Heather Gerken

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law


Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Gerken is one of the country’s leading experts on constitutional law and election law. A founder of the “nationalist school” of federalism, her work focuses on federalism, diversity, and dissent.

FULL BIOGRAPHY

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Gerken is one of the country’s leading experts on constitutional law and election law. A founder of the “nationalist school” of federalism, her work focuses on federalism, diversity, and dissent.

Hailed as an “intellectual guru” in the New York Times, Professor Gerken’s scholarship has been featured in The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, NPR, the New York Times, and Time. Her work on election reform has affected policy at a national level.

At Yale, she founded and runs the country’s most innovative clinic in local government law, the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP). Professor Gerken is also a renowned teacher who has won awards at both Yale and Harvard. She was named one of the nation’s “twenty-six best law teachers” in a book published by the Harvard University Press.

A native of Massachusetts, Gerken graduated from Princeton University, where she received her A.B. degree, summa cum laude in 1991. A Darrow Scholar, she graduated from the University of Michigan Law School summa cum laude in 1994. Gerken currently serves as a trustee for Princeton University.

After law school, Professor Gerken clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit and Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. She then served as an appellate lawyer in Washington, D.C., before joining the Harvard Law School faculty in 2000. Gerken came to Yale in 2006 and became the inaugural J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law in 2008.

Professor Gerken has published extensively. Her work has been featured in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review as well as numerous popular publications. Her work has been the subject of four symposia, and she has served as a commentator for a number of major media outlets, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC News. Professor Gerken served as a senior advisor to the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012. In 2013, her proposal for creating a “Democracy Index” – a national ranking of election systems — was adopted by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which created the nation’s first Election Performance Index. She has been featured in the National Law Journal for balancing teaching and research, won a Green Bag award for legal writing, and has testified before the Senate three times.

The Tobin Project

The Democracy Index

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Heather Gerken ’91, a Leader in Constitutional Law, Prepares for New Role

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is interviewed on the occasion of her appointment as the next dean of the Law School.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Meet Heather Gerken, Yale's First Woman Law Dean

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken was interviewed on the occasion of her appointment as the next dean of the Law School.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


New Yale Law dean stresses standing up for rule of law

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about her appointment as the next dean of the Law School.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


An Interview with Yale Law School’s First Female Dean

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken was interviewed on the occasion of her appointment as next dean of the Law School.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Heather Gerken, known for federalism scholarship, is first woman to become Yale law dean

The journal reported on the appointment of J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken as the next dean of the Law School.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Heather Gerken Selected as Next Dean of Yale Law School

Professor Heather Gerken, the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law, has been selected as the next Dean of Yale Law School.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Yale Names Heather Gerken as First Woman Law Dean

Numerous faculty, students, and alumni are quoted in an article about the appointment of J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken as the next dean of the Law School.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


11 Top Constitutional Law Experts React to White House Stephen Miller’s Rejection of “Judicial Supremacy”

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken and Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law Cristina Rodríguez ’00, David Golove ’93 LLM ’99 JSD, Roderick Hills ’91, Dawn Johnsen ’86, and Pamela S. Karlan ’84 were among a group of constitutional law experts who replied to a query about comments made by Stephen Miller, the President’s Senior Policy Advisor.

Monday, February 13, 2017


I asked 8 experts if we’re in a constitutional crisis. Here’s what they said.

Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment Jack Balkin and J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken are quoted in an article about whether the U.S. is in a constitutional crisis.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


SFALP Clinic Contributes to Lawsuit on Sanctuary Cities

Students in Yale Law School’s San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) were instrumental in filing the first lawsuit against the Trump administration’s executive order on “sanctuary jurisdictions.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


The Ideological Reasons Why Democrats Have Neglected Local Politics

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is cited in an article about a growing focus by Democrats on state and local politics.

