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 specializes in constitutional conflicts and has been active as a scholar, advisor, special counsel, 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 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.  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 and guide 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. In 2015, Professor Gerhardt became the first independent scholar in history to be selected to work with the American Law Division of the Library of Congress in updating and revising the official United States Constitution Annotated.  

Professor Gerhardt's extensive public service has included advising congressional leaders and White House officials on numerous constitutional issues, including judicial nominations, recess appointments, impeachment, health care reform, the filibuster, and the debt ceiling crises.  In 1992-93, 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. The House Judiciary Committee selected him as the principal reporter for three distinguished legal scholars whom it asked to draft a censure resolution for the committee to consider in lieu of impeaching the president.  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 have formally 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 he 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.  In this capacity, Professor Gerhardt helped to coordinate these two nominations through the Senate to their successful completions, including overseeing the review of all pertinent materials for the hearings,coordinating support, and drafting of all public statements and reports for the Judiciary Committee and the Senate Majority Leader throughout the proceedings.  Also, in this capacity, Professor Gerhardt served as the principal consultant on numerous other constitutional issues coming before the Judiciary Committee.

Professor Gerhardt frequently participates in academic workshops and colloquia around the country and regularly writes op eds and is interviewed as an expert on constitutional law by all major networks and cable television, national newspapers, 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 and 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.  He has been selected as a fellow in both the Academic and leadership programs at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has given distinguished lectures at law schools and universities around the world, including Princeton, Harvard, and Yale Universities and Bar Ilan in Israel and Universite Jean Moulin Lyon-3 in France.   

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.

This year, Professor Gerhardt is teaching legislative process, professional responsibility, and judicial opinion writing.  He has served on several major committees of the North Carolina State Bar, including the Liaison, Administration of Justice, Judicial Independence, and Ethics Committees.  He is 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 and a member of the Chancellor's Ethics and Integrity Working Group.  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

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  • 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 ]
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