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2015 William Howard Taft Lecture on Constitutional Law

Professor Heather Gerken
J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law
Yale Law School


Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Time: 12:15 pm - 1:15 pm
Location: University of Cincinnati College of Law - Room 114

Webcast: 2015 Taft Lecture

 Living Under Someone Else's Law

Federalism is commonly thought to be single field of study, but in fact it is two; it encompasses not just relations between the states and the federal government, but relations among the states.  The two fields have developed quite differently, however.  Professor Gerken will explore the differences between these two fields and suggest that they are both preoccupied with the same problem:  what happens when we are forced to live under someone else’s law?  While the costs of living under someone else’s law are well known in both fields, we’ve overlooked the substantial democratic benefits associated with clashing sovereigns.  Professor Gerken will argue that democracy isn’t just about self-rule, but about ruling together.  In in our highly polarized democracy, living under someone else’s law should be understood as an important means of promoting pluralism and fostering a well-functioning democracy


About the Speaker

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Gerken specializes in election law and constitutional law.  She has published in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Political Theory, Political Science Quarterly, Roll Call, Legal Affairs, Legal Times, The New Republic, Democracy Journal, and elsewhere.  She has served as a commentator for a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, NPR, the Lehrer News Hour, Bill Moyers, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC News. Her most recent scholarship explores questions of election reform, federalism, diversity, and dissent.  Her work has been featured in The Atlantic’s “Ideas of the Year” section, the Ideas Section of the Boston Globe, and NPR’s On the Media.  It has also been the subject of three academic symposia.  

Professor Gerken clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit and Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. After practicing for several years, she joined the Harvard faculty in September 2000 and was awarded tenure in 2005. In 2006, she joined the Yale faculty.  

Professor Gerken has won teaching awards at both Yale and Harvard, been named one of the nation’s “twenty-six best law teachers” by a book published by the Harvard University Press, was featured in the National Law Journal for balancing teaching and research, won a Green Bag award for legal writing, testified three times before Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and serves as a trustee for Princeton University.  Professor Gerken served as a senior legal adviser in the “Boiler Room” for the Obama for America campaign in 2008 and 2012.  Her proposal for creating a “Democracy Index” was incorporated into separate bills by then-Senator Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama, and Congressman Israel and turned into reality by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which created the nation’s first Election Performance Index in 2013.