Monday, December 12, 2016


We’re about to see states’ rights used defensively against Trump—A Commentary by Heather Gerken

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Q&A: Professor Heather Gerken Discusses Progressive Federalism

Professor Heather Gerken explains how federalism and localism can be useful sites of politicking for people of all political stripes.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


States’ Rights for the Left

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is cited in an article about states’ rights and progressive federalism. A similar article appeared in Time Magazine.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


A Wisconsin court case may be the last best hope to fix gerrymandering by 2020—A Commentary by Heather Gerken

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


‘All Resistance Is Local’: A Plan of Progressive Action for the Trump Years

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken authored part of a roundtable debate about federalism.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Districts Favor G.O.P. Unfairly, Court Finds in a Key State Case

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about a recent court victory in a complaint over partisan redistricting in Wisconsin. Nicholas Stephanopoulos ’06, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, is mentioned.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Jefferson: The Musical

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about state’s rights.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Election Day Check In: Will Lawsuits Delay the Outcome?

William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law Stephen Carter ’79 and J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken are quoted in an article about the election.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Let’s Cheer This Badass Nevada Judge Who Understands Twitter Harassment

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about a Trump campaign legal challenge in Nevada.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Nonprofits Work at Polls to Smooth Voting and Rebut ‘Rigged’ Claims

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about research on election processes.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Philadelphia’s transit strike could affect who wins the election

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is interviewed about whether Pennsylvania can order striking transit workers back to work on election day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


The Supreme Court After Scalia

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about the future of the Supreme Court.

Friday, September 16, 2016


“Hacking the Election” Conference to Be Held September 20

The Center for Global Legal Challenges and the Information Society Project will co-host a conference on “Hacking the Election”

Sunday, May 29, 2016


From Jail To Yale: Ex-Offender Graduates With Law Degree 10 Years After Release

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken and Lecturer in the Practice of Law and Legal Writing Noah Messing ’00 are quoted in a profile of Dwayne Betts ’16, who will be a fellow with the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Donald Trump’s Campaign Backs Down From Threatened Lawsuit Over Delegates

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in a story about the rules around state primaries and caucuses.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


New Hampshire Predicts 78% of GOP Nominees Despite Only 82% Resemblance with U.S.

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken was interviewed as part of a feature on the New Hampshire primary.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Equality and American Democracy; Why Politics Trumps Economics

Research by J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is cited in an article titled “Equality and American Democracy; Why Politics Trumps Economics.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The Supreme Court Is a Partner in Transformation, Not the Sole Agent—A Commentary by Heather K. Gerken

Heather K. Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Did the Roberts Court Really Lurch Left?

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken and John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence William Eskridge ’78 contributed to a roundtable about the Roberts court.

Monday, November 3, 2014


On Voting Rights, Amendments Are Too Hard to Achieve and Enforce—A Commentary by Heather Gerken

Heather K. Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. 

Friday, March 22, 2013


Student Clinic Works to Prepare Historic Proposition 8 Case for High Court

Students from Yale Law School’s San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) describe their experiences working on landmark same-sex marriage case.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


New Elections Performance Index Inspired by Prof. Heather Gerken’s Democracy Index

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken's book Democracy Index inspires new Elections Performance Index.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


YLS Clinic Students Contribute to Noted Gas Pipeline Lawsuit

Two Yale Law students were acknowledged recently for their work with the San Francisco city attorney’s office on a noted gas pipeline lawsuit.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Yale Law Students Hear from World’s Top Women Jurists: Follow Your Own Path

The 15th Global Constitutionalism Seminar took place at Yale Law School Sept. 21 through 24, 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


YLS Faculty Honored for Legal Writing by the Green Bag Journal

Yale Law School faculty members are among those honored for exemplary legal writing in 2010 by the Green Bag journal.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


YLS Students Work on High Profile Cases in Partnership with San Francisco Attorney’s Office

Yale Law students are doing cutting-edge work as part of their participation in the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Professor Heather Gerken to Present J. Skelly Wright Inaugural Lecture March 8

Professor Heather Gerken will deliver her inaugural lecture as the first J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law on March 8, 2010.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Professor Heather Gerken Testifies at Senate Committee Hearing on Corporate Campaign Spending

YLS Professor Heather Gerken testified before a U.S. Senate committee on February 2, 2010, about corporate campaign spending.

Friday, September 11, 2009


NYC Plan to Improve Voting System Includes Democracy Index

A “Democracy Index,” first proposed by YLS Professor Heather Gerken, is part of a plan Mayor Mike Bloomberg has introduced in New York City to improve the election process.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Heather Gerken to Join Yale Law School Faculty

Professor Gerken is one of the country's leading experts on voting rights and election law, the role of groups in the democratic process, and the relationship between diversity and democracy.

