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
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.

Musings on the Debt-Ceiling Controversy and the (Related) Limits of Arguments Sounding in Stare Decisis

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on the debt-ceiling controversy and argues that the left would be well-advised to engage the merits of these political and constitutional questions, rather than invoking the “the other side is unfairly trying to undo things that have already been decided” argument. Dean Amar points out that in fiscal politics and constitutional law, the status quo is not nearly as easy to identify or rigid as some would suppose, and very few decisions are truly immune from reconsideration, despite the principle of stare decisis.

Preliminary Thoughts on Potential Constitutional Flaws in SB 403, a California Proposal to Prohibit Caste Discrimination

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on California’s SB 403, which proposes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste. Dean Amar points out some of the constitutional flaws in the bill and describes some changes that likely need to be made to make the law more constitutionally defensible.

First Amendment Challenges to Public University DEI Programs

Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar explores some of the difficult questions related to First Amendment challenges to public university diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and programs. Dean Amar points out that while open-ended balancing tests are often unsatisfying, sometimes—as may be the case with these challenges—they are also the best courts can come up with.

More Developments in Moore (v. Harper), and the Central Role Justice Anthony Kennedy Has Played in Addressing the “Independent State Legislature” Theory (ISL) that Moore Raises

Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar comments on the latest developments in Moore v. Harper, the pending Supreme Court case involving the “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) theory of Articles I and II of the Constitution. Dean Amar explains how we might interpret the Moore parties’ offer (and the Justices’ acceptance) of supplemental briefing on the effect of the ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court last week and explores the significance of newly reported information about Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s apparent abandonment of ISL theory during the deliberations in the 2000 Bush v. Gore case.

The Court Should Maintain Optionality in Resolving the So-Called “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) Theory by Granting Cert. in Huffman v. Neiman Right Away as the Justices Chew on Whether Moore v. Harper is Moot

Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar and Professor Jason Mazzone argue that, in light of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s “switcheroo” regarding partisan gerrymandering, the U.S. Supreme Court should immediately grant certiorari in Huffman v. Neiman to resolve the question of “Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that the intense litigation pressure of today’s presidential elections and the shaky stature of the present Supreme Court together strongly support the Court acting quickly to resolve this pressing issue.

Friendly Advice for Law Schools Seeking to Inculcate Proper Free-Speech Values and Understandings in Light of the Stanford Episode with Judge Kyle Duncan: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a series of columns in response to the Stanford Law School controversy involving disruption of a federal judge’s speech, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer additional thoughts about how to design a training session about the freedom of speech and norms of the legal profession should include. Specifically, Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone discuss (1) when and how educational institutions should themselves speak, (2) the best ways to register disagreement with offensive speakers and messages, and (3) what schools should do about students who say they feel genuinely harmed or unsafe when certain kinds of speakers are present.

What Law Students Should Take Away from the Stanford Law School Controversy Involving Disruption of a Federal Judge’s Speech: Part One in a Series

In response to the Stanford Law School controversy involving disruption of a federal judge’s speech, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer thoughts about how to design a training session about the freedom of speech and norms of the legal profession should include. In this first of a series of columns, Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone focus on two key topics: (1) What, precisely is “shouting down” of a speaker, and why can such activity be prohibited and punished? And (2) What About the Venerable Tradition of “Civil Disobedience”?

What Role Can States Properly Play in Resisting Potential Federal Overreach? A Recent Federal Case From Missouri Involving Gun Rights Illustrates Possibilities and Misconceptions

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on a recent decision by a federal district judge striking down Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA). Dean Amar argues that while there are signification portions of SAPA that are unconstitutional and should be enjoined, the court’s decision is overbroad and poorly reasoned and should be reversed in part on appeal.

More on Ranking Law Schools, and What Can be Learned from Ranking of Sports Teams: Part Two in a Series

In this second in a series of columns about law school rankings, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains how rankings for law (and medical) schools can benefit from innovations in college sports rankings. Specifically, Dean Amar suggests greater reliance on numerical, analytic metrics to help with assessments, less frequent updating of the rankings, and enabling consumers to adjust the weight of various ranking factors according to what they value in a school.

Some Thoughts on the Recent Controversies Concerning Law (and Med) School Rankings: Part I in a Series

In this first of a series of columns on the controversy over the rankings of academic institutions, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains the source of the controversy and describes some of the inconsistencies among the critics—among whom he counts himself. Dean Amar points out that academic rankings might look to sports rankings to see how the latter solves some of the issues inherent in prominent national rankings.

Post-Argument Analysis in the Moore v. Harper Case Raising the So-Called “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) Theory: What Might the Court Do?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar analyzes last week’s oral argument in the Moore v. Harper case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which raises the “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) theory. Dean Amar makes seven key observations, including that a majority of the Court seems poised to reject ISL’s basic textual premise but also a middle group of Justices seem inclined to retain U.S. Supreme Court oversight over state courts on issues of federal elections.