On September 11, 2014, some of our nation’s finest legal minds convened at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., to engage in a full, robust discussion of the Convention of States Project. The participants—including former members of the Reagan administration, seasoned Supreme Court litigators, and Ivy League professors—discussed and debated arguments for and against the use of Article V to restrain federal power and evaluated its potential to be used safely and effectively.
The hotel, which is four blocks from the White House, was the ideal location for this conversation. In fact, the hotel’s namesake, Thomas Jefferson, believed Article V should be used to “correct breaches of the Constitution.”
In this historic location, these renowned legal experts discussed how to effectively use the Constitution to save the Constitution. Several hours later, they had achieved consensus and endorsed the Convention of States Project.
They specifically rejected the argument that a Convention of States is likely to be misused or improperly controlled by Congress, concluding instead that the mechanism provided by the Founders is safe. Moreover, they shared the conviction that Article V provides the only constitutionally effective means to restore our federal system.
In an era of quick fixes, press conferences, and spin, this meeting was designed to go to the root of the problems that ail our nation. Thankfully, these constitutional experts saw the potential and the hope our Founders gave us even as they were forming our country.
The conclusions of these prestigious experts are memorialized in The Jefferson Statement, which is reproduced here. The names and biographical information of the endorsers, who have formed a “Legal Board of Reference” for the Convention of States Project, are listed below the Statement.
The Jefferson Statement
The Constitution’s Framers foresaw a day when the federal government would exceed and abuse its enumerated powers, thus placing our liberty at risk. George Mason was instrumental in fashioning a mechanism by which "we the people" could defend our freedom—the ultimate check on federal power contained in Article V of the Constitution.
Article V provides the states with the opportunity to propose constitutional amendments through a process called a Convention of States. This process is controlled by the states from beginning to end on all substantive matters.
A Convention of States is convened when 34 state legislatures pass resolutions (applications) on an agreed topic or set of topics. The Convention is limited to considering amendments on these specified topics.
While some have expressed fears that a Convention of States might be misused or improperly controlled by Congress, it is our considered judgment that the checks and balances in the Constitution are more than sufficient to ensure the integrity of the process.
The Convention of States mechanism is safe, and it is the only constitutionally effective means available to do what is so essential for our nation—restoring robust federalism with genuine checks on the power of the federal government.
We share the Founders’ conviction that proper decision-making structures are essential to preserve liberty. We believe that the problems facing our nation require several structural limitations on the exercise of federal power. While fiscal restraints are essential, we believe the most effective course is to pursue reasonable limitations, fully in line with the vision of our Founders, on the federal government.
Accordingly, I endorse the Convention of States Project, which calls for an Article V Convention for "the sole purpose of proposing amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress."
Legal Board of Reference
Each of the following individuals has signed onto The Jefferson Statement, endorsing the Convention of States Project, and serves as a legal advisor to the Project:
Randy E. Barnett is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he directs the Georgetown Center for the Constitution and teaches constitutional law and contracts. Professor Barnett is a graduate of Harvard Law School, he has argued before the United States Supreme Court. In 2011-12 he represented the National Federation of Independent Business in its constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act.
Professor Barnett has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, the University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern. In 2008, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies.
His publications include more than one hundred articles and reviews, as well as nine books, including Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty (Princeton, 2005),The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Contracts (Oxford 2010), and Constitutional Law: Cases in Context (Wolters Kluwer, 2nd ed. 2013), and The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law (Oxford, 1998).
Charles J. Cooper is a founding member and chairman of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC. Named by The National Law Journal as one of the 10 best civil litigators in Washington, he has over 35 years of legal experience in government and private practice, with several appearances before the United States Supreme Court and scores of other successful cases on both the trial and appellate levels.
Shortly after serving as law clerk to Judge Paul Roney of the Fifth (now Eleventh) Circuit Court of Appeals, and to Justice (later Chief Justice) William H. Rehnquist, Mr. Cooper joined the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1981. In 1985 President Reagan appointed Mr. Cooper to the position of Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. Mr. Cooper reentered private practice in 1988, as a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of McGuire Woods.
In 1998 Mr. Cooper was appointed by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to serve as a member of the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States. Mr. Cooper is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and he has spoken and published extensively on a wide variety of constitutional and legal policy topics.
Dr. John C. Eastman is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University Fowler School of Law, and also served as the School's Dean from June 2007 to January 2010, when he stepped down to pursue a bid for California Attorney General. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, a public interest law firm affiliated with the Claremont Institute.
Prior to joining the Fowler School of Law faculty in August 1999, he served as a law clerk with Justice Clarence Thomas at the Supreme Court of the United States and with Judge J. Michael Luttig at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. After his clerkships, Dr. Eastman practiced with the national law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, specializing in major civil and constitutional litigation at both the trial and appellate levels.