SCHOLARLY PUBLICATIONS:

BOOKS

The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System is Failing and How to Fix It (Princeton University Press 2009)

Editor, Race, Reform, and Regulation of the Electoral Process: Recurring Puzzles in American Democracy (with Guy-Uriel Charles and Michael Kang) (2010)

 

ARTICLES, ESSAYS, AND REVIEWS

Playing Cards in a Hurricane:  Party Reform in an Age of Polarization, ___ Hous. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2017)

The Jorde Lecture:  A Research Agenda for Federalism in the 21st Century (forthcoming 2017)

Second-Order Diversity:  Decentralization’s Egalitarian Possibilities (forthcoming volume, Danielle Allen, ed. 2017)

The Taft Lecture:  Living Under Someone Else’s Law, 84 U. Cincinnati L. Rev. 377 (2016)

Beyond Sovereignty, Beyond Autonomy:  A Nationalist’s View of Federalism’s Future, National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution Project (2016)

Article I, Section 8Federalism and the Overall Scope of Federal Power, National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution Project (with Randy Barnett) (2016)

“The Citizens United Trilogy:  The Myth, the True Tale, and the Story Yet to Come,” in Election Law Stories 359 (2016) (with Erica Newland)

The Right to Vote:  A Conversation with the Co-Chairs of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, 159 Proceedings Am. Phil. Soc. 17 (March 2015)

The Real Problem with Citizens United:  Campaign Finance, Dark Money, and Shadow Parties, 159 Proceedings Am. Phil. Soc. 5 (March 2015)

The Childress Lecture, Federalism and Nationalism:  Time for a Détente?, 59 St. Louis. L. Rev. 997 (2015).

An Academic Elegy, 100 Iowa L. Rev. 109 (2015)

The Craft of Interpreting the Declaration of Independence, Crooked Timber (June 15, 2015)

The Party’s Over:  Shadow Parties, Campaign Finance, and the Legacy of McCutcheon, 2014 Sup. Ct. Rev. 175 (with Joseph Fishkin)

The Interlocking Gears of Rights and Structure:  Why the Critics Are Wrong about U.S. v. Windsor, 95  B.U. L. Rev. 487 (2015) (Boston University’s Annual Distinguished Lecture)

Living Under Someone Else’s Law, Democracy Journal 24 (Spring 2015) (with James Dawson)

Slipping the Bonds of Federalism, 128 Harv. L. Rev. 85 (2014)

The Political Safeguards of Horizontal Federalism, 113 Mich. L. Rev. 57 (2014) (with Ari Holtzblatt)

The Right to Vote:  Is the Amendment Game Worth the Candle?, 23 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 11 (2014)

How to Teach the Socratic Method with a Heart, 21 The Law Teacher 24 (Fall 2014)

Polarization at the Local Level, Marquette Lawyer 13 (Fall 2014)

The Two Trends That Matter for Party Politics, 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. Online 32 (2014) (with Joseph Fishkin)

The Real Problem with Citizens United:  Campaign Finance, Dark Money, and Shadow Parties, 97 Marquette L. Rev. 904 (2014).

Federalism as the New Nationalism:  An Overview, 123 Yale L.J. 1889 (2014)

The Loyal Opposition, 123 Yale L.J. 1958 (2014)

A Public Finance Model for Lobbying: Lobbying, Campaign Finance, and the Privatization of Democracy, 13 Elec. L. J. 75 (2014) (with Alex Tausanovitch)

The Federalis(m) Society, 36 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 943 (2013)

Abandoning Bad Ideas and Disregarding Good Ones for the Right Reasons:  Reflections on a Festschrift, 48 Tulsa L. Rev. 535 (2013)

Exit, Voice, and Disloyalty, 62 Duke L.J. 1349 (2013)

Make It Easy:  The Case for Automatic Registration, 28 Dem. J. 17 (2013)

Déjà vu All Over Again:  Courts, Corporate Law, and Election Law, 126 Harv. L. Rev. 86 (2013) (with Michael Kang)

Federalism(s), 53 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1549 (2012)

A New Progressive Federalism, 24 Dem. J. 37 (Spring 2012)

Comment, The Constitution, the Practice of Democracy, and Unintended Consequences, Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Winter 2012, at 26.

