Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois in 2015, Amar served as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a Professor of Law at the UC Davis School of Law. He has also had teaching stints at three other law schools affiliated with the University of California: the UC Berkeley School of Law; the UCLA School of Law; and UC Hastings College of the Law.

He received a bachelor's degree in history from UC Berkeley and his JD from Yale, where he served as an articles editor for the Yale Law Journal. Upon graduating from law school in 1988, Dean Amar clerked for Judge William A. Norris of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. After that he spent a few years at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, devoting half of his time to federal white-collar criminal defense and the other half to complex civil litigation. It appears that Dean Amar was the first person of South Asian heritage to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the first American-born person of Indian descent to serve as a dean of a major American law school.

Dean Amar is one of the most eminent and frequently cited authorities in constitutional law, federal courts, and civil procedure. He has produced several books and over 60 articles in leading law reviews. He is a co-author (along with Akhil Reed Amar and Steven Calabresi) of the upcoming edition of the six-volume Treatise on Constitutional Law (West Publishing Co., 6th ed. 2021) pioneered by Ron Rotunda and John Nowak, as well as the hardbound and soft-cover one-volume hornbooks that derive from it. He is also a co-author (along with Jonathan Varat) of Constitutional Law: Cases and Materials (Foundation Press, 15th ed. 2017), a co-author on multiple volumes of the Wright & Miller Federal Practice and Procedure Treatise (West Publishing Co. 2006), and a co-author (along with John Oakley) of a one-volume work on American Civil Procedure (Kluwer, 2008).

Columns by Vikram David Amar
Examining Federal Court Power in the Challenge to Mississippi’s Regime for Electing Governors: Part Two in Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone continue their discussion of a federal lawsuit challenging Mississippi’s scheme for electing governors. Amar and Mazzone examine a few important procedural and jurisdictional issues the lawsuit presents, specifically, why the plaintiffs have standing to sue in federal court and what remedies a federal court might provide if it agrees with the plaintiffs on the merits.

Is Mississippi’s Distinctive Method of Electing Governors Constitutional? Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider whether Mississippi’s method of electing its governor—requiring a successful candidate to win both a majority of the state house of representatives and a majority of districts—is constitutional. Amar and Mazzone describe some of the important issues the case raises under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

The Constitutional Permissibility (Under the First Amendment) of Public School District Zero-Tolerance Policies on Racial Epithets

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a recent controversy involving the termination of a Wisconsin public school security guard under a zero-tolerance policy on racial epithets. Amar explains why, if the guard had chosen to sue, he likely would have lost in court based on current precedent, and Amar uses the apparent injustice of that outcome to illustrate that public employees often don’t realize how much their speech can be proscribed and prescribed by their government employers.

An Analysis of the District Court Ruling Blocking California’s Law Requiring Tax-Return Disclosure in Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a federal district court judge blocking implementation of California’s law that would deny ballot access to presidential candidates who have not released their tax returns. Amar explains why the decision is likely to be overturned on appeal, and, if it were to go that far, why there is a good chance even a majority of the current U.S. Supreme Court would also agree the decision was incorrect.

When is it Constitutionally Problematic for Government to Ask Questions about the Race of Individuals? A Dialogue Between Two Constitutional Law Scholars

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone engage in a dialogue over when it is constitutionally permissible (and problematic) for the state to require that individuals identify their race on a government form. Their dialogue arises from a lawsuit in Virginia challenging that state’s law (which has since been amended) that required individuals to disclose their race on a marriage license application form.

North Carolina Three-Judge Panel Smartly Uses the Room the U.S. Supreme Court in Rucho v. Common Cause Left for State Courts to Enforce State Constitutions

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a panel of state-court judges in North Carolina striking down partisan gerrymandering schemes as violating that state’s constitution. Amar had argued after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Rucho v. Common Cause that state courts would have to address partisan gerrymandering on “independent and adequate state-law grounds” (rather than on federal constitutional grounds), which is exactly what the North Carolina court did.

Three Observations About the (Limited) Impact of the Tenth Circuit’s Recent Decision (in Baca v. Colorado Department of State) Concerning “Faithless” Electors in the Electoral College

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers three key observations about a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit concerning “faithless” electors in the Electoral College. Specifically, Amar explains why the potential impact of the decision on the National Popular Vote movement is most likely limited, not extensive.

Why Challenges to California’s Tax-Return-Disclosure Law Should Fail (Putting Aside Whether They Will)

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Trump administration’s recent legal challenge to California’s law that denies ballot access to presidential candidates who have chosen not to release their tax returns. Without opining as to whether that challenge is likely to succeed or whether it is a good idea for states to enact such laws, Amar explains why, as a normative matter, the arguments in favor of striking down the law are misplaced, or at the very least, overly simplistic.

