final report, a document that was signed and approved unanimously by all 11 COUR commissioners and that has since been translated into seven languages.
Rooted in American founding principles and informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December 1948, the Commission’s report addresses key foundational principles and places them within a broad international context. This conference brings together the work of the Commission into sharper focus and broadly examines several key themes from the Commission’s report, including the nature of inalienable rights, the legacy of the American political tradition, the American commitment to international human rights, and the place of human rights in foreign policy. The COUR report is not the endpoint but a launchpad for further consideration about the meaning and importance of rights.
Our Format: Innovative Public Discourse
CAROL conferences aim to enrich public discourse and foster innovative research on human flourishing, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. In an age when most citizens listen only to people with whom they already agree, we present a truly unique and public-spirited conference. The conference features a number of wide-ranging views on human rights across the political spectrum. Our ambitions are big: foster a public discussion that is thorough and deep, while yet wide-ranging and accessible to anyone who wants to understand how rights relate to law and human flourishing. The format of the conference reflects this distinctive ambition of the CAROL lab and the Kellogg Institute.
In the spirit of promoting public discourse, the conference will feature five keynote addresses which will present broad principles and ideas for the audience’s consideration. Each keynote will be followed by a panel of experts who take up a major question, and engage it from a wide variety of viewpoints. These keynotes and panels will be followed by a public Q & A for Commission members: a chance to ask them questions and learn about what guided their proposals. In short, the conference presents a unique opportunity to encourage public discourse on the place of human rights in a constitutional order.
We have assembled a truly impressive schedule of keynote speakers and panelists. Joseph Weiler of NYU will provide an overview of the report in light of international law and right. Princeton’s Robert P. George will discuss the natural law grounding for inalienable rights, while Martha Minow of Harvard Law will analyze the U.S. commitment to international human rights. Then Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard, will invite us to consider the future of the Commission's report. Finally, Sherman Jackson of the University of Southern California will relate the international human rights project to the world of Islamic law and constitutionalism.
Respondents from the Commission on Unalienable Rights
- Kenneth Anderson, American University
- Jacqueline Rivers, Harvard University
- Meir Soloveichik, Congregation Shearith Israel
- Christopher Tollefsen, University of South Carolina
- Jane Adolphe, Ave Maria School of Law
- Peter Berkowitz, Hoover Institution - Stanford University
- Nigel Biggar, University of Oxford
- Carlos Bernal, Dayton University School of Law
- Laurence Burgorgue-Larsen, Sorbonne Law School
- Gresa Caka–Nimani, Constitutional Court of Kosovo
- Jim Cavallaro, University Human Rights Network
- Alexandra Huneeus, University of Wisconsin Law School
- Seth Kaplan, Johns Hopkins University
- David Moore, Brigham Young University Law School
- David Pan, University of California - Irvine
- Asifa Quraishi-Landes, University of Wisconsin Law School
- Aaron Rhodes, Common Sense Society, Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe
- Timothy Shah, University of Dallas
- Moumouni Soumano, Kellogg Institute for International Studies
- William Saunders, Catholic University of America
- Ganna Yudkivska, European Court of Human Rights
Notre Dame Faculty
- Roger Alford, University of Notre Dame Law School and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
- Diane Desierto, Professor of Law and Global Affairs and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
- Dan Philpott, Professor of Political Science and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
- Jeffrey Pojanowski, University of Notre Dame Law School
- Emilia Justyna Powell, Associate Professor of Political Science, concurrent Associate Professor of Law, and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
- Clemens Sedmak, Professor of Social Ethics and Kellogg Faculty Fellow
Attendance at this conference is by invitation only. The first session begins at 2pm on Sunday. The final conference session will conclude by 1pm on Tuesday. Please bear this in mind as you schedule your travel arrangements. The final schedule of events, as well as details for lodging and accommodation, will be released soon.