Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor of Law and Former Dean 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
The Supreme Court’s Oral Argument in Trump v. Anderson: The Court’s Seeming Failure to Understand Some Basic Starting Points

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar expresses concern over the quality of the Supreme Court’s oral argument in Trump v. Anderson, suggesting that the Justices’ questions failed to adequately address the complexities of the case and the constitutional principles at stake, particularly regarding the electoral college and interstate federalism. Professor Amar critiques the Court’s understanding of the electoral college system, arguing that the Justices’ apprehensions about the potential consequences of their decision overlook the inherent flexibility states have in appointing electors—a flexibility underscored by originalist constitutional interpretations and past precedents.

Why a Recent Federal Lawsuit Filed by Republican Party Officials Challenging Mississippi’s Approach to Counting Ballots in Federal Elections Lacks Any Significant Chance of Success

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone comment on a federal lawsuit filed by the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Mississippi, among others, challenging Mississippi’s law that counts mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day but received within five business days thereafter for federal elections. Professors Amar and Mazzone argue that this lawsuit is unlikely to succeed due to the implausibility of its legal theory, highlighting the distinction between the act of voting and the counting of votes, and underscoring the constitutional and statutory framework that grants states broad leeway in election administration, including the acceptance of mail-in ballots.

Why Some Sports Journalists May Want to Go to Law School Before They Opine About the Law: The Misguided Criticism of the University of Illinois and its Head Basketball Coach, Brad Underwood, Over the Terrence Shannon Jr. Case

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar defends the University of Illinois’ reinstatement of standout basketball player Terrence Shannon Jr. following a court injunction against his suspension due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Professor Amar argues that the University’s compliance with the court order, which recognized Shannon’s due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, was legally sound, and emphasizes that the decision to play Shannon was not influenced by the unproven allegations but rather by a legal obligation to treat him as any other team member in good standing. Professor Amar criticizes commentary by sports journalists like Gary Parrish for misunderstanding the legal nuances and the University’s obligation to adhere to the court’s ruling, noting that the decision to play Shannon is a matter of legal compliance, not a disregard for the seriousness of the allegations.

Reflections on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Recent Invalidation of Non-Contiguous State Legislative District Lines, With Special Attention to the Ruling’s Relevance, If Any, to the Independent State Legislature Theory

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent decision invalidating the state’s legislative district lines based on its finding that they were unconstitutional due to non-contiguous territories, a decision criticized by conservatives as partisan. Professor Amar points out that this ruling, focused only on state legislative districts, does not directly implicate the “Independent State Legislature” theory discussed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Moore v. Harper case, as it pertains to state, not federal, elections. Furthermore, Professor Amar argues that the decision’s compliance with straightforward state constitutional text suggests federal courts are unlikely to find it violates due process or republican government principles, illustrating the limited role of federal oversight in state court interpretations of state law post-Moore.

Another Bad Argument Against the Application of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to President Trump: Part Two of a Two-Part Series

In this second of a series of columns, UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar responds to arguments against disqualifying Donald Trump from presidential election ballots under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, focusing on Ross Douthat’s assertion in a New York Times essay that such disqualification is antidemocratic. Professor Amar argues that enforcing constitutional provisions, including Section 3, is not antidemocratic as it reflects the will of the people, and he emphasizes that the real question is whether the requirements of Section 3 have been met in Trump’s case.

Bad Arguments Against the Application of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment Against President Trump: Part One of a Two-Part Series

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar points out flaws in Professor Larry Lessig’s argument in Slate regarding the inapplicability of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to Donald Trump, emphasizing that the presidency is indeed an “office under the United States” and therefore covered by Section 3. Professor Amar highlights Professor Lessig’s failure to address this key point and questions why Professor Lessig’s essay overlooks the fact that federal legislators are not considered officers under the United States, a crucial distinction in constitutional law.

How Important is the Eighth Circuit’s Recent Ruling that the Voting Rights Act Does Not Contain a Private Right of Action? Section 1983 and Ex Parte Young as Workarounds

UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar argues that a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, holding that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not confer a private right to sue, may not be as catastrophic as some fear, given that there are potential workarounds for victims of Voting Rights Act violations. Professor Amar suggests that plaintiffs could use alternatives like 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or Ex Parte Young to address violations, as these routes do not require an explicit or implied private right of action under the statute being violated.

Big Change to the LSAT May Alleviate Time Pressure for Some Takers

Notwithstanding some recent competition, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) remains the most widely used and accepted standardized test considered by American law schools to admit new students to law school. That is why it is significant news that the President/CEO of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the organization responsible for designing, administering, and grading the LSAT, recently announced changes to the LSAT’s format, beginning in August 2024.