Keynote Address: Lobbying as the New Campaign Finance, 27 Georgia St. L. Rev. 1155 (2011)

The Foreword: Federalism All the Way Down, 124 Harv. L. Rev. 4 (2010)

Judge Stories: Clerking for Judge Reinhardt, 120 Yale L.J.529 (2010)

“The Institutional Turn in Election Law Scholarship” (with Michael Kang), in Race, Reform, and Regulation of the Electoral Process: Recurring Puzzles in American Democracy (Gerken, Charles, and Kang eds.) (2010)

Keynote Address, What Election Law Has to Say to Constitutional Law, 44 Ind. L. Rev. 7 (2010)

Getting From Here to There in Redistricting Reform, 5 Duke J. Const. L. & Pol’y 1 (2010)

Creating Better Heuristics in the Presidential Nominating Process: Why a Citizens Assembly Beats Out Iowa and New Hampshire, 125 Pol. Sci. Q. 233 (2010) (with Doug Rand)

Clerking for Justice Souter, 35 J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 4 (2010)

Mexico’s Election Reforms: A Comparative View, 2 Mexican L. Rev. 163 (July-December 2009)

In Praise of Rankings, John L. Gedid Lecture Series, 19 Widener L. Rev. 1 (2009)

Dean’s Lecture, The Invisible Election: Making Policy in World Without Data, 35 Ohio Northern L. Rev. 1013 (2009)

Making Democracy Work, Book Review (The Concept of Constituency: Political Representation, Democratic Legitimacy, and Institutional Design, by Andrew Rehfeld; Saving Democracy: A Plan for Real Representation in America, by Kevin O’Leary), 37 Pol. Theory 838 (2009).

Uncooperative Federalism, 118 Yale L.J. 1256 (2009) (with Jessica Bulman-Pozen)

“Provisional Ballots: The Miner’s Canary for Election Administration,” in Provisional Ballots: An Imperfect Solution (Report of the Pew Center on the States, 2009).

Getting from Here to There in Election Reform, 34 Okla. City. Univ. L. Rev. 33 (2009)

Shortcuts to Reform, 93 Minn. L. Rev. 1582 (2009)

Replacing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: An Opt-In Approach, White Paper, The Tobin Project

The (Winding) Road Ahead, “Data for Democracy: Improving Elections Through Metrics and Measurement,” 43 (Pew Center on the States 2008)

Larry and Lawrence, 42 Tulsa L. Rev. 843 (2007)

Justice Kennedy and the Domains of Equal Protection, 121 Harv. L. Rev. 104 (2007)

Rashomon and the Roberts Court, 68 Ohio St. L. J.1213 (2007)

The Hydraulics of Constitutional Reform: A Skeptical Response to Our Undemocratic Constitution, 55 Drake L. Rev. 925 (2007)

The Double-Edged Sword of Independence: Inoculating Electoral Reform Commissions Against Everyday Politics, 6 ELEC. L. J. 184 (April 2007)

Of Sovereigns and Servants, 115 YALE L. J. 2634 (2006)

A Third Way: Section 5 and the Opt-In Approach, in THE FUTURE OF THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT 277 (Epstein et al. 2006)

A Third Way for the Voting Rights Act: Section 5 and the Opt-In Approach, 106 COLUM. L. REV. 708 (2006)

Dissent, Diversity, and the Global Polity, in THE LEAST EXAMINED BRANCH: THE ROLE OF LEGISLATURES IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL STATE 547 (eds. Bauman & Kahana 2006)

Dissenting by Deciding, 57 STAN. L. REV.1745 (2005)

Second-Order Diversity, 118 HARV. L. REV. 1099 (2005)

Lost in the Political Thicket: The Supreme Court, Election Law, and The Doctrinal Interregnum153 U. PENN. L. REV. 503 (2004)

The Costs and Causes of Minimalism in Voting Cases: Baker v. Carr and Its Progeny, 80 N.C. L. REV. 1411 (2002)

Election Law Exceptionalism? A Bird’s Eye View of the Symposium, 82 B.U. L. REV. 737 (2002)

Understanding the Right to an Undiluted Vote, 114 HARV. L. REV. 1663 (2001)

Morgan Kousser’s Noble Dream, 99 MICH. L. REV. 1298 (2001)

New Wine in Old Bottles: A Comment on Richard Hasen’s and Richard Briffault’s Essays on Bush v. Gore, 29 FLA. ST. UNIV. L. REV. 407 (2001)

Note, Understanding Mixed-Motives Claims Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 91 MICH. L. Rev. 1824 (1993)

 

SELECT POPULAR PUBLICATIONS:

Semi-regular contributor to Balkinization, Election Law Blog, Room for Debate, and Politico.

