The Return of Walter Murphy

Walter Murphy discusses his new book and new agendas for research in the law and politics field

Date: 
Mon, 02/11/2008
Location: 
4:30 - 6:00 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall

The first LEGS meeting of the semester features Walter Murphy, who will will be talking about his new book, Constitutional Democracy: Creating and Maintaining a Just Political Order, and about new agendas for research in the law and politics field. He will meet with graduate students in the Kerstetter Room, 3rd floor of Marx Hall. As usual, excellent refreshments will be served.

Walter Murphy, as you probably know, was the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton for many years before his retirement. He is a legendary scholar and teacher, who has had multiple books on the "required classics" list in law and social sciences. Elements of Judicial Strategy was the first book to apply insights from soft rational-choice theory to the study of judicial politics, though the main sources that he uses for the book are the papers of US Supreme Court justices. His casebook on comparative constitutional law was ahead of his time (so much so that the only sales were in Europe at first - other Americans hadn't gotten around to studying the topic at the time). His classic book Wiretapping on Trial has become again eerily relevant to current events. And he has published three novels exploring the relationship between law, authority and Catholicism. The Vicar of Christ follows his main character through the unlikely combination of offices from Marine officer, through Supreme Court justice to Pope. The new book, Constitutional Democracy: Creating and Maintaining a Just Political Order, merges fiction and political theory -- starting with a hypothetical constitutional convention for which Professor Murphy constructed the characters and wrote the script. He ranges over the world for his examples, and raises important questions about how constitutions are bargained into existence and how they are maintained in the face of serious challenges. He believes that we live presently in a time of constitutional crisis, and worries for the fate of the US constitutional order. He has lots of fascinating things to say about the times in which we live. For more on the book, see his LAPA profile page.

Come and meet Walter Murphy in person -- when he returns to Princeton to greet old friends and meet new people! He always loves to see graduate students in particular because he has been the legendary teacher of legendary students. For example, he was Samuel Alito's undergraduate thesis advisor and he has chaired the dissertations of students who now teach in top law schools and political science departments all over the world. His sessions with students are among his most engaging and his most revealing. He will advise all of you to go off and do unconventional research, as in fact he has done to great acclaim throughout his career.

Professor Murphy's new book will be the subject of a two-day conference (15-16 February) at Princeton and LAPA is a cosponsor -- see the conference event page for more information. But you will all get a private audience with him on Monday 11 February!