Location: Eck Hall of Law, The Law School

Convictions, Not Compromise: What’s Really Wrong with the U.S. Congress

View event recap here

Former U.S. Congressman, Thomas Allen, will serve as the keynote speaker at this symposium hosted by the Notre Dame Law Review. The Symposium will focus broadly on congressional gridlock, exploring various aspects of the issue from partisanship and civility to the utilization of the appropriations process to legislate. We hope to explore these and other facets of the topic against the backdrop of the 2012 election and current congressional inaction. Three panels of legal scholars will present and discuss issues surrounding congressional gridlock and its legal implications.

The symposium is free and open to the public. The keynote address in the McCartan Courtroom, Eck Hall of Law will be first come, first-served seating. Overflow viewing space will be available in Eck Hall of Law.


Keynote Speaker: Former Representative Thomas Allen (D-ME)

Born and raised in Portland, Thomas Allen is a longtime Maine resident and current President of the Association of American Publishers.

After graduating from Bowdoin College, he received a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford, from which he received a B.Phil. in Politics in 1970. He worked a year in Washington for U.S. Senator Ed Muskie and then attended Harvard Law School and graduated with a J.D. in 1974.

From 1974 until 1993, Mr. Allen practiced law at the firm Drummond Woodsum Plimpton and MacMahon, where he was a partner and member of the Board of Directors. During this time he also served on Portland City Council from 1989-1995 and as Mayor of Portland. In 1996 Mr. Allen was elected to Congress and served the people of the 1st District of Maine from 1996-2008. As a Member of Congress, Mr. Allen served on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Budget Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and Government Reform Committee. On the Energy and Commerce Committee Mr. Allen worked on a range of issues, from health care to climate change to telecommunications legislation.

In April 2009, former Congressman Tom Allen joined the Association of American Publishers as its President and Chief Executive Officer. As President of the AAP, Mr. Allen seeks to foster the association’s ongoing mission of protecting copyright in the ever-changing landscape of the digital world and help publishers meet 21st-century challenges. Mr. Allen has a forthcoming book entitled Dangerous Convictions: Why Cherished Ideas Can Be a Source of Congressional Gridlock, due out in January 2013.

Symposium and Panel Schedule

7:45 – 8:15: Continental Breakfast (common area outside Courtroom)

All panels and the keynote address will be held in the Patrick F. McCartan Courtroom in the Eck Hall of Law.

8:30 – 10:00: Panel One
We the People and Gridlock
Moderated by Professor Jennifer Mason McAward (The Law School, University of Notre Dame)

  • Professor Josh Chafetz (Cornell University) – “Gridlock in the Public Sphere”
  • Professor Barry Cushman (The Law School, University of Notre Dame) – “The Court-Packing Plan as Symptom, Casualty, and Cause of Gridlock”
  • Professor Michael Gerhardt (University of North Carolina) – “Why Gridlock Is Good”
  • Professor Gerard Magliocca (Indiana University) – “Don’t Be So Impatient”

10:15 – 11:45 a.m.: Panel Two
Gridlock and the Congressional Process
Moderated by Associate Dean Richard Garnett (The Law School, University of Notre Dame)

  • Professor Rebecca Kysar (Brooklyn Law School) – “Reconciling Congress”
  • Professor John C. Roberts (DePaul University) – “Gridlock and Senate Rules”
  • Professor Carl Tobias (University of Richmond) – “Senate Gridlock and Federal Judicial Selection”
  • Professor George K. Yin (University of Virginia) – “Legislative Gridlock and Nonpartisan Staff”

12:00 – 12:50 p.m.: Lunch (Faculty Meeting Room)

1:00 – 2:30 p.m.: Panel Three
Legislative Inaction and Gridlock
Moderated by Professor Amy Barrett (The Law School, University of Notre Dame)

  • Professor John Nagle (The Law School, University of Notre Dame) – “Site-Specific Laws”
  • Professor Michael Teter (University of Utah) – “Gridlock, Legislative Supremacy, and the Problem of Arbitrary Inaction”
  • Professor Franita Tolson (Florida State University) – “The Union as a Safeguard Against Faction: Congressional Gridlock as State Empowerment.”
  • Professor Sandra Zellmer (University of Nebraska) – “Treading Water, Just Barely: Congressional Apathy Toward the Nation’s Environment”

2:30 – 2:50 p.m.: Break

3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Keynote Address by Former U.S. Congressman Thomas Allen
with an Introduction by Nell Jessup Newton, Dean, The Law School, University of Notre Dame