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
In (Trial) Courts (Especially) We Trust

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the increasing importance of courts and lawyers in safeguarding and reinforcing the role of factual truths in our democracy. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that lawyers and judges are steeped in factual investigation and factual determination, and they call upon legal educators (like themselves) to continue instilling in students the commitment to analytical reasoning based in factual evidence, and to absolutely reject the notion that factual truth is just in the mind of the beholder.

If the Challengers Prevail on the Merits of the ACA California v. Texas Case, What is the Appropriate Remedy and What Effect Should the Ruling Have on the Entirety of the ACA? Part Four in a Series

In this fourth of a series of columns examining the California v. Texas case challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar, Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker, and Illinois law professor Jason Mazzone consider what the appropriate remedy should be if the challengers prevail on the merits of the case. The authors explain why enjoining the 2017 amendment, which zeroed out the potential tax penalty for failure to maintain the specified health insurance coverage, is a more appropriate remedy than striking down the entire ACA.

The (Unwanted) Return of Bush v. Gore and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Underappreciated Impact on the 2020 Election

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes an underappreciated influence of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—her carefully reasoned majority opinion in Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. As Dean Amar explains, in that case, Justice Ginsburg rejected nearly identical arguments to those relied on today in asking federal courts to challenge state courts’ and agencies’ rulings protecting the right of their citizens to vote as provided for under state statutes and constitutions.

Is the So-Called Mandate Without Any Tax Consequences Unconstitutional? And If So, How Should a Court Remedy That? Part Three in a Series Examining Underexplored Issues in the California v. Texas Affordable Care Act Case

In this third of a series of columns examining underexplored issues in the California v. Texas case challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar, Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker, and Illinois law professor Jason Mazzone consider whether the so-called individual mandate of the ACA, now without any tax consequences, is unconstitutional, as the challengers argue. The authors explain why, in their view, the challengers are incorrect, regardless of whether the word “shall” in the ACA is interpreted as obligatory or not.

“Standing” In Unfamiliar Territory: Part Two in a Series on the California v. Texas Affordable Care Act Case

In this second of a series of columns on the latest prominent challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar, Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker, and Illinois law professor Jason Mazzone comment on the standing issue presented in California v. Texas. The authors explore the Solicitor General’s creative argument and argue that the argument leaves several hurdles unaddressed. The authors point out that even if the plaintiffs in these cases can overcome the hurdles, the Court should consider that embracing the Solicitor General’s broad new theory would open the door to other, even more aggressive, applications.

Reflections on the Pending Supreme Court Challenge to the Affordable Care Act in California v. Texas: Part One in a Series

In this first of a series of columns on the latest prominent challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar, Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker, and Illinois law professor Jason Mazzone examine the stare decisis effects of the Supreme Court’s initial blockbuster decision involving the ACA. The authors demonstrate several, perhaps surprising, ways that the earlier decision should shape how the Court views the present challenge.

My Favorite Three from RBG

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on three writings by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that he finds himself most drawn to. Amar describes these writings as addressing ideas central to our form of democratic government, namely popular sovereignty, equal voting access, and judicial deference to Congress on policies involving the entire nation.

What About the Bar Exam After the 2020 Dust Settles?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on some of the questions commentators and analysts are, or will soon be, asking—specifically why we have bar exams for legal licensure, and, assuming we retain them, what they should look like going forward. Amar observes the limitations of the so-called diploma privilege advocated by some and suggests that states adopt greater interstate uniformity in their bar exams, shift toward more performance (as opposed to memorization) exams, and move away from being so time pressured.

A Deeply Misguided Fifth Circuit Ruling on Voting Rights and the Twenty-Sixth Amendment

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a divided three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit holding that a Texas vote-by-mail law that prefers people who are 65 or older does not violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the federal Constitution. Amar explains why the decision is “deeply misguided” and runs counter to the clear words of the Constitution.

The Future of Faithless Electors and the National Popular Vote Compact: Part Two in a Two-Part Series

In this second of a two-part series of columns about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the “faithless elector cases, Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar describes some good news that we may glean from those cases. Specifically, Amar points out that states have many ways of reducing elector faithlessness, and he lists three ways in which the Court’s decision paves the way for advances in the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact movement.

