Michael J. Gerhardt

Print This Page (PDF) Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor in Constitutional Law & Director, Program in Law and Government


  • J.D., University of Chicago (1982)
  • M.S., London School of Economics and Political Science (1979)
  • B.A., Yale University (1978)

Michael Gerhardt is Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law. He has specialized in constitutional conflicts and been active as a special counsel, scholar, adviser, expert witness, and public commentator on all the major conflicts between presidents and Congress over the past quarter century.

Professor Gerhardt has written dozens of law review articles and five books, including The Power of Precedent (paperback, Oxford University Press, 2011). The Financial Times selected his most recent book, The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy (Oxford University Press, 2013), as one of its Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013. Professor Gerhardt is co-editor (with Hofstra Law School Dean Eric Lane and the late Abner Mikva) of the Fourth Edition of the casebook, The Legislative Process, published by Aspen Law and Business. The New York Times described his book on the federal appointments process as the principal book the White House and senators from both parties used as a resource throughout the Senate's hearings on President George W. Bush's nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, Jr., to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Professor Gerhardt's extensive public service has included advising congressional leaders and White House officials and frequently testifying before major committees in the House and the Senate on a wide range of constitutional issues. In 1992, he served as one of eight members of the Justice Department transition team for President Clinton and wrote the judicial selection policy for the incoming administration. In 1998, he was the only expert invited to speak behind closed doors to the House of Representatives about the possible impeachment of President Clinton, and he was the only joint witness in the House Judiciary Committee's principal hearing on the impeachment of President Clinton. In 2003 and 2005, he advised Senate Majority leaders and the Democratic Policy Committee on the constitutionality of the filibuster and the so-called nuclear option.

Professor Gerhardt is the only legal scholar to participate in Supreme Court confirmation hearings for five of the eight justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court. He served as Special Counsel to the Clinton White House on Justice Stephen Breyer's confirmation hearings. In 2005, he advised several senators on President Bush's nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States, and he testified as an expert witness in Justice Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings in 2006. In 2009-2010, Professor Gerhardt served as Special Counsel to Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the Senate Judiciary Committee for the nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2016, he has testified before the Senate and advised senators on President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Professor Gerhardt frequently participates in academic workshops and colloquium around the country and has published op eds for major newspapers throughout the country, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times. He has been regularly interviewed as an expert on constitutional law by all major networks, media outlets, cable television, national newspapers and magazines, and National Public Radio. In 1998-99, he was CNN's resident expert throughout President Clinton's impeachment hearings.

His honors include the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Yale Alumni in 2008, selection as The St. George Tucker Lecturer at the William & Mary Law School in 2003, and twice as the Alpheus Mason Lecturer at Princeton University. Professor Gerhardt has twice received UNC Law School's Van Hecke-Wettach Award, given every two years in recognition of an outstanding book written by a faculty member. In 2004, he was a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program in American Institutions and Ideals at Princeton University. The Institute for the Arts and Humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill selected Professor Gerhardt as a fellow in its leadership and scholarship programs. He has given distinguished lectures at universities around the nation and the world. In 2015, the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service selected Professor Gerhardt as the first independent scholar in history to work with it in updating and revising the official United States Constitution Annotated.

Before coming to UNC, Professor Gerhardt served as Dean of Case Western Reserve Law School and taught at Wake Forest and William & Mary Law Schools. He has been a visiting professor at Cornell and Duke Law Schools.

Professor Gerhardt received a B.A. from Yale University, M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and J.D. from the University of Chicago. After graduation from law school and before entering academia, he clerked for two federal judges (Chief Judge Robert McRae of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee and Judge Gilbert Merritt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit), served as Deputy Media Director of Albert Gore, Jr's first Senate campaign, and practiced law for two firms specializing in complex civil and criminal trial and appellate litigation -- Trotter, Bondurant, Hishon & Stephenson in Atlanta and Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin in Washington, D.C.

During the academic year 2016-17, Professor Gerhardt will teach professional responsibility and constitutional law and continue to serve, as he did during the prior academic year, as visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Scholar in Residence and Director of Content at the National Constitution Center. He has served on several major committees of the North Carolina Bar Association, including its ethics committee; and he is a member of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He has served on several major university committees, including as a member of the Chancellor's Ethics and Integrity Working Group and as Chair and Vice-Chair of the university's Promotion, Appointment, and Tenure Committee and as a member and Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee of the UNC faculty. He is married to Deborah Gerhardt, who teaches intellectual property, trademark, copyright, and art law at the law school. They have three sons (Ben, Daniel, and Noah).

Selected Publications

Show All Publications

  • The Politics of Early Justice, Federal Judicial Selection, 1789-1861 (with M. Stein) 100 IOWA L. REV. 551 (2015). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein]
  • Barack Obama, in THE PRESIDENTS AND THE CONSTITUTION (Ken Gormley, ed.) (work-in-progress)
  • Why Gridlock Matters, 88 NOTRE DAME L. REV. 2107 (2013). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN]
  • Elections Matter, 34 HARV. J.L. & PUB. POL'Y 827 (2011). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein]
  • THE POWER OF PRECEDENT (Oxford University Press) (Revised paperback ed. 2011, 1st ed. 2008). [KF429 .G47 2008]
  • Is the Filibuster Constitutional? (with J. Chafetz), 158 U. PA. L. REV.  PENNumbra 245 (2010). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein, BEPress, Document Link]
  • CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY: ARGUMENTS AND PERSPECTIVES (with T. Rowe, Jr. and S. Griffin) (3rd ed., Lexis Law Publishing, 2007). [KF4550 .G467 2007 ]
  • THE FEDERAL IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: A CONSTITUTIONAL AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS (2d ed., University of Chicago Press, 2000). [KF4958 .G47 2000 ]
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

If you are seeing this, you are either using a non-graphical browser or Netscape 4.x (4.7, 4.8, etc.) and this page appears very plain. If you are using a 4.x version of Netscape, this site is fully functional but lacks styles and optimizations available in other browsers. For full functionality, please upgrade your browser to the latest version of Internet Explorer or Firefox.