The constitution is the backbone of the American way of life, and the way it is interpreted and developed heavily influences that way life. The follow law professors are some of the most frequently cited, heavily recognized constitutional professors, and have a profound influence on how we view the constitution. Not everyone is wholly focused on constitutional law, and some of them may not even have actually been professors, but their influence is undeniable.
In no particular order, here are the 30 most influential constitutional law professors.
President Obama displayed excellence early on, serving as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review while a student. After graduation, he returned to his hometown of Chicago and taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. Though some have questioned the veracity of his claims to be a professor, the UC Law School stands behind him. Regardless of whether he was a good professor or not, as President of the United States he has a definite impact on the constitution.
One of the most cited constitutional law professors, Cass Sunstein is presently on leave from his tenured position as the Felix Frankfurter Professor at Harvard Law. Prior to that he served 27 years as a professor at UC Law. He is an accomplished author, well-respected scholar, and helped co-develop the concept of availability cascades.
Considered by many to be the nation’s leading liberal scholar of constitutional law, Laurence Tribe has had an impressive career as a professor at both Harvard Law and Carl M. Loeb University at Harvard. He has taught President Barack Obama, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Kathleen Sullivan (two of whom appear on this list). He is a fierce and vocal supporter of liberal causes, co-founding the American Constitution Society to serve as the counter to the conservative Federalist Society.
A strong supporter of gun control, gay marriage, and freedom of speech, Erwin Chemerinksy is the founding and active dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Prior to his position there, he served at Duke School of Law and University of Southern California Law School. He is a well-respected constitutional scholar and has published a number of books and over a hundred law reviews. He served as a commentator during the OJ Simpson trial.
Frequently cited for his work, primarily in same-sex marriage and the laws targeting gay individuals in the US, William Eskridge is the John A. Garber Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale University. He coauthored a respected and innovative casebook on legislation with Prof. Phillip Frickey. After representing a gay couple in a suit to get their marriage legally recognized in the early 90s, he published a vital casebook and dozens of law review articles supporting and outlining the legal framework to encourage equality for gender and sexual minorities.
6) Mark Tushnet
Mark Tushnet is a well-regarded scholar of constitutional law and legal history and is currently serving as the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law. Prior to that, he served for years as a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and as a law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall between 1972 and 1973. He espouses controversial views in constitutional theory, believing that judicial review ought to be strictly limited. He has co-written three important case books, a number of law reviews, and several books.
7) Bruce Ackerman
Named one of the top global thinkers in 2010 by Foreign Policy magazine, Bruce Ackerman is one of the most often cited legal minds in the US. He currently serves as a Sterling Professor at Yale Law. He is a prolific author, with fifteen books and over eighty articles in print.
8) Akhil Amar
A current Sterling Professor of Law at Yale, Akhil Amar was named one of the top 20 contemporary US legal thinkers by a Legal Affairs poll in 2008. He is frequently cited by the Supreme Court, including their landmark decision in 1998 in Clinton v. City of New York, where the presidential line-item veto was ruled unconstitutional.
9) Daniel Farber
Presently the Sho Sato Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, Dan Farber also serves as the Chair of the Energy and Resources Group on campus, as well as the Co-Director of the Center of Law, Energy, and the Environment. He focuses much of his work on environmental law and climate change and has written a number of respected books and articles.
10) Richard Fallon
A two-time winner of Harvard Law’s Sacks-Freund Award (2001, 2006) for teaching excellence, Richard Fallon is serving as the Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard. He has written often on Constitutional Law and Federal Courts Law.
The current dean as well as a professor of law at Yale Law, Robert Post has authored and edited a number of books focused on constitutional law, the First Amendment, legal history, and equal protection. He is often published in legal journals as well. Prior to his career in academia, he served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.
Professor at the University of Tennessee, and author of one of the mostly widely read political blogs – Instapundit. Reynolds is a staunch libertarian who most recently gave the keynote at a Harvard Law School symposium on Constitutional Conventions. He has authored a variety of books and has columns in several major newspapers and magazines, including USA Today and Popular Mechanics.
A widely acknowledged expert on constitutional law and present professor of government at the University of Texas Law School, Sanford Levinson is perhaps best known for his criticism of the constitution and what he believes is excessive presidential power. His views on the Second Amendment, gay marriage, Supreme Court nominations, and other issues are often quoted.
She was once thought to be on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination to replace David Souter. If Kathleen Sullivan had received a nomination, she would have been the first openly lesbian nominee in US history. She is currently a professor and served as the 11th dean at Stanford Law School. Working with Professor Gerald Gunther, she has co-authored Constitutional Law, which is considered to be a leading text in the field.