Originalist Reasons the Tax in Moore v. United States is Constitutional: Lessons from Hylton v. United States (1796)

UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the upcoming Supreme Court case, Moore v. United States, which involves a tax issue concerning a husband and wife who are shareholders in a company located in India. Professor Amar argues in this column and in his amicus brief, which he co-authored with Professor Akhil Amar, that the tax in question is constitutional, drawing support largely from the Supreme Court’s 1796 case Hylton v. United States.

Senator Bob Menendez’s Indictment Shines an Interesting Spotlight on New Jersey’s U.S. Senate Vacancy-Filling Procedures

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Yale College senior Ethan Yan discuss the complexities and legal questions around a potential U.S. Senate vacancy in New Jersey, focusing on the current political situation surrounding Senator Bob Menendez. Professor Amar and Mr. Yan conclude that while New Jersey law allows Governor Phil Murphy considerable discretion in filling a Senate vacancy, including the possibility of appointing his wife Tammy, such a move would likely be politically damaging, even if constitutionally permissible.

Partisan Gerrymandering Case Under the New Mexico Constitution Nears Critical Point

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the ongoing legal battle over congressional redistricting in New Mexico, where Republicans have filed a lawsuit claiming that new district maps favor Democrats and violate the state constitution. Professor Amar emphasizes the importance for the New Mexico state courts to clearly base their rulings on the state constitution rather than the federal Constitution, and to justify their decisions more explicitly so as to demonstrate greater legitimacy.

The Flawed Premise at the Core of the Threats to Impeach Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the controversy surrounding the potential impeachment of new Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz for having expressed her views on gerrymandering during her campaign. Professor Amar argues that sharing one’s views on specific legal topics should not be grounds for impeachment, as it helps the public understand a candidate’s legal philosophy and does not necessarily mean the judge’s mind is fixed on an issue.

Is Higher Education Spending Excessive? In Some Ways Maybe Yes, in Others Perhaps Not

Responding to an article earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal criticizing spending by state universities, UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar argues that while public universities have indeed increased spending and tuition, the situation is more nuanced than simply blaming administrative bloat or wasteful spending. Professor Amar contends that higher education today offers a qualitatively different product than it did two decades ago, with enhanced services in career planning, mental health, and academic support, among other things, and that these changes, along with external factors like professorial salaries and underfunded pensions, contribute to the rise in costs.

Doubts About Mitch McConnell’s Health Implicate Important Questions Under the Seventeenth Amendment

In light of recent questions regarding the health of U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar examines Kentucky’s 2021 statute on filling Senate vacancies, which restricts the governor’s appointment power by requiring a choice from a list provided by the departing senator’s political party. Professor Amar expresses doubt about the law’s constitutionality in light of the Seventeenth Amendment and the historical intent to reduce political party influence in Senate appointments.

Some (Very) Preliminary Musings on the Loper Bright Case Next Term Involving the So-Called Chevron Deference Doctrine

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Loper Bright case the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing next term, which provides the opportunity for the Court to revisit (and potentially eliminate) the Chevron deference doctrine. Professor Amar points out and analyzes some of the constitutional issues raised by the doctrine.

A State Divided Against Itself: The Implausible “New Illinois” Idea

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar explains why the “New Illinois” idea—which suggests separating the urbanized Chicago area from the rest of the state—is legally and politically implausible. Professor Amar points out two unanswered constitutional questions and the daunting political hurdles that make the “New Illinois” idea unlikely to ever be more than an idea.

Huzzah for the Court in Moore v. Harper

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Moore v. Harper, in which the Court forcefully repudiated the essence of the so-called “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) theory. Dean Amar describes the apparent evolution of several Justices’ views on ISL theory and explains how that evolution led to the Court’s sound rejection of the theory.

Another Free-Speech Dustup Arising from A Student-Invited-Speaker Event, This One at Pitt, Highlights Recurring Problems at Universities, and in Free Speech Doctrine

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on another free-speech controversy related to a student-invited speaker at the University of Pittsburgh. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone describe the demand letter sent to Pitt officials by the Alliance Defending Freedom and explain why some of their arguments are on solid legal ground while one is tenuous at best.

Fourth Circuit High School Case from Virginia Offers Controversial, and Seemingly Dubious, Definition of “Disparate Impact” in Equal Protection Challenges

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving the admissions policy at a school in Virginia. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that while it’s not clear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will review this case, the issue the case raises is likely to be one the Court takes up soon.

A Colorado High School Graduation Dispute Illustrates Both the Dangers of the So-Called Government-Speech Doctrine and the Need for Better Education From the Supreme Court and the Legal Academy on First Amendment Basics

Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar critiques a recent decision by a federal district judge in Colorado on free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Dean Amar points out the essential problems with the court’s reasoning and assesses what those errors might mean about the shortcomings of legal education and the legal system.