UNC School of Law’s Michael Gerhardt, Samuel
Ashe Distinguished Professor in Constitutional Law and director of the Program in Law and Government, has become the first independent scholar to advise the American Law Division, a branch of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, in revising and updating the official U.S. Constitution Annotated, popularly known as CONAN.
Gerhardt was selected based
on his scholarship and his history working as a non-partisan expert and
consultant with Congress. His role will be to work with the American Law
Division to ensure that the revisions and updates to the official U.S.
Constitution Annotated are comprehensive, free of bias and legally sound, as
required by federal law.
“I am greatly honored by this extraordinary opportunity,” said
Gerhardt. “It is especially meaningful to me, not only as someone who has
devoted his life to enriching our understanding of the Constitution, but also
as a UNC law professor. The last person to oversee CONAN was the late
Johnny Killian, senior specialist at the Congressional Research Service and
beloved 1963 graduate of UNC School of Law. Maintaining Carolina’s connection
with this project and extending Johnny’s work means a great deal to me."
CONAN is the official documentation of the U.S. Constitution and its
interpretation over time. It contains legal analysis of the Constitution,
based primarily on U.S. Supreme Court case law. For more than a century, CONAN
has been revised and published every 10 years as required by Congress. These updates are useful when
researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic such
as recent Supreme Court decisions that demonstrate pivotal interpretations
of the Constitution's provisions.
Through its most recent revisions
in 2012, only the American Law Division or its predecessor organizations have
updated the official Constitution, most famously in the 1950s by the late,
renowned constitutional expert Edward Corwin of Princeton University, who also
headed the American Law Division. Since CONAN was last updated, the American
Law Division determined that the document, which has a world-wide audience
including Congress, practicing lawyers and judges, students, academics and the
public, would benefit from an outsider's perspective.
“When we decided to seek
outside consultation on the revisions of this public document, Professor
Gerhardt’s knowledge of Congress, constitutional law and history made him an
excellent choice,” said Karen Lewis, assistant director for the American Law
Division, Congressional Research Service. “We look forward to reviewing his
Gerhardt received a B.A.
from Yale University, M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and a J.D. from
the University of Chicago. He has advised 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 2003 and 2005, he worked with Senate Majority leaders
and the Democratic Policy Committee on the constitutionality of the filibuster
and the so-called nuclear option. He is the only legal scholar to have formally
participated in confirmation hearings for five of the nine justices currently
sitting on the Supreme Court, which included serving as special counsel to the
Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009-2010 for the confirmation hearings of Sonia
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, a position requiring the unanimous approval of the
entire committee. He has
also served as a principal consultant on numerous other constitutional
issues coming before the Judiciary Committee, including the Affordable Care
Although it is too early in the review process to
outline specific revisions to CONAN, Gerhardt’s comprehensive critical analysis
of the volume is underway and will continue into the fall.
-June 18, 2015