Annual Conference

SOL, Nootbar, Annual Conferences - Lecture hall

Every year, the Nootbaar Institute hosts a conference on an important and thought provoking topic. Addressing a wide range of issues such as religious freedom, human rights, and diversity, the Institute seeks to bring top scholars, lawyers, students, and the community together to ultimately have a positive impact on society. 

Doing Justice without Doing Harm

March 11 - 12, 2016

Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, California

We hope you will join us for the conference discussed below. Mark your calendar, submit a proposal, and forward this message to blogs, list serves, and people who might be interested. Speakers already confirmed include the following:

  • Barbara E. Armacost, Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law.
  • Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector and Sol & Anne Dorff Distinguished Service Professor in Philosophy, American Jewish University
  • Brian Fikkert, Professor of Economics and Community Development and the founder and President of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College.
  • Richard W. Garnett, Paul J. Schierl / Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law and Director, Program on Church, State & Society, Notre Dame Law School
  • Peter Greer, President and CEO of HOPE International
  • Gary Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission.
  • Douglas NeJaime, Director of the Williams Institute, Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law
  • Richard H. Sander, economist and Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
  • Michael Scaperlanda, Gene and Elaine Edwards Family Chair in Law, Professor of Law at Oklahoma University
  • Amy Uelmen, Lecturer, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology at Yale University and Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia

Justice is a central theme in most secular and religious moral traditions, though there are significant disagreements about its content. As Alasdair McIntyre has asked, "Whose Justice?" During some periods of history there has been great optimism that the world was moving in a more just direction, generally followed by periods of great injustice and great disillusionment. (We seem now to be experiencing the latter.)

Our conference themes have ancient roots—"do justice" (Micah 6:8) and "do no harm" (Hippocrates). The first theme is a call to do justice and to serve a hurting world. What do our traditions say about justice to the 21st century? What are the great injustices and causes of suffering in our world? How might they be addressed by individuals, religious congregations, NGOs, and governments?

A second theme (raised powerfully in Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert's book "When Helping Hurts"} will be how individuals, groups, and laws might avoid doing harm as we attempt to do good. Attempts to help can generate dependence or harm bystanders. The work of governments and NGOs can undercut local institutions like religious congregations and businesses that might address local problems. Laws can have unintended consequences that do greater harm than good. We need to make a difference, but to do so wisely.

Please join us for the conversation. Panels of academics and people from a wide variety of organizations will address theory and practice--what works and what does not work.


If you have questions about the substance of the conference, contact Bob Cochran at

For questions about the details of the conference, contact the Nootbaar Institute office by email, or by phone, (310) 506-6978.

The conference is co-sponsored by Pepperdine's Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics and The Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies.

All our best,
Bob Cochran & Michael Helfand

Robert F. Cochran, Jr.
Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and
Director, Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics
Pepperdine University School of Law
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, California 90263-4611
(310) 506-4684

Michael A. Helfand
Associate Professor, Pepperdine University School of Law
Associate Director, Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
(310) 506-7694

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