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
Follow-Up on California’s Legislative Effort to Repeal Proposition 187

U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar continues his discussion of the California Legislature’s efforts to repeal, by ordinary legislation, provisions of a proposition that have been blocked indefinitely by a federal district court judge. Amar responds to arguments by the State Legislative Counsel that Proposition 187 can be repealed by simple legislation. He contends that the Legislative Counsel overreads the import of a judicial block on enforcement of the proposition and ignores the expressive effects of that law. Amar concludes by proposing that while he agrees that the repeal should go forward, it should follow prescribed procedures and include popular approval.

Why the California Legislature Can’t Simply Repeal the Judicially Invalidated Proposition 187

U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses efforts by California lawmakers to repeal provisions of the state code that a federal judge invalidated many years ago. Amar explains why those efforts, though understandable, reflect fundamental understandings of the scope of the legislature’s authority and the essence of judicial review.

Three Recently Accepted Cases Shed Light on the Supreme Court’s Process for Granting Review

U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses how three cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for the 2014-2015 Term illustrate the nuanced principles behind the Court’s selection of cases for review. Amar describes each case and explains why the Supreme Court likely chose it for review.

The Equality and Coercion Issues Inadequately Addressed in Town of Greece v. Galloway

U.C. Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein express their surprise and disappointment at the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway, upholding a practice of starting town board meetings with a prayer. Amar and Brownstein argue that the decision inadequately addresses legitimate concerns over the plaintiff challengers’ equality- and liberty-based arguments. They conclude that Justice Kennedy, who authored the opinion, must view reality quite differently from how he did when he authored the majority opinion in Lee v. Weisman and struck down state-sponsored prayers at public middle and high school graduations.

How the Biggest Supreme Court Victory for Affirmative Action a Decade Ago Contributed to the Defeat for Affirmative Action Last Month in the Schuette Case

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action upholding the Michigan state constitutional ban on race-based affirmative action. Amar explains how the Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger—widely regarded as a victory for proponents of affirmative action programs—paradoxically contributed to the outcome in Schuette. Amar concludes that while diversity is a worthwhile rationale for race-based admissions programs, minority students would be better served if that rationale supplemented, rather than a replaced, the original remedial purpose of such programs.

What Will the Supreme Court Do in the False Campaign Speech Case, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, Argued This Week?

Justia columnist and UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a campaign regulation case in which the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this week. In that case, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) challenged on First Amendment grounds an Ohio law criminalizing certain false statements concerning a candidate for public office. Amar predicts what the Supreme Court will do and contrasts that with what he believes the Court should do in this case.

The Narrow (and Proper) Way for the Court to Rule in Hobby Lobby’s Favor

Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, predict that Hobby Lobby will prevail in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. They add that it will be very important for the preservation of other important legal principles and public policies that the Court not rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor on too broad a basis. Thus, they comment on how the opinion should—and should not—be crafted.

Is Tim Draper’s Six Californias Plan to Split the State Legal Under California Law?

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar continues his discussion of the legal issues raised by Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” initiative. In this column, Amar focuses on one particular issue: whether California courts will block the initiative on the ground that it constitutes a “revision” of the California constitution. Amar explains the procedural distinctions between “revisions” and “amendments” to the state constitution and suggests that current case law does not clearly predict the outcome of the Six Californias initiative.

Consistency in the Treatment of Religious Liberty Claims: Hobby Lobby and Town of Greece Viewed Side by Side

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, comment on two key upcoming Supreme Court cases involving religion: (1) the highly-anticipated Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. cases that will be argued in the Supreme Court next month, and that involve challenges under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers must provide contraceptive services in their healthcare policies offered to employees; and (2) Town of Greece v. Galloway, which involves the permissibility of state-sponsored prayers before town board meetings.

The Ninth Circuit, in SmithKline v. Abbott Labs, Bars Lawyers From Removing Gay/Lesbian Jurors: Part Two in a Two-Part Series

In the second in a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, continue their commentary on a Ninth Circuit decision regarding the use of peremptory challenges in jury selection to eliminate gay or lesbian jurors. Amar and Brownstein also note the strong possibility of additional developments that may follow in this area of law, and a host of others, regarding gay and lesbian rights, especially if intermediate level scrutiny is held by the Supreme Court, in the future, to govern all types of sexual-orientation-based discrimination.

