Pamela Susan Karlan (born February 1, 1959) is an American professor of law at Stanford Law School. A leading legal scholar on voting rights and political process, she served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights in the United States Department of Justice Civil Division from 2014 to 2015.[1]

Pamela Karlan
Pamela Susan Karlan

(1959-01-01) January 1, 1959 (age 61)
EducationYale University
OccupationAmerican legal scholar
Years active1984–present
Partner(s)Viola Canales


Karlan earned her B.A. degree in history from Yale University in 1980, as well as an M.A. degree in history and J.D. degree in 1984.[2] At Yale Law School, she served as an article and book reviews editor of the Yale Law Journal.[3]

After graduation from law school, Karlan worked as a law clerk for former U.S. District Judge Abraham David Sofaer of the Southern District of New York from 1984 to 1985. She went on to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun the following year. In a 1995 oral history with Harold Koh, Blackmun revealed that his dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick had been written primarily by Karlan. He said that Karlan "did a lot of very effective writing, and I owe a lot to her and her ability in getting that dissent out. She felt very strongly about it, and I think is correct in her approach to it. I think the dissent is correct."[4]


After her clerkships, Karlan worked as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 1986 to 1988.

From 1988 to 1998, Karlan taught law at the University of Virginia School of Law, where she won the All-University Outstanding Teaching Award in 1995–96 and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Award in 1997.[5] In 1998, Karlan joined the faculty of Stanford Law School. She is the school's Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law. In 2004, Karlan cofounded the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, through which students litigate live cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.[3] In 2002, Karlan won the school's prestigious John Bingham Hurlbut Award for Excellence in Teaching.[5]

Karlan has frequently commented on legal matters for PBS NewsHour. During the disputed 2000 presidential election, she appeared regularly in the news media to discuss its comportment with constitutional law. In the aftermath of the election, Karlan, Samuel Issacharoff, and Richard Pildes adapted two chapters from the law school casebook that they co-authored into a book entitled, When Elections Go Bad: The Law of Democracy and the Presidential Election of 2000.[citation needed]

On December 4, 2019, Karlan—alongside law professors Noah Feldman, Michael Gerhardt, and Jonathan Turley—testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment in the Impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.[6]

Karlan is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and the American Law Institute.[5]

Public serviceEdit

In 2003, she was appointed to the California Fair Political Practices Commission by Controller Steve Westly. Until 2005, she served as commissioner to help implement and enforce California’s campaign finance, lobbying, and conflict of interest laws.[3]

On December 20, 2013, Karlan was appointed by the Obama administration to serve as the U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights in the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.[7] The position did not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Karlan took up her post on January 13, 2014, and served for one year.[8][9] For her work in implementing the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, she received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the DOJ's highest award for employee performance.[5]

Throughout her career, Karlan has been an advocate before the U.S. Supreme Court.[10] She was mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter when he retired in 2009.[11]

Political viewsEdit

Karlan has said that the United States should help Ukraine fight Russia so that the United States does not have to fight Russia on its own territory.[12]

Personal lifeEdit

Karlan told Politico in 2009, "It's no secret at all that I'm counted among the LGBT crowd".[13] She has described herself as an example of "snarky, bisexual, Jewish women".[14] Her partner is writer Viola Canales.[15]

Works and publicationsEdit

Selected booksEdit

  • Karlan, Pamela S. (2013). A Constitution for All Times. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-01989-7. JSTOR j.ctt9qf8bs. OCLC 863038741.
  • Issacharoff, Samuel; Karlan, Pamela S.; Pildes, Richard H.; Persily, Nathan (2016). The Law of Democracy: Legal Structure of the Political Process (5th ed.). St. Paul, MN: Foundation Pres. ISBN 9781628102253. OCLC 956640376.

Selected journalsEdit


  1. ^ Taylor, Stuart. "An excellent Supreme Court shortlist". National Journal. Atlantic Media Company. Archived from the original on 2010-04-12.
  2. ^ "Profile: Pamela S. Karlan". Stanford Law School. Archived from the original on 2008-06-05.
  3. ^ a b c Karlan, Pamela S. "CV" (PDF). Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  4. ^ Volokh, Eugene (23 April 2005). "Saturday, April 23, 2005". The Volokh Conspiracy: The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d "Pamela S. Karlan Biography". Stanford Law School. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  6. ^ Fadulu, Lola (4 December 2019). "Who Is Pamela Karlan? Legal Leader Committed to Progressive Causes". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Gerstein, Josh (20 December 2013). "Karlan to take Justice Department voting rights post". The Politico. Capitol News Company. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Pamela S. Karlan |". Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  9. ^ Gregg, Remington (13 January 2014). "HRC Blog: Pamela Karlan takes helm as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in DOJ Civil Rights Division". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  10. ^ Liptak, Adam (31 December 2005). "So, guy walks up to the bar, and Scalia says..." The New York Times.
  11. ^ "Articles about Pamela S. Karlan". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Hains, Tim (4 December 2019). "Professor Karlan: Ukraine Is Important "So We Can Fight The Russians There And We Don't Have To Fight Them Here"". RealClearPolitics.
  13. ^ Gerstein, Josh (5 May 2009). "Groups push for first gay Supreme Court justice". The Politico. Capitol News Company. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  14. ^ "American Constitution Society Blog: Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan concludes 2006 ACS National Convention". American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. 22 June 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  15. ^ Jean Ann, Esselink (29 December 2013). "On our radar – An overdue thank you To Pamela Karlan". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved 23 March 2015.

External linksEdit