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
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.

When the Supreme Court Overrules a Prior Constitutional Case, Has the Meaning of the Constitution Itself Changed? A Georgia Abortion Dispute Raises the Question

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and California civil litigator Michael Schaps respond to the apparent view of a Georgia trial court judge that the current Supreme Court cannot retroactively affect the previous status (existence/non-existence) of a constitutional right found by a previous Court. Dean Amar and Mr. Schaps point out the flaws of this view and the absurd outcomes it would lead to if taken to its logical extension.

More on Moore: Part Two in a Series on Originalism in the ISL Case

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar continues his discussion of why the “Independent State Legislature” theory is incorrect and counter to the original understanding of the Constitution. Dean Amar points to four key errors the Petitioners in Moore v. Harper make in their filings with the Supreme Court and argues that some of their omissions demonstrate just how non-originalist their theory really is.

What the ISL Moore v. Harper Case Can Tell Us About Principled Originalism

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains what Moore v. Harper, the case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear in December involving the so-called “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) theory, tells us about principled originalism. Specifically, Dean Amar argues that to embrace ISL theory would mean flouting George Washington, the first Congress, and the makers of all the early post-ratification state constitutions (to say nothing of the Americans who adopted the Constitution against the backdrop of the Articles of Confederation’s apparent meaning)—indeed the very antithesis of originalism.

Vacancy-Filling Wrinkles Created by Ben Sasse’s Expected Departure from the U.S. Senate

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar, professor Jason Mazzone, and Yale College junior Ethan Yan comment on some of the issues created by Ben Sasse’s (R – Nebraska) expected departure from the U.S. Senate. Dean Amar, Professor Mazzone, and Mr. Yan describe the requirements and constraints of Nebraska state law and the U.S. Constitution.

Response to Baude/McConnell on ISL

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar rebuts an argument by Professor Will Baude and Michael McConnell regarding the so-called “Independent State Legislature” theory, which is being invoked by Republican elected legislators in North Carolina in a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. Dean Amar explains why the best understanding of the term “legislature” as used in Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution to describe logistics of federal election logistics is “lawmaking system,” rather than a specific entity or body of persons.

Is Justice Kagan Right that Areas of Constitutional Law Should Not Change Quickly on Account of New Membership on the Court?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on recent comments by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan expressing reservations about doctrinal changes attributable to the arrival of new Justices. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that new Justices have played an important and generally positive role in advancing the constitutional landscape.

Where Have All the (Aspiring) Law Profs Gone?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider some possible explanations for the ever-decreasing number of applicants for tenured/tenure-track faculty among law schools. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone propose five possible reasons but point out that whatever the true reason(s), the apparent decline in the demand among talented new legal minds for law-teaching jobs should be a topic of discussion and concern.

If Originalism Is Going to Be Displaced, Critics Must Do Better than Dean Chemerinsky Seems to Be Doing

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone respond to several points about originalism made by Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky in a recent article published in The Atlantic. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone explain why three claims in particular—that originalism is an “obscure legal theory” only a few decades old, that judicial review in the federal courts is anti-originalist, and that accurately determining original meaning is “impossible.”

What Does it Mean for Other Institutions to “Defy” or “Check” the Supreme Court? Not What the Court Invites Those Institutions to Do

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone respond to a recent column by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, arguing that neither of the recent high-profile developments after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision is an example of “defying” the Court or “checking” judicial power. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that while neither the abortion vote in Kansas nor the pending federal marriage-equality proposal may fairly be characterized as “defying” or “checking,” some political reactions to Supreme Court rulings in the past arguably have involved defiance or disobedience of the Court.

Why the Clean Air Act’s Special Treatment of California Is Permissible Even in Light of the Equal-Sovereignty Notion Invoked in Shelby County

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains why the Clean Air Act’s provision allowing California to set its own air-pollution standards does not violate the notion of equal sovereignty. Dean Amar notes that the equal sovereignty idea as applied in Shelby County v. Holder is likely wrong, but even assuming it is correct, he argues it does not apply to the Clean Air Act because (1) the Clean Air Act was enacted under Congress’s Commerce Clause powers, a provision that does not require geographic uniformity, and (2) the alleged inequality disfavors the many, rather than the few.

The Kavanaugh Court?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar observes that Justice Brett Kavanaugh is emerging as a centrist perspective in key cases, including one expanding gun rights (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen) and one repudiating abortion rights (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization). Dean Amar points out that although Justice Kavanaugh voted with the majority in both cases, he added a narrower gloss via a concurring opinion and was the only Justice to do so in both cases.

(Yet) Another Reason ISL Theory is Wrong About the Meaning of the Term State “Legislature”: The Constitution’s References to the Federal Counterpart—“Congress”

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision to grant review of a North Carolina partisan gerrymandering dispute involving the Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar offers yet another reason that the theory is critically flawed. Although Dean Amar has described in numerous publications why ISL theory is illogical and atextual, he newly observes that the Constitution uses another term—“Congress”—to refer at times to the legislative body and other times to the lawmaking process, inclusive of presidential involvement.

How and Why Justice Breyer (and Other Justices) Should Weigh in on the Independent-State-Legislature Notion Before Breyer Retires

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar argues that the U.S. Supreme Court should put the so-called Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory to rest sooner rather than later. Specifically, Dean Amar suggests that Justice Stephen Breyer—who is set to retire but who joined Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter in expressly rejecting ISL in 2000—should be among the voices to condemn the unsupportable theory.

Middle-Ground Possibilities in Dobbs? A Few Arguments From “Political Reliance”

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar describes a few (albeit unlikely) ways in which the Supreme Court could more moderately rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., rather than outright striking down Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which a majority seems poised to do), or upholding them (which three Justices almost certainly support). Dean Amar explains the doctrine of “political reliance” and how it could lead the Court either to “return” the abortion question to the states to legislate (rather than having unenforced pre-Roe statutes to spring back to life), or to “sunset” the abortion right, giving the public time to account for the change in law.