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Is There a Higher Law? Does it Matter?

Pepperdine's Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics will host a conference titled, "Is there a Higher Law? Does it Matter?" on Feb. 21 and 22 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The conference will bring together law professors, judges, theologians, economists, historians, and philosophers to discuss the implications of the higher law question.

As a launching pad for the conference, Bob Cochran, the Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and founder and director of the Nootbaar Institute, points to times in history when the question of a higher law took the spotlight.

"During the decade before the American Civil War, the question of whether there is a higher law was one of the most controversial facing the United States," says Cochran. "Opponents of slavery challenged the pro-slavery positive law on the basis of a higher law, while others argued that the higher law supported slavery."

Cochran also points to the beginning of the 20th century, when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes ridiculed the notion of a higher law as "that brooding omnipresence in the sky." At the same time, other 20th century movements were grounded on the notion of a higher law, notably the Nuremberg trails and the American Civil Rights movement.

Conference speakers in include Albert W. Alschuler, Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein, Patrick McKinley Brennan, William S. Brewbaker II, Bob Cochran., Kenneth G. Elzinga, Peter Gabel, Doug Kmiec, Bradley Lewis, Allen Martin Linden, Elizabeth B. Mensch, David Novak, Marry Ellen O'Connell, Joan Lockwood O'Donovan, Oliver O'Donovan, Connie S. Rosati, Steven D. Smith, Mark V. Tushnet, and Dallas Willard.

The conference agenda includes sessions on the higher law and its critics, theology and the higher law, philosophy and the higher law, and practical applications of the higher law.