15) Owen Fiss
A well-respected Sterling Professor at Yale Law, Owen Fiss is known for his strident advocacy of strong regulation of political campaigns. Earlier in his career he served as a clerk, first for Thurgood Marshall and later for William J. Brennan, Jr. He is a prolific author as well as active in law school programs in Latin America and the Middle East.
Jack Balkin is presently the Knight Professor at Yale Law, where he also serves as director of the Information Society Project, which he founded at Yale in 1997. He coined the term ”ideological drift,” which looks at how an individual’s political beliefs change over time as they are influenced by new ideas, and discusses many theoretical ideas in his numerous books.
17) Michael Dorf
Michael Dorf serves as a professor at Cornell Law and has penned a number of law review articles related to constitutional law, as well as a number of books. He’s an active legal blogger and contributor to an e-zine called Verdict and an occasional guest expert in the media, ranging from NPR and The New York Times to The Daily Show.
18) Frank Michelman
Frank Michelman is the Robert Walmsley Professor, Emeritus at Harvard Law and is perhaps best well known for his important law review article Property, Utility, and Fairness, which was cited in an important Supreme Court case authorizing a landmark New York City law that prevented the construction of buildings that would detract from city landmarks. His piece looked at economic reasons for just compensation as laid out in the Fifth Amendment takings clause. He’s also served as the VP and President of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy.
Described in a review for one of his books entitled The Federal Courts in Political Order as being ”without a doubt the foremost scholar on issues of federal court jurisdiction in this generation,” Martin Redish currently serves as a professor of law and public policy at Northwestern University School of Law. He is an active writer, with over 80 articles and 15 books in print. He has been recognized as the sixteenth most cited legal scholar of all time and has won several awards for teaching excellence.
Professor Eugene Volokh, a native of THE Ukraine, is a UCLA law professor most noted for his expertise on the First and Second Amendments, as well as for his specialty in copyright law. His work has been cited by judicial figures as prominent as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He maintains a blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, and is also an affiliate for the Mayer Brown law firm.
Though he is on leave until 2014, Professor Kramer served as the Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School. He is currently serving as president of the Hewlett Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the country. In addition to his notable works on federalism and the purpose of courts in societal systems, he pioneered well-received reform to the Stanford Law curriculum during his tenure as dean.
Professor Pildes serves as a constitutional law teacher at New York University, where his taught courses including deep looks into democracy, voting, the election process in the US and abroad, and the Constitution in general. He is considered a pioneering figure in the fields of voting rights and disenfranchisement, and his writing on Shaw v. Reno (509 U.S. 630), which dealt with gerrymandering along racial lines, is highly regarded.
Charles Fried is a law professor at Harvard and former Solicitor General of the United States under President Reagan. His courses cover a wide spectrum of topics, which include labor, criminal, and constitutional law. Though he has no degree in philosophy, many of his published works are focused on ethical reasoning, with one book bearing the simple title, “Right and Wrong.”
The interaction between the Supreme Court and the people it serves has been at the forefront of Professor Friedman’s career, as he noted in a George Washington Law Review article, “Public understandings of constitutional meaning and judicial interpretations of the Constitution interact with one another.” His work touches on law, political science, and history, which provides a unique angle for examining the federal court system. Friedman currently serves as a Professor of Law at New York University.
Recognized as one of the most well-known scholars of constitutional law, Suzanna Sherry is presently a law professor at Vanderbilt Law School. She is a respected author, with more than 75 books and articles, focused in part on federal courts and their procedures.
Richard Epstein is presently the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law. He was selected in a poll as one of the most influential legal thinkers of modern times, and is known for his advocacy of minimal legal regulation. He is also known for his disdain for the two primary parties in national elections.
The Journal of Legal Studies claims that Ronald Dworkin was the second most-cited legal scholar of the twentieth century. He presently serves as the Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University. He is well known for his critique of Hart’s legal positivism, which can be found in full in his book entitled Law’s Empire.
While not wholly focused on constitutional law, Laurence Lessig is often cited for his scholarly views in the area. He currently serves as the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law and the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics there. He’s well known for his political activism with a focus on reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum. He has written on political campaign finance reform, and called for a state-based drive to promote reform of government with a Second Constitutional Convention. He began his career as a conservative, serving as a law clerk for both Richard Posner and Antonin Scalia, though he now identifies as a liberal.
Ronald Rotunda is a professor of law at Chapman University. Prior to serving as a professor he was a member of Harvard Law Review and served as a clerk to Walter R. Mansfield of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He co-authored a widely respected course book on legal ethics entitled Problems and Materials on Professional Responsibility, as well as a course book on constitutional law, Modern Constitutional Law. He is a prolific author whose works are frequently cited.
While not focused on constitutional law, Richard Delgado’s work is often cited in related cases because of his focus on free speech and racial equality. He is currently a professor of law at Seattle University School of Law. A prolific author with over 150 journal articles and 27 books, he has received high praise for his writing and has won eight national prizes.