The ancient British charter is widely considered a key step toward modern notions of constitutionalism, including the principle that no one, not even a king, is above the law.
"The power of these ideas is illustrated by fundamental principles that flow from the uses later generations have made of Magna Carta — the rule of law, due process of law, constitutional supremacy and the idea of an organic, evolving constitution adapted to changing times and circumstances," Howard said.
First drafted to make peace between the unpopular King John of England and a group of rebel barons, Magna Carta promised the safeguarding of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Though the charter was annulled by the pope, it was later reissued by successive kings and became embedded in English political life.
Howard said his lectures and talks will explore how constitutional ideas take shape over time and space.
Widely acknowledged as an expert in the fields of constitutional law, comparative constitutionalism, and the Supreme Court, Howard is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at UVA. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the University of Virginia School of Law, he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he read philosophy, politics and economics. After graduating from law school, he clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black.
Howard was executive director of the commission that wrote Virginia's current constitution and directed the successful referendum campaign for its ratification. He has been counsel to the General Assembly of Virginia and a consultant to state and federal bodies, including the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. From 1982 to 1986 he served as counselor to the governor of Virginia, and he chaired Virginia's Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. He has consulted with constitution-makers in a number of countries, especially in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.