Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why the norm of not asking a Supreme Court nominee about his specific views about specific cases does not make sense and renders the hearing unhelpful in evaluating him as a potential justice. Amar explains the distinction between promising to rule in a certain way and predicting how one might rule, and he debunks some of the reasons often given for the norm of not asking (or answering) these types of questions during the confirmation hearing.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on two decisions from the US Supreme Court’s 2017–18 term in which the Court notably overruled two longstanding constitutional precedents by 5–4 votes. Amar discusses the doctrine of horizontal stare decisis—the Court’s respect for its prior rulings—and focuses on three questions in particular these two cases present.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes the federal constitutional obstacles facing Cal3—the proposal to split California into three separate states that has qualified to appear on the November ballot. As Amar explains, the Constitution’s requirement of consent by the “Legislatures” of concerned states may be an insurmountable obstacle for the proposal and could even prevent the proposal from appearing on the ballot at all.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar argues that while Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the US Supreme Court will change the institution, it may not result in a significant shift to the right on some hot-button issues, as many anticipate. Amar explains that the greatest casualty of Justice Kennedy’s retirement might be electoral reform—not reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, or affirmative action.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether the federal government can subject so-called sanctuary jurisdictions to liability for crimes committed by private persons who are in the United States unlawfully, as two Republican-backed legislative proposals seek to do. Specifically, Amar discusses whether such liability constitutes unconstitutional commandeering of states under existing Supreme Court precedent.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and UC Davis Law emeritus professor Alan E. Brownstein discuss two doctrinal issues raised in the Supreme Court’s majority and concurring opinions in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Amar and Brownstein explain how Colorado could have reached the results it reached without disfavoring religion or religious liberty/equality at all, and they point out that the Court’s focus on the motives of the commissioners is unusual given the Court’s prior decisions on the role of invidious motives.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the lawsuit filed by the Trump administration against California over its so-called sanctuary policies. Amar explains why the federal government is likely to prevail on one claim, to lose on another claim, and to lose in part on the third claim. Amar laments that both sides seem to assert extreme positions that are not entirely tenable.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar laments the present state of the federal judiciary system, recently illustrated by Senator Chuck Grassley's call to conservative Supreme Court justices to retire promptly. Amar explains why the proposal of term limits for Supreme Court justices would address some of the concerns of partisanship and would not present issues of judicial independence or due process.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar relates insights on campus free speech principles that came up during a recent discussion with renowned constitutional commentators Erwin Chemerinsky and Geof Stone. Among the insights are some possible explanations for why many college students today seem opposed to allowing offensive speech on campus, the different perspectives on the proper role of university officials regarding controversial guest speakers, and the question of when the costs of providing security for controversial speaker events justifies the cancellation or termination of the event.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on Tim Draper’s proposal to divide California into three separate state. Amar describes what the proposal would do and provides three levels of hurdles that will (and Amar argues should) make the proposal a difficult sell, particularly among rational Democrats, who make up the majority of California voters.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on the ABA’s process for reaccreditation of American law schools and describes some of the positive and negative aspects of that process. Amar explains that during the reaccreditation site visits, schools have the opportunity to learn from others similarly situated and to showcase their own progress, but there are still some challenges such as consistent application of ABA standards and the attempt to treat of all schools, however different they might be, the same for accreditation purposes.
In this second of a two-part series of columns, Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar evaluates the major constitutional and statutory voting rights claims asserted in the federal challenge to Texas’s use of the so-called Winner-Take-All approach to selecting the state’s representatives to the Electoral College. Amar explains why he finds both types of arguments set forth in the complaint largely unpersuasive.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a lawsuit recently filed in Texas challenging the winner-take-all method by which Texas (and other states) administer presidential elections. Amar explains the benefits and drawbacks of the method and why the lawsuit is unlikely to elicit changes in Texas or elsewhere.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the phenomenon by legislators on judges for alleged "activism." Amar argues that when the attacks on judicial independence move from seeking to limit jurisdiction or undo particular rulings to attempting to remove jurists themselves, although such attacks may not "seem" right, they are (perhaps oddly) legal. He points out that state constitutions operate not just in the larger context of morality and justice, but also in the larger context of the US Constitution. Ultimately, Amar explains, the most important decisions are made not by judges or even legislators, but by voters, when they elect people to the political branches.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why the US Supreme Court was right to leave undisturbed the recent congressional redistricting ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Amar describes the important role (and limitations) of state courts and state legislative bodies in our federal system.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and UC Davis Law emeritus professor Alan E. Brownstein describe and analyze the two main legal doctrines that give rise to the action in the blockbuster movie The Post, which chronicles the efforts of journalists at the Washington Post and the New York Times to publish the Pentagon Papers. As Amar and Brownstein explain, the rule against prior restraint and the collateral bar rule animated many of the motives, moves, and countermoves that were documented in the acclaimed film.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers some wisdom he shared during his keynote remarks at the swearing-in ceremony of new lawyers in Springfield, Illinois, describing how lawyers can help build American democracy. Amar comments on the specific duties and responsibilities lawyers swear to uphold, and explains why these duties are critical to the very foundations of our country.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers five resolutions he, as a law school dean, hopes to achieve in 2018. These resolutions include taking time to read recent scholarship by his faculty, increasing attendance at campus events, improving communication between faculty and alumni, managing (and reducing, when feasible) bureaucratic burdens, and spending more time with students.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes three important constitutional takeaway lessons from 2017. First, improper motive is the key to attacking many government actions, but it is a difficult ground on which to succeed. Second, the US Supreme Court seems to take a different position from that of lower courts on a number of issues. Finally, many norms that people assume are enshrined in the Constitution are actually not.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers some timely tips for law students during the law school exam season. Noting that there often seems to be a divide between what students know on a given topic and what their exam answers convey to a grader, Amar provides common sense test-taking suggestions to help bridge that gap, as well as insight into what law professors often look for in a successful exam answer.