Michael J. Gerhardt

Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor in Constitutional Law & Director, Center for 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 specializes in constitutional conflicts and 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 also co-editor (with former Judge Abner Mikva and Hofstra Law School Dean Eric Lane) of the Fourth Edition of the casebook, The Legislative Process, published by Aspen Law and Business.  

Professor Gerhardt has advised congressional leaders and White House officials on numerous constitutional issues, including judicial nominations, recess appointments, impeachment, and the filibuster.  In 1992-93, he wrote the judicial selection policy for President Clinton's transition, and in 1998 he spoke to the entire House of Representatives as an advisor and expert on impeachment and was the only joint witness in the House Judiciary Committee's historic hearing on the background and history of impeachment held in conjunction with its consideration of the impeachment of President Clinton. In 2003 and 2005, he advised both Senate leaders and the Democratic Policy Committee on the constitutionality of the filibuster.  

He has participated in Supreme Court confirmation hearings for five of the nine justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court.  He served as Special Counsel assisting 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 testified as an expert witness in the confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.  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.   

Professor Gerhardt frequently participates in academic workshops and colloquia around the country and regularly writes op ads and is interviewed as an expert on constitutional law by network and cable television, major newspapers, and National Public Radio.  In 1998-99, he was CNN's resident expert throughout President Clinton's impeachment hearings.     

His honors include distinguished lectures at several law schools and universities, including 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. He has previously served as Dean of Case Western Reserve Law School, taught at Wake Forest and William & Mary Law Schools, and been a visiting professor at Cornell and Duke Law Schools. In 2010 and 2013, Professor Gerhardt served as a fellow in the academic and leadership programs, respectively, at the Institute for Arts and the Humanities at the University of North Carolina.  

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.

This year, Professor Gerhardt is teaching classes on constitutional law, professional responsibility, and judicial opinion writing.  He is currently a member of the Liaison and Administration of Justice and Judicial Independence Committees of the North Carolina Bar and previously served on the state bar's Ethics Committee.  He is also a member of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  He served as a member and later Chair of the university's Appointment, Tenure, and Promotion Committee; and he currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee of UNC's Faculty Council.  He is married to Deborah Gerhardt, who also teaches at the law school. They have three sons (Ben, Daniel, and Noah) and a dog (Kelev).  

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.