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 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.

Can A City Refuse Land-Use Permits Because it Doesn’t Like the Federal Policies the Property Will be Used to Implement?

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why a local government cannot constitutionally create policy discriminating against entities that do business with the feds. Specifically, Amar discusses a situation in which the city of Farland, California, is trying to prevent a privately operated state prison facility located in that city from contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

An Important Second Circuit Ruling on Sanctuary Jurisdictions May Have Reached the Right Result, but En Route it Misread the Momentous Sebelius Supreme Court Ruling on Conditional Federal Funding to States

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions. Amar argues that while the Second Circuit may have arrived at the correct conclusion of law, it also misunderstood the Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius, in which the Court struck down the “Medicare expansion” provision of the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutionally coercive. Amar points out that in Sebelius, the Court found the fact that the Medicare expansion provision of the ACA vitiated the terms of a preexisting deal was sufficient to hold that provision coercive.

Two Constitutional Lessons Worth Remembering: Norms Are Different From Legal Rules; And Improper Intent Matters But Is Hard To Establish

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the controversy surrounding President Trump’s tweets about the sentencing of Roger Stone, addressing the important differences between norms and legal rules. Amar points out that the motive underlying such presidential decisions is ultimately what determines whether the action is improper—and that such motives are notoriously difficult to establish.

The Real Insidious Part of Dershowitz’s Impeachment Defense

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and Michigan Law dean emeritus Evan Caminker discuss Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s explanation of why he stands (virtually) alone in his views on impeachment—that all the scholars who disagree with him are biased partisans. Amar and Caminker explain why this claim is so insidious, with effects lasting well beyond the span of the current presidency.

The Unacknowledged Clash Between the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of the Religion Clauses and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and UC Davis law professor emeritus Alan Brownstein comment on a largely unacknowledged clash between religious accommodations and exemptions on the one hand, and core free speech principles which the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, on the other. Amar and Brownstein describe this apparent conflict and suggest that the Court begin to resolve the conflict when it decides two cases later this term presenting the question of the scope of the “ministerial exception.”

Senate Secrecy: Can the Votes of Senators on President Trump’s Impeachment be Withheld from the Voting Public?

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone evaluate the suggestion made by some that the votes of senators on President Trump’s impeachment can and should be private. Amar and Mazzone argue that while the text of the Constitution alone does not foreclose secrecy, structural, prudential, and logistical considerations strongly disfavor a secret vote on the matter.

Can a President Who Is Reelected After Being Acquitted in One Impeachment Case be Retried by a Subsequent Senate?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether a President who has been impeached and acquitted may, if reelected, be retried by a subsequent Senate. Amar acknowledges that it is unclear whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendments’ criminal procedural protections apply to impeachment proceedings, but he offers two key reasons that re-litigation of impeachment allegations after presidential reelection would be improper.