A Backward- and Forward-Looking Assessment of the Supreme Court’s “Faithless Elector” Cases: Part One in a Two-Part Series

In this first of a two-part series of columns about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in the “faithless elector” cases, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar expresses disappointment that the majority opinion—authored by Justice Elena Kagan—and concurring opinion—by Justice Clarence Thomas—are not as well reasoned or careful as they could be. Amar points out some of the ways in which the opinions fall short, noting some of the arguments that merited more discussion, or at least more thorough consideration.

Reflections on the Movement in California to Repeal the State’s Ban on Affirmative Action

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers three observations on a measure recently approved by the California legislature that would, if approved by the voters, repeal Proposition 209, the voter initiative that has prohibited affirmative action by the state and its subdivisions since its passage in 1996. Amar praises the California legislature for seeking to repeal Prop 209 and for seeking to do so using the proper procedures, and he suggests that if Prop 209 is repealed, legal rationales for the use of race should be based not only on the value of diversity (as they have been for some time now), but also on the need to remedy past wrongs against Black Americans.

How the President and Attorney General Could Have Avoided the Geoffrey Berman Debacle

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the recent dispute over the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and explains what President Trump and Attorney General Barr could have done to avoid the problem altogether. Amar describes a process that, if followed, could have allowed the administration to appoint their first-choice candidate without causing the controversy in which it now finds itself.

Why It is Unconstitutional for State Bars, When Doling out Bar-Exam Seats, to Favor In-State Law Schools

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar explains why it is unconstitutional for state bars to favor in-state law schools when deciding who may sit for the state bar exam while complying with social distancing requirements, based on the Supreme Court’s precedents on the dormant Commerce Clause.

What’s at Stake in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue? What the Equal Protection Clause Means in the Context of Classifications Based on Religiosity

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and UC Davis emeritus professor Alan E. Brownstein comment on a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that raises the question whether a religiously neutral student-aid program in Montana that affords students the choice of attending religious schools violates the religion clauses or the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Amar and Brownstein express no opinion as to whether the courts’ often-expressed concerns about striking down invidiously motivated laws can be effectively overcome, but they contend that jurists who reject invalidating invidiously motivated laws must explain why reasons sufficient in other contexts are not persuasive in this case.

Linking COVID-19 Relief for State Governments to Abandonment of “Sanctuary” Policies? The Uncharted Territory of Conditional Spending

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone assess President Trump’s suggestion that federal aid to state and local governments might be conditioned on their willingness to abandon their “sanctuary” policies and assist the federal government in immigration enforcement. Although Amar and Mazzone expect those federal spending conditions not to be realized, they use the President’s comment to list and describe some unanswered fundamental constitutional questions in the conditional spending arena.

Wisconsin’s Decision to Have an Election This Month Was Unjust, But Was it Also Unconstitutional? Why the Plaintiffs (Rightly) Lost in the Supreme Court

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent per curiam decision staying an injunction by a federal district court in Wisconsin, effectively allowing the election in that state to go forward on with the normal timeline for casting ballots in place, despite concerns over the effects of COVID-19. Amar and Mazzone argue that, while the outcome might have been unjust, the plaintiffs in that case likely did not allege a constitutional violation and thus did not properly allege claims suitable to be remedied in federal court.

How Allen v. Cooper Breaks Important New (if Dubious) Ground on Stare Decisis

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on language in a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Allen v. Cooperdiscussing constitutional stare decisis in the context of state sovereign immunity. Amar points out some of the problems with the Court’s jurisprudence on state sovereign immunity and Congress’s Section 5 power, and he questions the Allen majority’s embrace of a “special justification” requirement for constitutional stare decisis.

How the Coronavirus Crisis Reveals Weaknesses Not Just in America’s Public Health Systems But in Our Constitutional Doctrines

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains how the current crisis caused by the novel coronavirus reveals flaws in both America’s public health system and also in the country’s constitutional doctrines. Responding in part to Professor Michael C. Dorf’s column of March 15 urging uniform federal restrictions, Amar expresses doubt as to whether Congress’s powers under Article I of the Constitution permit imposition of such a lockdown in the first place.

The Importance of Incorporating “Soft Skills” Into Your Legal Writing

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and Schiff Hardin writing coach Julie S. Schrager explain the importance of incorporating “soft skills”—rooted in emotional intelligence and viewing your writing from your reader’s perspective—into legal writing. Amar and Schrager offer four key tips to help legal writers, whether first-year law students or seasoned attorneys, become more effective communicators.