Jackson on ‘Proportionality and Judging in American Constitutionalism’

HLS Professor Vicki C. Jackson

HLS Professor Vicki C. Jackson

Harvard Law School Professor Vicki Jackson marked her appointment to the Thurgood Marshall Professorship of Constitutional Law with an Oct. 3 lecture titled “Proportionality and Judging in American Constitutionalism.”

In her introduction of Jackson, Dean Martha Minow said, “What an enormous thrill that the very first holder of this chair, named for Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, is one of his former clerks. In the years since that clerkship, Vicki has built a remarkable career as one of the leading experts in the world in comparative constitutional law, federalism, and gender and the law. Vicki brings meticulous care, thoughtful engagement and fresh perspective to everything she does.”

In her lecture, Jackson connected Justice Marshall’s signature positions in favor of a more flexible approach to standards of review and equal protection claims with a growing international literature on proportionality.

Using cases from the U.S. and abroad, Jackson argued that U.S. courts should give greater recognition to the role of proportionality in framing doctrine, and should be open to revised understandings, particularly in cases decided under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments.

“Reprising to some extent older debates about rules, standards, and balancing, and in light of this new literature,” she said, “I argue that U.S. constitutional law would benefit from greater clarity about and some greater use of the principle of proportionality that has been elaborated around the world.”

Prior to joining the HLS faculty in the summer of 2011, Jackson served as the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University.

In December 2012, she was appointed amica curiae in United States v. Windsor, the landmark case that challenged the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. At the Court’s request, Jackson argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction.

In addition to her academic career, Jackson was a partner at the Washington, D.C., firm Rogovin, Huge & Lenzner and served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2000 to 2001. She was co-chair of the Special Committee on Gender of the D.C. Circuit Task Force on Gender, Race & Ethnic Bias., a member of the D.C. Bar Board of Governors, and active in many other civic, law-related organizations.

Jackson’s most recent book, “Federalism: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution,” with co-author Susan Low Bloch, was published by Praeger in September. Jackson has written two books with HLS Professor Mark Tushnet: “Comparative Constitutional Law” (2006) and an edited collection of scholarly essays, “Defining the Field of Comparative Constitutional Law” (2002).

The Thurgood Marshall Professorship was founded with an anonymous donation of $10 million in honor of Professor Laurence Tribe ’66. Upon his retirement from the faculty, the position will become the Laurence H. Tribe Professorship of Constitutional Law.