Pamela S. Karlan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Pamela Karlan
Personal details
Pamela Susan Karlan

February 1959 (age 60)
Political partyDemocratic
Domestic partnerViola Canales
Alma materYale University

Pamela Susan Karlan (born February 1959) is a professor of law at Stanford Law School. A leading liberal 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]


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

After graduating 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 school's 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 called When Elections Go Bad: The Law of Democracy and the Presidential Election of 2000.

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 service[edit]

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

On December 20, 2013, Karlan was tapped 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 Division.[6] The position did not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Karlan took up her post on 13 January 2014.[7] She received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the DOJ's highest award for employee performance, for her work in implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor.[5]

Throughout her career, Karlan has been an advocate before the U.S. Supreme Court.[8] She was mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter when he retired in 2009.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Karlan told Politico in 2009, "It's no secret at all that I'm counted among the LGBT crowd".[10] She has described herself as an example of "snarky, bisexual, Jewish women".[11] Her partner is writer Viola Canales.[12]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Gerstein, Josh (20 December 2013). "Karlan to take Justice Department voting rights post". The Politico. Capitol News Company. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Liptak, Adam (31 December 2005). "So, guy walks up to the bar, and Scalia says..." The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Articles about Pamela S. Karlan". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Gerstein, Josh (5 May 2009). "Groups push for first gay Supreme Court justice". The Politico. Capitol News Company. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ 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 links[edit]