Dr. Eastman earned his JD from the University of Chicago Law School, where he graduated with high honors in 1995. He was selected for membership in the Order of the Coif and was a member of the Law Review, a Bradley Fellow for Research in Constitutional History and an Olin Fellow in Law & Economics. Dr. Eastman also has a Ph.D. and M.A. in Government from the Claremont Graduate School, with fields of concentration in Political Philosophy, American Government, Constitutional Law, and International Relations. Prior to law school, he served as the Director of Congressional & Public Affairs at the United States Commission on Civil Rights during the Reagan administration and was the 1990 Republican Nominee for Congress in California's 34th District.
Michael Farris, head of the Convention of States Project, is the Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He was the founding president of both organizations. During his career as a constitutional appellate litigator, he has served as lead counsel in the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts, and the appellate courts of thirteen states.
Farris has been a leader on Capitol Hill for over thirty years and is widely respected for his leadership in the defense of homeschooling, religious freedom, and the preservation of American sovereignty. A prolific author, Farris has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship by the Heritage Foundation and as one of the “Top 100 Faces in Education for the 20th Century” by Education Week magazine.
Farris received his B.A. in Political Science from Western Washington University. He later went on to earn his J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law, and his LL.M. in Public International Law, from the University of London.
Robert P. George holds Princeton's celebrated McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and is the founding director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has also served on UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Science and Technology, of which he continues to be a corresponding member.
Professor George is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. He is the author of In Defense of Natural Law,Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion and Morality in Crisis, and Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism, and co-author of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics, and What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. His scholarly articles and reviews have appeared in such journals as the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, the American Journal of Jurisprudence, and the Review of Politics.
Professor George is a recipient of many honors and awards, including the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Honorific Medal for the Defense of Human Rights of the Republic of Poland, the Canterbury Medal of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Sidney Hook Memorial Award of the National Association of Scholars, the Philip Merrill Award of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Bradley Prize for Intellectual and Civic Achievement, and the Stanley Kelley, Jr. Teaching Award from Princeton's Department of Politics.
Professor George holds honorary doctorates of law, ethics, science, letters, divinity, civil law, humane letters, and juridical science. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, he also received a master’s degree in theology from Harvard and a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford University.
C. Boyden Gray is the founding partner of Boyden Gray & Associates, in Washington, D.C. Prior to founding his law firm, Ambassador Gray served our nation in various capacities both domestic and abroad.
Gray served as Legal Counsel to Vice President Bush (1981-1989) and as White House Counsel in the administration of President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993). Gray also served as counsel to the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief during the Reagan administration. Following his service in the White House, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and U.S. Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy.
Ambassador Gray is the recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the University of North Carolina Law School. In 1993, he received the Presidential Citizens Medal from President George H.W. Bush. Gray earned his Bachelor's degree magna cum laude from Harvard University and his J.D. from the Law School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was Editor in Chief of the Law Review. Following his graduation from university, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. After law school, he clerked for Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1968-69). Gray currently serves on the faculty of the NYU law school
Mark Levin is one of America's preeminent conservative commentators and constitutional lawyers. Mark is the author of several New York Times bestselling books including Men in Black(2007), Liberty and Tyranny (2010), Ameritopia (2012) and The Liberty Amendments (2013). Additionally, he is one of America's preeminent conservative commentators and
Constitutional lawyers. He is in great demand as a political and legal commentator, and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio programs, including his own, nationally syndicated daily radio program. Levin is also a contributing editor for National Review Online, and writes frequently for other publications.
Levin served as a top advisor to several members of President Ronald Reagan's Cabinet - including as Chief of Staff to the Attorney General of the United States, Edwin Meese.
In 2001, the American Conservative Union named Levin the recipient of the prestigious Ronald Reagan Award. He's received many awards over the years, and in 2014 was awarded the first Citizens United Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Levin currently practices law in the private sector, heading up the prestigious Landmark Legal Foundation in Washington DC.
Andrew McCarthy is a bestselling author, a Senior Fellow at National Review Institute, and a contributing editor at National Review. A well-known commentator on legal, national-security, and political affairs, he also writes regularly for PJMedia and The New Criterion.
McCarthy is a former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York, best known for leading the prosecution against the "Blind Sheik" (Omar Abdel Rahman) and eleven other jihadists for waging a terrorist war against the United States–including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a plot to bomb New York City Landmarks. After the 9/11 attacks, he supervised the U.S. Attorney's command-post near Ground Zero. He later served as an advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Defense McCarthy has written two New York Times bestsellers – Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (2008) and The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America (2010).
McCarthy did his undergraduate work at Columbia College, received his J.D. from New York Law School, and has served as a professor there, as well as at Fordham University Law School.
Mark Meckler is President of Citizens for Self-Governance, the parent organization of the Convention of States Project. Meckler is one of the nation’s most effective grassroots activists. After he co-founded and served as the National Coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, he founded Citizens for Self-Governance in 2012 to bring the concept of "self-governance" back to American government. This grassroots initiative expands and supports the ever-growing, bipartisan self-governance movement.
Meckler appears regularly on a wide variety of television outlets, including MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business, etc. He is the co-author of Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution, and writes regularly on Breitbart, the American Spectator, and SelfGovern.com. He also is an attorney who specializes in internet privacy law.
Meckler received his B.A. in English Literature from San Diego State University, and his J.D. from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.