The Ninth Circuit, in SmithKline v. Abbott Labs, Bars Lawyers From Removing Gay/Lesbian Jurors

In Part One of this two-part series of columns, Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, discuss whether it violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause for a lawyer to “strike” (that is, remove) individuals from a jury panel on account of their sexual orientation. Part Two in this two-part series of columns will appear on February 14.

Why “Blind” Grading Makes Good Sense, and Should Be Used More Extensively Outside of the Context of Law School Exams

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar makes a strong case for using “blind” grading, which law school exams typically use, into contexts, such as the contexts of college and even high school exams.

Some Political and Constitutional Questions Raised by Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” Plan to Split Up California

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram Amar comments on Silicon Valley billionaire investor Tim Draper's proposed plan to divide up California into six separate states, on the ground that California’s diverse population and economies currently render the state nearly ungovernable. In this column, Amar spots and preliminarily analyzes some of the major issues that may arise regarding Draper's plan. (If and when the proposed measure successfully moves through various stages of the political process, Amar will likely offer a more detailed analysis of many of the questions that the plan raises.)

The Question of Disparate Speech Impact in the Court’s Upcoming McCullen v. Coakley Case

Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, analyze a very intriguing issue raised by a case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next month, McCullen v. Coakley, in which the plaintiffs challenge a Massachusetts law limiting pedestrian traffic near abortion clinics, because they seek to speak with women who are about to have an abortion and to attempt to deter them from doing so. Amar and Brownstein focus on how such laws ought to be categorized under Supreme Court precedent.

Is ALEC’s Draft “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act,” Concerning U.S. Senate Elections, Constitutional?

Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar addresses the constitutionality of a proposal from the Federalism Working Group of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—an influential and generally conservative policy-oriented institution—to meet to consider, among other things, a proposal that would empower state legislatures to add candidates to general election ballots for the office of United States Senator. Amar takes up the question whether a proposal like this would be consistent with the federal Constitution.

A Breakdown of this Week’s Supreme Court Oral Argument in the Town of Greece v. Galloway Case Involving Prayer at Town Board Meetings

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar, and Justia guest columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Alan Brownstein comment on the Supreme Court oral argument in the Town of Greece Establishment Clause case. As Amar and Brownstein explain, the case involves the interesting issue of the constitutionality of prayer at town board meetings.

Precisely How Much Academic Freedom Should (Does) the First Amendment Afford to Professors and Teachers at Public Schools? The Ninth Circuit’s Take in the Recent Demers v. Austin Case

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, analyze an important and interesting decision, Demers v. Austin, involving the First Amendment academic-freedom rights of public school and university faculty members that was handed down last week by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Amar and Brownstein argue that that a more concrete and categorical framework for resolving academic freedom disputes than the Ninth Circuit's needs to be fashioned.

Advice for the Law School Class of 2016: Ten Suggestions for Incoming Law Students

Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar offers advice for those who are starting law school this Fall. Amar bases his advice on his own experience as a law student, as a practicing lawyer, and as someone who has taught at four law schools over the past two decades. He offers certain advice that is intuitive but very much worth keeping in mind, and certain advice that is less intuitive and also worth poring over before classes start.

Another Front in the Same-Sex Equality Campaign: Jury Service, Peremptory Challenges, and the Smithkline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories Case Pending in the Ninth Circuit

Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar comments on Smithkline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories, which is being argued next month in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At issue is whether it is constitutionally permissible for a lawyer to eliminate would-be jurors from a case because of their sexual orientation. The issue arose in this antitrust lawsuit involving HIV medications, when an attorney exercised a peremptory strike to remove a possible juror from inclusion in the jury because, he said, the would-be juror was “or appears to be, could be, homosexual.” (Peremptory strikes allow each side of a case to remove a certain number of would-be jurors based on a hunch or intuition.)

Why California Should Repeal Proposition 8: Part Two in a Two-Part Series on What Should Happen to Same-Sex Marriage in California After Hollingsworth v. Perry

Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar describes why, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry, California still ought to repeal the State’s Proposition 8, for a series of reasons. After chronicling recent Prop. 8-related events, such as the attempts of some—such as the San Diego County Clerk—to enforce Prop. 8 even now, Amar also suggests that it would be valuable to have California voters vote on Prop. 8 once again, given that voters’ views have significantly changed, and now align against the Proposition. Amar also describes the logistics of getting a repeal measure on the ballot.