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
What Does it Mean for Other Institutions to “Defy” or “Check” the Supreme Court? Not What the Court Invites Those Institutions to Do

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone respond to a recent column by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, arguing that neither of the recent high-profile developments after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision is an example of “defying” the Court or “checking” judicial power. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that while neither the abortion vote in Kansas nor the pending federal marriage-equality proposal may fairly be characterized as “defying” or “checking,” some political reactions to Supreme Court rulings in the past arguably have involved defiance or disobedience of the Court.

Why the Clean Air Act’s Special Treatment of California Is Permissible Even in Light of the Equal-Sovereignty Notion Invoked in Shelby County

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains why the Clean Air Act’s provision allowing California to set its own air-pollution standards does not violate the notion of equal sovereignty. Dean Amar notes that the equal sovereignty idea as applied in Shelby County v. Holder is likely wrong, but even assuming it is correct, he argues it does not apply to the Clean Air Act because (1) the Clean Air Act was enacted under Congress’s Commerce Clause powers, a provision that does not require geographic uniformity, and (2) the alleged inequality disfavors the many, rather than the few.

The Kavanaugh Court?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar observes that Justice Brett Kavanaugh is emerging as a centrist perspective in key cases, including one expanding gun rights (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen) and one repudiating abortion rights (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization). Dean Amar points out that although Justice Kavanaugh voted with the majority in both cases, he added a narrower gloss via a concurring opinion and was the only Justice to do so in both cases.

(Yet) Another Reason ISL Theory is Wrong About the Meaning of the Term State “Legislature”: The Constitution’s References to the Federal Counterpart—“Congress”

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision to grant review of a North Carolina partisan gerrymandering dispute involving the Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar offers yet another reason that the theory is critically flawed. Although Dean Amar has described in numerous publications why ISL theory is illogical and atextual, he newly observes that the Constitution uses another term—“Congress”—to refer at times to the legislative body and other times to the lawmaking process, inclusive of presidential involvement.

How and Why Justice Breyer (and Other Justices) Should Weigh in on the Independent-State-Legislature Notion Before Breyer Retires

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should put the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory to rest sooner rather than later. Specifically, Dean Amar suggests that Justice Stephen Breyer—who is set to retire but who joined Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter in expressly rejecting ISL in 2000—should be among the voices to condemn the unsupportable theory.

Middle-Ground Possibilities in Dobbs? A Few Arguments From “Political Reliance”

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar describes a few (albeit unlikely) ways in which the Supreme Court could more moderately rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., rather than outright striking down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which a majority seems poised to do), or upholding them (which three Justices almost certainly support). Dean Amar explains the doctrine of “political reliance” and how it could lead the Court either to “return” the abortion question to the states to legislate (rather than having unenforced pre-Roe statutes to spring back to life), or to “sunset” the abortion right, giving the public time to account for the change in law.

The Court Seems Poised to Decide Soon Whether to Take Up the “Independent-State-Legislature” (ISL) Notion and (Hopefully) its Textual Nuances

In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court likely deciding soon to review a case presenting the question of the legitimacy of the “Independent State Legislature” (ISL), Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains why the theory necessarily fails unless its proponents make up the meaning of Article II of the Constitution without regard to its words or historical context. Dean Amar argues that the notion of ISL does not work for Article I or Article II, but it certainly does not work for Article II under the textual approach employed by its proponents.

Ten Thoughts on Illinois’s Unique Process for Filling State Supreme Court Vacancies

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer ten thoughts on Illinois’s unique process for filling state supreme court vacancies. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone describe some of the advantages and disadvantages of Illinois’s process, and they compare and contrast it to other similar processes in government.

Can Illinois Require Gas Stations to Advertise on Its Behalf?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on a new Illinois law that would require gas stations to advertise that the state has deferred an increase in the state gas tax. Dean Amar explains why the chances of gas stations prevailing in a federal constitutional challenge to the law are unlikely but not impossible.

