MSU College of Law

MSU Law Professors Square Off In Friendly Debate



January 31, 2008


Professors Lawrence and Strang Challenge Students to Understand Originalism, Future Supreme Court Decisions


Professors Lee Strang & Michael Lawrence

East Lansing, MI – Michigan State University College of Law Professors Michael Lawrence and Lee Strang debated on originalism to an audience of over 30 students at MSU Law on Wednesday evening. Co-sponsored by the MSU Law Federalist Society and American Constitution Society, the debate tackled interpretation of the Constitution including as it relates to Second Amendment rights.

Professor Lawrence defended the libertarian originalism perspective, which argues that the Constitution (and federal judges) vigorously protects individual rights, whereas Professor Strang defended the conservative, or “common good,” originalism perspective that allows for state legislation so long as it serves the societal common good. While Professor Lawrence argued that no government agency is allowed to alter the natural rights defined in the Constitution unless they are doing harm to other persons, Professor Strang argued that the legislatures have more discretion to define what is best for their states and for the good of society.

This topic is especially significant given the important Second Amendment case on the Supreme Court docket this term.

“Originalism is an influential interpretive theory as can be seen from the Second Amendment case before the Supreme Court this term where the arguments by both parties are originalist arguments, and the Court is expected to rule based on those considerations,” states Professor Lee Strang.

After presenting their arguments and rebuttals, students were engaged in a powerful question and answer session with the professors.

"It's great to see the students getting involved in these sorts of discussions, which go to the very root of the relationship between the people and the government they set up to help manage their affairs,” says Professor Michael Lawrence.

MSU College of Law was in founded in 1891 and is a private institution of higher learning devoted exclusively to professional education in law. The Law College is one of only a few private law schools to be affiliated with a research university, enabling it to provide a comprehensive interdisciplinary legal education program. Classes offered in its state-of-the-art facilities provide students the benefits of a Big Ten campus while maintaining the small school culture. The Law College is one of the oldest continuously operating independent law colleges in the nation. For more information about the Law College, visit


320B Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824