Federalism & Separation of Powers

Obamacare, Immigration Executive Order and Other Transformative Lawsuits: A Conversation with 4 Current Solicitors General

California-Berkeley Student Chapter April 17, 11:00 AMRoom 105
Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720


  • Elbert Lin, Solicitor General of West Virginia
  • Stephen McAllister, Solicitor General of Kansas
  • Lawrence VanDyke, Solicitor General of Nevada
  • Patrick Wyrick, Solicitor General of Oklahoma


Treaties and National Sovereignty Conference

Co-Sponsored by The George Washington National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law Program, the GW Student Chapter, and The Federalist Society's Faculty Division March 27, 08:30 AMThe George Washington University Law School
Washington, DC 20052

The relationship between treaties and national sovereignty is somewhat complex. On the one hand, a nation’s  power to enter into treaties has long been viewed as a core incident of sovereignty. On the other hand, treaties generally confer not only mutual rights but also mutual obligations on their signatories. Therefore when a nation enters into a treaty, it theoretically both expands and limits its own national sovereignty by, on the one hand, obtaining other countries’ agreement to abide by the treaty’s limitations, but on the other hand accepting whatever obligations the nation undertakes pursuant to the treaty.

Several developments over the past few decades invite serious reflection about how the United States should think about this tradeoff. For one thing, treaties increasingly extend beyond customary areas of cooperation among nations to create various obligations on the part of countries with respect to how they treat their own citizens. For another, many international law advocates, and some courts, increasingly argue that these obligations are legally enforceable, either by domestic courts or international bodies, and regardless, in some instances, of whether a nation has actually agreed to them, or agreed to them with reservations. This exacerbates the danger that countries that believe more strongly in the rule of law will find themselves, as a practical matter, asymmetrically giving up sovereignty that less law-abiding countries effectively retain. On the other hand, the notion that there are supra-national norms that ought in some fashion to guide the conduct of nations has a long and distinguished pedigree, and has long been one of the lodestars of the United States’s involvement in the international arena.  

The purpose of this conference is to stimulate reflection and discussion about these questions.  It will do so in the context of hearing presentations based on research papers and comments on those presentations the following topics:

  • Should the United States still be entering multilateral treaties? If so, what criteria should it apply in deciding whether to do so?
  • How much regulatory and monitoring treaty compliance authority should ongoing international governance bodies have in areas where there may be a need for international cooperation, such as the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)?
  • How do the treaty power and Congress’s power to implement treaties under the necessary and proper clause relate to the Constitution’s other limits on Congressional power, especially its creation of a federal rather than a national government? Does the latter suggest not only constitutional but prudential considerations that may bear on how the President and the Senate should exercise the treaty power?
  • How do reservations operate, especially in the context of human rights treaties?