Pamela Karlan
Karlan at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics in 2020
Pamela Susan Karlan

1959 (age 64–65)
EducationYale University (BA, MA, JD)
OccupationAmerican legal scholar
Years active1984–present
PartnerViola Canales

Pamela Susan Karlan (born 1959) is an American legal scholar who was the principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice from February 8, 2021 until July 1, 2022.[1] She is a professor at Stanford Law School.[2] A leading legal scholar on voting rights and constitutional law, she previously served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights in the DOJ's Civil Rights Division from 2014 to 2015.[3]


Karlan graduated from Yale University, where she received a B.A. in history in 1980, as well as an M.A. in history and J.D. in 1984.[4] At Yale Law School, she served as an article and book reviews editor of the Yale Law Journal.[5]

After graduation from law school, Karlan worked as a law clerk for then-U.S. District Judge Abraham David Sofaer of the Southern District of New York from 1984 to 1985. She went on to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun the following year. In a 1995 oral history with Harold Koh, Blackmun revealed that his dissent in Bowers v. Hardwick had been written primarily by Karlan. He said that Karlan "did a lot of very effective writing, and I owe a lot to her and her ability in getting that dissent out. She felt very strongly about it, and I think is correct in her approach to it. I think the dissent is correct."[6]


After her clerkships, Karlan worked as an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund from 1986 to 1988.

From 1988 to 1998, Karlan taught law at the University of Virginia School of Law, where she won the All-University Outstanding Teaching Award in 1995–96 and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Award in 1997.[7] In 1998, Karlan joined the faculty of Stanford Law School. She is the school's Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law. In 2004, Karlan cofounded the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, through which students litigate live cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.[5] In 2002, Karlan won the school's prestigious John Bingham Hurlbut Award for Excellence in Teaching.[7]

On December 4, 2019, Karlan—alongside law professors Noah Feldman, Michael Gerhardt, and Jonathan Turley—testified before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment in the Impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.[8] She made a controversial statement delivered during the December 2019, impeachment hearing of President Trump, "Contrary to what President Trump has said, Article 2 [of the Constitution] does not give him the power to do anything he wants", noting that "The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can't make him a baron." Karlan apologized afterward.[9]

Karlan is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and the American Law Institute.[7]

On May 6, 2020, Facebook appointed her to its content oversight board,[10] from which she resigned in February 2021 to join the Biden administration as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.[1]

Public service

In 2003, she was appointed to the California Fair Political Practices Commission by Controller Steve Westly. Until 2005, she served as commissioner to help implement and enforce California's campaign finance, lobbying, and conflict of interest laws.[5]

On December 20, 2013, Karlan was appointed by the Obama administration to serve as the U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights in the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.[11] The position did not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Karlan took up her post on January 13, 2014, and served for one year.[12][13] For her work in implementing the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, she received the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service, the DOJ's highest award for employee performance.[7]

Throughout her career, Karlan has been an advocate before the U.S. Supreme Court.[14] She was mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter when he retired in 2009.[15]

In November 2020, Karlan was named a volunteer member of the Joe Biden presidential transition Agency Review Team to support transition efforts related to the United States Department of Justice.[16]

In February 2021, Karlan was named a principal deputy assistant attorney general in the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.[17]

Political views

Peter Baker, a New York Times political writer, described Karlan as "a full-throated, unapologetic liberal torchbearer".[18] Karlan has said that the United States should help Ukraine fight Russia so that the United States does not have to fight Russia on its own territory.[19]

Personal life

Karlan told Politico in 2009, "It's no secret at all that I'm counted among the LGBT crowd".[20] She has described herself as an example of "snarky, bisexual, Jewish women".[21] Her partner is writer Viola Canales.[22]

Works and publications

Selected books

Selected journal articles

Supreme Court cases argued

See also


  1. ^ a b Lima, Cristiano (6 February 2021). "Facebook oversight board member decamps for Biden DOJ". Politico. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  2. ^ Ashe, Stephanie (25 February 2021). "Stanford Law's Pam Karlan Joins U.S. Department of Justice". SLS News. Stanford Law School. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  3. ^ Taylor, Stuart. "An excellent Supreme Court shortlist". National Journal. Atlantic Media Company. Archived from the original on 2010-04-12.
  4. ^ "Profile: Pamela S. Karlan". Stanford Law School. Archived from the original on 2008-06-05.
  5. ^ a b c Karlan, Pamela S. "CV" (PDF). Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  6. ^ Volokh, Eugene (23 April 2005). "Saturday, April 23, 2005". The Volokh Conspiracy: The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d "Pamela S. Karlan Biography". Stanford Law School. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  8. ^ Fadulu, Lola (4 December 2019). "Who Is Pamela Karlan? Legal Leader Committed to Progressive Causes". The New York Times.
  9. ^ C-Span: Professor Pamela Karlan references Barron Trump and later apologizes for it. Dec 4, 2019.
  10. ^ "Facebook is spending $130 million to create a 'Supreme Court' that can overrule Mark Zuckerberg — here are its first 20 members". Business Insider. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  11. ^ Gerstein, Josh (20 December 2013). "Karlan to take Justice Department voting rights post". The Politico. Capitol News Company. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Pamela S. Karlan |". Retrieved 2019-12-05.
  13. ^ Gregg, Remington (13 January 2014). "HRC Blog: Pamela Karlan takes helm as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in DOJ Civil Rights Division". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  14. ^ Liptak, Adam (31 December 2005). "So, guy walks up to the bar, and Scalia says..." The New York Times.
  15. ^ "Articles about Pamela S. Karlan". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Agency Review Teams". President-Elect Joe Biden. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  17. ^ "Facebook oversight board member decamps for Biden DOJ". Politico. 6 February 2021.
  18. ^ Baker, Peter. (25 May 2009). "Favorites of Left Don't Make Obama's Court List". New York Times website Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  19. ^ Hains, Tim (4 December 2019). "Professor Karlan: Ukraine Is Important "So We Can Fight The Russians There And We Don't Have To Fight Them Here"". RealClearPolitics.
  20. ^ Gerstein, Josh (5 May 2009). "Groups push for first gay Supreme Court justice". The Politico. Capitol News Company. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  21. ^ "American Constitution Society Blog: Stanford Law Professor Pam Karlan concludes 2006 ACS National Convention". American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. 22 June 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  22. ^ Jean Ann, Esselink (29 December 2013). "On our radar – An overdue thank you To Pamela Karlan". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved 23 March 2015.