IJA's 23rd Annual Brennan Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice 

 Hon. Goodwin Liu
Associate Justice, California Supreme Court

"State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual Rights:
A Reappraisal"

Thursday, March 23, 2017
6:15-7:30 pm
Introduction by: Meir Feder, Partner, Jones Day 

Greenberg Lounge, Vanderbilt Hall
NYU School of Law
40 Washington Square South

*This program is seeking New York CLE credit, if received it will be
appropriate for both newly admitted and experienced attorneys.


This year marks the 40th anniversary of Justice William Brennan’s classic article, State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual Rights, 90 Harvard Law Review 489 (1977), one of the most-cited law review articles of all time.  Justice Brennan, who served five years on the New Jersey Supreme Court before his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, urged state courts to engage in robust and independent interpretation of the individual rights guarantees in state constitutions, especially in areas where the Supreme Court had (in his view) unduly constricted the scope of analogous rights in the federal Constitution.  Justice Brennan’s article spawned a vigorous debate, which still continues after four decades, over what approach state courts should take in interpreting state constitutional provisions that are similar to those in the federal Constitution.

 Central to this debate is the following inquiry:  When a state court interprets state constitutional rights more expansively than federal constitutional rights, does the legitimacy of this practice depend on the state court’s resort to unique state sources, such as the distinctive text, purpose, or history of the state constitutional provision?  Or is it legitimate for a state court to simply disagree with U.S. Supreme Court interpretations of the federal right and adopt its ‘dissenting’ view as a matter of state constitutional law, with no resort to unique state sources?  Justice Liu will examine the prevalence of this latter approach among state high courts and the normative justifications for it within our federal system


Justice Goodwin Liu is an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. He was confirmed to office by a unanimous vote of the California Commission on Judicial Appointments on August 31, 2011, following his appointment by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. on July 26, 2011. The Governor administered the oath of office to Justice Liu in a public ceremony in Sacramento, California on September 1, 2011.

Before joining the state’s highest court, Justice Liu was Professor of Law at the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). His primary areas of expertise are constitutional law, education law and policy, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has published widely on these subjects in books, law reviews, and the general media.

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Justice Liu grew up in Sacramento, where he attended public schools. He went to Stanford University and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1991. He attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship and earned a masters degree in philosophy and physiology. Upon returning to the United States, he went to Washington D.C. to help launch the AmeriCorps national service program and worked for two years as a senior program officer at the Corporation for National Service.

Justice Liu graduated from Yale Law School in 1998, becoming the first in his family to earn a law degree. He clerked for Judge David Tatel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then worked as Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, where he developed and coordinated K-12 education policy. He went on to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the October 2000 Term. In 2001, he joined the appellate litigation practice of O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C., and worked on an array of antitrust, white collar, insurance, product liability, and pro bono matters.

Justice Liu is a prolific and influential scholar. He has published articles on constitutional law and education policy in the California Law Review, Michigan Law Review, NYU Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and Yale Law Journal, among others. His 2006 article, “Education, Equality, and National Citizenship,” won the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law, conferred by the Education Law Association. Justice Liu is also a popular and acclaimed teacher. In 2009, he received UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s most prestigious honor for individual excellence in teaching. He earned tenure at Boalt Hall in 2008 and was promoted to Associate Dean. The Boalt Hall Class of 2009 selected him as the faculty commencement speaker.

Justice Liu serves on the Council of the American Law Institute.  He has previously served on the Board of Trustees of Stanford University, the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Constitution Society, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Public Welfare Foundation. In 2008, he was elected to the American Law Institute. He has also served as a faculty advisor to the California College Prep Academy, a public charter school co-founded by UC Berkeley and Aspire Public Schools.


Allison Schifini
Institute of Judicial Administration