Pamela S. Karlan

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Pamela Karlan
Personal details
Born February 1959 (age 55–56)
Political party Democratic
Domestic partner Viola Canales
Alma mater Yale University
Religion Judaism

Pamela Susan Karlan (born February 1959) is a professor of law at Stanford Law School, a leading liberal[1] legal scholar on voting rights and the political process, and the U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights in the United States Department of Justice Civil Division.

Early life and education[edit]

Karlan earned her bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1980 and a law degree and master of arts in 1984.[2] At Yale Law School, she served as an Article & Book Reviews editor of the Yale Law Journal.[3]

In 1984-85, Karlan worked as a law clerk for former U.S. District Judge Abraham David Sofaer. In 1985-86, she clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun.

Blackmun revealed in a 1995 oral history with Harold Koh that his dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick was written primarily by Karlan. Blackmun said of the dissent, 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]

Professional career[edit]

From 1986 until 1988, Karlan worked as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. From 1988 until 1998, Karlan was a professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law.

In 1998, Karlan joined the faculty of Stanford Law School. She is the school's Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law. Karlan co-founded the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, through which students litigate live cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.[2]

Karlan is also a teacher at Stanford Law School and has won the school's prestigious Hurlbut teaching award multiple times.

Work in Obama administration[edit]

On December 20, 2013, news organizations confirmed that Karlan has been tapped to serve as the U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights in the United States Department of Justice Civil Division.[5] The position does not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Public profile[edit]

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 called When Elections Go Bad: The Law of Democracy and the Presidential Election of 2000.

Throughout her career, Karlan has been an advocate before the U.S. Supreme Court.[6] She was mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court when he retired in 2009.[7]


She told Politico in 2009, "It's no secret at all that I'm counted among the LGBT crowd."[8] She has described herself as an example of "Snarky, bisexual, Jewish women."[9] Her partner is Viola Canales.[10]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]