Like other Carolina Law professors, Michael Gerhardt’s knowledge enlightens more than the students he teaches. He has applied his research and scholarship broadly outside UNC: informing congressional decisions about U.S. Supreme Court nominees, advising White House officials and serving as a resource on North Carolina legislative issues.
Special Counsel for SCOTUS Nominations
A leading constitutional scholar, Gerhardt has been asked by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to be special counsel for the Supreme Court nominations of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. He also participated in confirmation hearings for Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Stephen Breyer.
“Professionals, especially academics, should not be cut off from the real world. Those of us who count ourselves among genuine legal scholars study the law, research the law, write critically about the law, and hopefully do what we can to upgrade the quality of legal practice,” Gerhardt says. “As a teacher, I am a model for my students and a representative of the law school. I try to show my students how to be a professional devoted to helping the people in power understand their responsibilities and exercise them better.”
Scholar-in-Residence at the National Constitution Center
Gerhardt also is making an impact on wide-ranging initiatives related to the Constitution. He is director of content and scholar-in-residence for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which offers exhibitions and programs to raise awareness about the Constitution. And he’s the first independent scholar selected to advise Library of Congress officials as they update the Constitution Annotated, required by Congress every 10 years.
“The work that is done on (the annotation) must be, like the work I do for the National Constitution Center, even-handed, neutral and independent. Our work must not only withstand the test of time but be beyond reproach,” says Gerhardt, who received the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Yale Alumni in 2008.
Public Service Outside the Classroom
His public service work has influenced North Carolina issues in multiple ways. As a law professor more than 30 years ago during the administration of Gov. Jim Martin, Gerhardt testified in favor of giving North Carolina’s chief executive the power to veto legislation. Now he is a member of North Carolina’s advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and has served on North Carolina Bar Association committees.
Gerhardt’s work outside academia has benefited Carolina Law students by making him a better teacher and scholar. “I believe using my expertise to help our community, state and nation fulfills the mission of UNC and its law school,” he says. “My knowledge of the subjects I teach is not based on a book. It is based on real-world experience and immersion in the subject matter.”
-October 16, 2017