Kathleen Sullivan

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For other people named Kathleen Sullivan, see Kathleen Sullivan (disambiguation).
Kathleen Sullivan
11th Dean of Stanford Law School
In office
Preceded by Paul Brest
Succeeded by Larry Kramer
Personal details
Born Kathleen Marie Sullivan
(1955-08-20) August 20, 1955 (age 59)
Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Cornell University (B.A.)
University of Oxford (M.Phil.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)

Kathleen Marie Sullivan (born August 20, 1955) is a professor at the Stanford Law School and name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, a litigation-only white shoe law firm with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Silicon Valley, Chicago, San Francisco, Germany, Sydney, Hong Kong, London, and Tokyo where she chairs their national appellate practice group.

She was considered to be a potential candidate to replace David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. If she had been nominated, she would have become the first openly lesbian nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court in American history.[1]


Early life and education[edit]

Born in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan and raised on Long Island, Sullivan graduated from Cold Spring Harbor High School in 1972. She participated in the Telluride Association Summer Program during high school, graduated from Cornell University in 1976, and graduated as a Marshall Scholar from Wadham College, Oxford in 1978. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1981, where Professor Laurence Tribe called her, at the time, "the most extraordinary student I had ever had."[2]

After law school, she worked for one year as a law clerk for Judge James L. Oakes on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.[3] She worked briefly as a constitutional litigator in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is a Member of the California, New York and Massachusetts bar.[citation needed]

Academic career[edit]

Sullivan was a professor of law at Harvard Law School from 1984-93. She joined Stanford Law School in 1993 and became the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law in 1996. She served as the dean of Stanford Law School from 1999-2004, when she voluntarily stepped down to serve as the inaugural director of a new Stanford center on constitutional law.[3] Since 2004, she has been the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.[4][5][6][7][8]

Legal expertise[edit]

Sullivan's expertise is in the area of constitutional law. She is the author of a leading text in the field,[9] Constitutional Law, with the late Professor Gerald Gunther. She is also an appellate litigator. She has won a number of cases in the United States Supreme Court, including Granholm v. Heald, which struck down a state prohibition of interstate wine shipping.[10] She has also represented Shell Oil in an appeal to limit the company's liability for toxic waste.[11] She has filed pro bono briefs in a wide range of civil rights cases before the United States Supreme Court, and served as co-counsel for the losing side in the 1986 gay rights case Bowers v. Hardwick.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Sullivan, a member of the New York bar since 1982, and the Massachusetts bar since 1988, failed the July 2005 California bar exam for out-of-state attorneys, leading many to question either the usefulness of the exam or her preparation for it.[13] She retook it in February 2006 and passed.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harmon, Andrew (April 9, 2010), "Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Retiring", The Advocate, retrieved April 12, 2010 
  2. ^ Nancy Waring (Summer 1999). "Congratulations Dean Sullivan". Harvard Law Bulletin. 
  3. ^ a b "Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen M. Sullivan announces decision to complete deanship at close of five-year term; will direct new Stanford constitutional law center: 10/03". News-service.stanford.edu. 2004-09-01. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  4. ^ Savage, Charlie (2009-05-02). "Wider World of Choices to Fill Souter's Vacancy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  5. ^ James Bandler and Nathan Koppel (December 5, 2005). "Raising the Bar: Even Top Lawyers Fail California Exam". Wall Street Journal. p. A1. 
  6. ^ Joan Biskupic (September 29, 2004). "The next president could tip high court". USA Today. 
  7. ^ Chris Lin (January 10, 2006). "Sullivan failed Calif. bar exam". The Stanford Daily. p. 1. 
  8. ^ "Empowering Spirits Foundation - Lesbian to Possibly Fill U.S. Supreme Court Seat?". Facebook.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  9. ^ "Official Biography of Kathleen M. Sullivan". Stanford Law School. 
  10. ^ Supreme Court Report
  11. ^ "Superfund". Eenews.net. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  12. ^ "Supreme Court Report". Caselaw.lp.findlaw.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 
  13. ^ Bandler, James. "Raising the Bar: Even Top Lawyers Fail the Exam". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  14. ^ The State Bar of California. "State Bar of California: Kathleen M. Sullivan". Members.calbar.ca.gov. Retrieved 2013-12-05. 

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Paul Brest
Dean of Stanford Law School
Succeeded by
Larry Kramer