Wisconsin Court Case May Be Last Hope to Fix Gerrymandering Before 2020,” Vox (Dec. 1, 2016)

Uncooperative Federalism,” The Nation (Nov. 29, 2016)

On Voting Rights, Amendments Are Too Hard to Achieve and Enforce,” New York Times Online (November 4, 2014)

The ‘Bad News Bears’ of Elections, The Hill (June 4, 2014)

The Real Problem with Citizens United,” Marquette Lawyer (Summer 2014)

Rerouting the flow of ‘dark money’ into political campaigns,” Washington Post (April 3, 2014) (with Wade Gibson and Webb Lyons)

The Fox and the Hedgehog:  How Do We Achieve Political Accountability Given What Voters (Don’t) Know?, Cato Unbound (October 14, 2013)

Goodbye to the Crown Jewel of the Civil Rights Movement,Slate (June, 2013)

Real State Power Means Getting in the Obama Care Game,” Harvard Business Review Online, (April 2, 2013) (with Ted Ruger)

No Middle Ground,” New York Times Online (June 27, 2011)

Coloring Inside the Lines,” Slate (November 10, 2010)

The Real Problem With Citizens United,” American Prospect Online (January 22, 2010)

A Silver Lining,” New York Times Online (January 21, 2010)

“Will History Repeat Itself?,” Huffington Post (October 29, 2009)

A False Depiction of Judging,” New York Times Online (July 15, 2009)

Four Lawyers Review Sotomayor’s Performance," Wall Street Journal (July 17, 2009).

An Uncertain Fate for the Voting Rights Act,” American Prospect Online (June 23, 2009)

Race, Voting Rights, and the Genius of Justice Souter," American Prospect Online (May 5, 2009)

A Common Law Judge,” New York Times Online (May 4, 2009)

“Our Elections Run Well, Don’t They?,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 30, 2009

We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes,” The American Prospect, March 27, 2009

The Case for Keeping Score, “Revitalizing Democracy: Special Report,” The American Prospect (January/February 2009)

The Invisible Election, Election Law Blog, November 16, 2008

Shadow districting commissions, Balkinization (series of posts dated May 5, 6, 31 & June 4, 2008)

Out of the Shadows: Private redistricting can help overcome lawmakers’ partisanship, LEGAL TIMES (Vol. XXXI, No. 18, May 5, 2008)

Fixing Democracy, Brennan Center for Democracy Blog (May, 2008)

Justice Kennedy’s Emerging Vision of Race, Balkinization (series of posts dated September 25-27, 2007)

A New Agenda for Election Law Scholarship, Balkinization (series of posts dated June 18-22, 2007)

New Style of Election Reform Begins to Emerge, ROLL CALL (Tues. March 27, 2007).

How Does Your State Rank on the Democracy Index? LEGAL TIMES (Vol. XXX, No. 1, January 1, 2007)

Six Ways to Reform Democracy, Seeds of Change Forum, BOSTON REVIEW (November/December 2006)

Let’s Shift Gears in Voting-Rights Enforcement, ROLL CALL (Dec. 12, 2005)

Next Time, Start with the People, Balkinization, Nov. 10, 2004 (with Chris Elmendorf)

Citizens Must Drive Electoral Reform, ROLL CALL (Nov. 15, 2005)

For Shame: How to Embarrass States into Election Reform, TNR-Online (Sept. 28, 2005)

Race (Optional), The New Republic (Sept. 15, 2005).

Lost in the Political Thicket, LEGAL AFFAIRS (November/December 2004) 22.

Bigger Issues, New Democracy Forum, 26 BOSTON REVIEW 18 (2001)

 

WORKS IN PROGRESS:

The Myth of the Laboratories of Democracy

The Loyal Opposition (book project)

“Getting From Here to There in Election Reform: A Trio of Ideas” (April 12, 2010)