Why the North Carolina Berger Voter ID Case Pending in the U.S. Supreme Court Would Benefit from Certification to the State High Court: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the facts and law giving rise to Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a North Carolina voter ID case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that the case highlights the importance of the legal procedure of certification and suggest that if the Court’s decision falls back on the traditional model of singular executive-branch representation embraced by the federal system and that of other states, the North Carolina legislature will have only itself to blame.

The Value of Certification of State Law Questions by the U.S. Supreme Court to the North Carolina Supreme Court in the Pending North Carolina Berger Case: Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the development of the legal procedure of certification of state-law questions—by which federal courts ask a state high court how state law would apply to specific circumstances. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone explain why this procedure may be particularly helpful in a case currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, which shows the downsides to a state’s (North Carolina’s0 unique refusal to accept certified questions.

Musings on Last Week’s New York High Court Ruling Invalidating Partisan Gerrymandering, With Special Attention to the So-Called Independent-State-Legislature Theory

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on last week’s ruling by the highest state court in New York invalidating partisan gerrymandering. Professor Amar discusses partisan gerrymandering in this country and particularly criticizes the reasoning employed by those who are pushing the constitutionally bogus Independent-State-Legislature theory.

When Is Revising Admissions Criteria to Alter the Racial Makeup of a School’s Student Body Constitutionally Problematic? A Recent Case from Virginia on the Court’s “Shadow” Docket May Offer Some Hints

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a recent case from Virginia that suggests when revising admissions criteria to alter the racial makeup of a school’s student body is constitutional (and when it is not). Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that although some Supreme Court Justices have suggested in dicta and dissents some permissible options, they may very well decide that those options too are impermissible, despite the natural and reasonable reliance on those writings.

Where Things Might Go in the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Seventeenth Amendment Case Involving Senator Jim Inhofe’s “Irrevocable” Promise to Retire in January: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a two-part series of columns on a Seventeenth Amendment case currently before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider whether Senator Jim Inhofe’s promise to resign is enforceable and whether there anything else Inhofe (and the state) could do to vindicate his (and its) wishes.

A Case Pending in the Oklahoma Supreme Court Involving Senator Jim Inhofe Raises Interesting Questions Under the Seventeenth Amendment: Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone identify and analyze some of the Seventeenth Amendment issues presented in a case pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone consider whether a state can hold a special election while the Senate seat is still occupied, and whether the possibility of a substantial lag between a special election and actual replacement matters.

Concluding Thoughts on the Invocation of the Independent-State-Legislature (ISL) Theory in the North Carolina Emergency Relief Application at the Supreme Court: Part Six in a Series

In this sixth of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar offers a few concluding thoughts on the invocation of the Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory in cases in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Dean Amar looks both backward at last week’s decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and forward to other settings in which ISL theory will be an issue.

Should the U.S. Supreme Court Take Up the Independent-State-Legislature (ISL) Theory? Part Five in a Series

In this fifth of a series of columns on the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory of Articles I and II of the federal Constitution, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should grant review in a case that cleanly presents ISL theory and soundly reject it, once and for all. Dean Amar calls upon the majority of the Court that rejects ISL theory to explain its sound reasoning for rejecting it, noting that when one side lays out its case in public writings and the other (much stronger) side does not, the public is not well served.

Further Evaluation of the Arguments Raised in the Recent North Carolina Independent-State-Legislature (ISL) Application Filed in the U.S. Supreme Court: Part Four in a Series

In this fourth of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar continues his discussion of the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory regarding federal congressional and presidential selection processes. Dean Amar responds to arguments the North Carolina Applicants raise in their Reply filed with the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

How ISL Proponents Deal With Arguments and Cases Cutting Against Them: Part Three in a Series

In this third of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains why the proponents of the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory of Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution inadequately address arguments and cases cutting against them. Dean Amar points out that a fundamental flaw of ISL theory is its failure to articulate any federal interest or norm, grounded in originalist understandings, structural expectations, or binding Supreme Court cases, concerning any specific state distribution of internal governmental powers.

How ISL Theory Has Already (and Recently) Been Repudiated by the U.S. Supreme Court: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory of Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution. Dean Amar dissects the cases in which the theory arose and explains why the language of those cases, particularly taken together, repudiates the ISL theory.