Paying Tribute to Justice Breyer’s Quarter Century on the Court

In tribute to Justice Stephen Breyer’s 25 years of service as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses his favorite Breyer majority opinion, dissent, and concurrence. Amar describes Justice Breyer’s opinion in each case and explains why it is notable, and he considers what we might expect from the justice in the coming years.

Advice for State Courts in the Aftermath of Rucho

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Rucho v. Common Cause, in which the Court held that disputes over partisan gerrymandering are political questions that are beyond the competence of federal courts to resolve. Amar argues that while state courts may attempt to process partisan gerrymandering claims under state statutes and state constitutional provisions, they would need to do so not under the federal Constitution but under independent and adequate state-law grounds.

Big Little Truths About the 2018-19 Supreme Court Term

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on the decisions the U.S. Supreme Court issued at the end of its 2018–19 term. Amar observes three key trends at the Court: its focus on what constitutes improper government motive, concerns over broad congressional delegation to the executive, and tension over the meaning and theory of stare decisis.

The 100-Year Anniversary of the First State Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment: Reflections on the Breadth of Freedom from Discrimination in the “Right to Vote”

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Illinois’ ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on what it means to be free from discrimination in the right to vote. Amar points out the connection between the right against discrimination in voting and the right discrimination in jury service and calls upon us all to consider what full, equal citizenship means.

Federalism and State Autonomy in Operation: Florida Bans Sanctuary Jurisdictions in the State, in Sharp Contrast to California’s Approach

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar contrasts Florida’s recent enactment of one of the strictest measures in the country to prohibit state and local entities from becoming “sanctuary” jurisdictions with California’s pro-sanctuary state laws. Amar explains this autonomy of states to enact such different laws with respect to federal laws as a product of the so-called anti-commandeering doctrine the Supreme Court has applied in three major cases over the past quarter century.

What Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt Adds to the Discussion of Stare Decisis and Reliance

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt and what it says about stare decisis, the notion that prior Court rulings are entitled to respect in the Court today. Amar explores the point the dissent makes about reliance and argues that reliance principles should drive the Court’s approach to stare decisis.

When, If Ever, Should a Legislature Be Able to Enact a Law that it Knows (or Should Know) that Courts Today Would Invalidate?

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone considers whether (and when) a legislature should pass laws that court are likely to invalidate under current precedent. Amar and Mazzone argue that when legislatures enact laws that are at the time unenforceable, the legislatures are not necessarily wasting legislative resources or defying constitutional limits, but sometimes helpfully informing the work of other governmental actors and guide the resolution of constitutional issues

Exactly What Are the Rules Concerning Supreme (or Other Federal) Court Review of Impeachment Proceedings?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on President Trump’s recent tweet suggesting that if the Democrats were to try to impeach him, he would ask the Supreme Court to block the impeachment. Amar argues that while critics of that assertion are correct, the legal matter is more complicated than might appear at first blush.

Why Settled Precedent Prevents President Trump From Punishing Sanctuary Cities For Declining to Assist in Federal Immigration Policy

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why President Trump’s proposal that detained immigrants be relocated to sanctuary cities violates the Supreme Court’s precedent interpreting relevant constitutional provisions. Amar argues that even a conservative Supreme Court that defers to the Executive branch in matters of foreign affairs would likely not permit such action.

Overcoming Partisan Objections to Electoral College Reform: How Red States Could (and Should) Adopt the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact But Defer Implementation Until 2032

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes recent developments in the reform movement known as the National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact plan and explains how those hesitant to get on board (particularly elected Republican legislators) can address their concerns with the plan. Specifically, Amar proposes that states should adopt the NPV interstate compact but delay implementation until 2032—a time in the future at which no one today can anticipate which party (if either) the compact would benefit.

Colorado Is Poised to Join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and Alter the Dynamics of the Movement

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the most recent development for the election reform movement known as the National Popular Vote (“NPV”) interstate compact plan—its imminent adoption by Colorado. Amar describes three reasons that Colorado’s adoption of the plan is such a significant step for the movement.

How Much Deference Will be Given to Affirmative Action Plans Fashioned by Students, and to Affirmative Action Plans More Generally? Part Three in a Series on the Challenge to Harvard Law Review’s Diversity Program

In this third and final column in a series about the legal challenge to Harvard Law Review’s diversity program, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider how much deference courts should give to law reviews when they assert diversity as a basis for considering race and gender. Amar and Mazzone anticipate that even in the unlikely event that this lawsuit reaches the Supreme Court, any fundamental changes to existing affirmative action doctrine would likely require the Court to weigh in on multiple cases over an extended period.