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) 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
How Changing Ballot-Access Rules in an Election Year Can Raise Constitutional Problems: The Illinois Colazzo Case

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a recent Illinois state court ruling in Colazzo v. Illinois State Board of Elections, which dealt with the complex issue of ballot access and the application of a new state law that would have prevented certain Republican candidates from appearing on the November 2024 general election ballot. Professor Amar argues that while the court reached the correct result in this case, the reasoning behind the decision raises interesting questions about the independence of state law grounds, the constraints on altering election rules close to an election, and the need to balance fairness and notice concerns with the importance of each election in maintaining democratic integrity.

Is it Constitutional to Facilitate Exemption of Older Persons From Jury Service Based on Their Age? A California Provision Raises the Question

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses how California’s Rule of Court 2.1008, which allows individuals aged 70 and older to be excused from jury service due to disability without requiring documentation, may violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment’s prohibition on age discrimination in voting rights. Professor Amar argues that since jury service is a form of political participation akin to voting, singling out those 70 and older in a way that reduces their jury participation based on assumptions about age and disability is constitutionally problematic, just as it would be to excuse women from juries based on assumptions about their domestic responsibilities.

Justice Kagan’s Intriguing Concurrence in This Month’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Case

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) v. Community Financial Services Association of America, Ltd., which upheld the constitutionality of the CFPB’s funding scheme, and examines the role of “history and tradition” in the Court’s constitutional jurisprudence. Professor Amar argues that while relying on post-enactment traditions to interpret the Constitution raises complex questions, especially in the context of originalism, such traditions may be more defensible when determining the scope of individual rights as opposed to structural provisions like separation of powers and federalism.

Could the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau (CFPB)’s Victory in the Supreme Court Last Week Boomerang to Disempower the Bureau and Invalidate its Regulations? Not if the Case is Read Carefully and Properly: A Response to Professor Hal Scott’s Wall Street Journal Op-Ed

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a recent Supreme Court decision holding that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) funding mechanism, which draws money from the Federal Reserve System rather than yearly congressional appropriations, does not violate the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause. Professor Amar argues against the view expressed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that this ruling could turn into a “stunning defeat” for the CFPB due to the Fed’s recent operating deficits, asserting that the Court’s decision merely rejects the Appropriations Clause as a basis to challenge the CFPB’s funding and does not affirmatively rely on that Clause to justify the Bureau’s operations.

Why Even Ostensibly Peaceful Expressive “Encampments” at Universities Are Not Immune From Restrictions Under the First Amendment, With Special Attention to Some Analogies to Abortion Clinics

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and professor emeritus Alan E. Brownstein discuss the regulation of student protests and encampments on college campuses, particularly focusing on the balance between protecting free speech and ensuring the safety and functioning of the university. Professors Amar and Brownstein argue that while peaceful protests should generally be permitted, universities have significant interests—such as preventing physical obstruction, noise pollution, unsanitary conditions, and liability issues—that can justify content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions on encampments, even if evenly enforcing such restrictions during tense situations presents challenges.

Can a Public High School Punish a Student for Asking a Question that Refers to “Illegal Aliens”? Part Two in a Two-Part Series

In this second of a two-part series of columns discussing a recent incident at a North Carolina high school where a student was suspended for using the term “illegal alien” in class, UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone explore how the dispute might be analyzed applying only the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District. Professors Amar and Mazzone argue that while schools have some authority to regulate disruptive student speech under Tinker and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, the student’s suspension here likely violated due process because he lacked clear prior notice that using this term, which appears in Supreme Court opinions and federal statutes, was prohibited.

Can a Public High School Punish a Student for Asking a Question that Refers to “Illegal Aliens”? Part One in a Two-Part Series

In this first of a two-part series of columns discussing a recent incident at a North Carolina high school where a student was suspended for using the term “illegal alien” in class, UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone explain the relevant First Amendment case law surrounding student speech in public K-12 schools. Professors Amar and Mazzone suggest that under the Supreme Court’s decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, which allows schools broad authority to regulate student speech that occurs within the curriculum, the school may have been justified in disciplining the student, but they note that there are still some unresolved questions and complexities that they will address in Part II of their analysis.

Ten Tips for Success on Law School Exams

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar offers advice to law students on how to perform well on law school exams. Professor Amar’s main points include the importance of outlining before writing, addressing all major course topics, answering the specific questions asked, allocating time and space wisely, showing one's work, anticipating counterarguments, writing clearly, differentiating between settled and debatable issues, being concise, and proofreading responses.

Another Campus Episode of Protestors Shouting (and Shutting) Down an Invited Speaker: Representative Jamie Raskin’s Endowed Lecture at the University of Maryland

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses two recent incidents at Stanford Law School and the University of Maryland where student protesters disrupted invited speakers, and he explores the legal and constitutional implications of such disruptions. Professor Amar argues that while protesters have a right to express their dissent, they do not have a constitutional right to “shout down” speakers in a way that prevents the speakers from being heard, and that universities can and should adopt content-neutral policies to prevent such disruptions without violating free speech principles.

Recent Headlines Confirm the Inadequacy of the Supreme Court’s Reasoning in Trump v. Anderson

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar discusses how the decentralized nature of the U.S. presidential election system allows individual states to have varying rules that can significantly impact the overall outcome, as illustrated by recent examples from Ohio, Nebraska, and the Supreme Court case Texas v. Pennsylvania. Professor Amar argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in Trump v. Anderson, which emphasized the need for uniformity in presidential candidate ballot access across states, was not adequately defended by the Justices, as it failed to address why the Constitution permits such consequential disuniformity in election administration among states.

The Supreme Court’s Misplaced Emphasis on Uniformity in Trump v. Anderson (and Bush v. Gore)

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone coment on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Trump v. Anderson holding that states cannot enforce Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to bar former President Donald Trump from primary election ballots due to his alleged role in the January 6 Capitol breach. Professors Amar and Mazzone argue that the Court’s reasoning, primarily based on concerns about nationwide ballot uniformity in presidential elections, is flawed because it fails to properly consider the Constitution’s overall design, which grants states significant autonomy in running presidential elections and selecting electors.

Was the Federal District Court Correct in Dismissing Disney’s Speech-Retaliation Case Against Florida Officials?

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar, Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone, and Illinois Law’s First Amendment Clinic director Lena Shapiro examine the legal intricacies and constitutional debates surrounding a federal district court’s dismissal of the Disney Corporation’s lawsuit against Florida officials, in which Disney alleges retaliatory action for Disney’s criticism of Florida laws by changing the governance of the land regulating Disney World. The authors highlight the complexity of First Amendment issues involved, the precedent set by prior cases, and the broader implications for speech regulation and governmental retaliation, suggesting areas for deeper academic exploration.

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.