Pamela S. Karlan

Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School, cofounded the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, through which students litigate live cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • A Constitution for All Times

    A Constitution for All Times

    Pamela S. Karlan

    A prominent lawyer and legal scholar describes her vision of an evolving Constitution, examining current legal issues that range from health care to gun control.

    Pamela S. Karlan is a unique figure in American law. A professor at Stanford Law School and former counsel for the NAACP, she has argued seven cases at the Supreme Court and worked on dozens more as a clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun. In her first book written for a general audience, she examines what happens in American courtrooms—especially the Supreme Court—and what it means for our everyday lives and to our national commitments to democracy, justice, and fairness.

    Through an exploration of current hot-button legal issues—from voting rights to the death penalty, health care, same-sex marriage, invasive high-tech searches, and gun control—Karlan makes a sophisticated and resonant case for her vision of the Constitution. At the heart of that vision is the conviction that the Constitution is an evolving document that enables government to solve novel problems and expand the sphere of human freedom. As skeptics charge congressional overreach on such issues as the Affordable Care Act and even voting rights, Karlan pushes back. On individual rights in particular, she believes the Constitution allows Congress to enforce the substance of its amendments. And she calls out the Roberts Court for its disdain for the other branches of government and for its alignment with a conservative agenda.

Contributor

  • Race, Incarceration, and American Values

    Race, Incarceration, and American Values

    Glenn C. Loury

    Why stigmatizing and confining a large segment of our population should be unacceptable to all Americans.

    The United States, home to five percent of the world's population, now houses twenty-five percent of the world's prison inmates. Our incarceration rate—at 714 per 100,000 residents and rising—is almost forty percent greater than our nearest competitors (the Bahamas, Belarus, and Russia). More pointedly, it is 6.2 times the Canadian rate and 12.3 times the rate in Japan. Economist Glenn Loury argues that this extraordinary mass incarceration is not a response to rising crime rates or a proud success of social policy. Instead, it is the product of a generation-old collective decision to become a more punitive society. He connects this policy to our history of racial oppression, showing that the punitive turn in American politics and culture emerged in the post-civil rights years and has today become the main vehicle for the reproduction of racial hierarchies. Whatever the explanation, Loury argues, the uncontroversial fact is that changes in our criminal justice system since the 1970s have created a nether class of Americans—vastly disproportionately black and brown—with severely restricted rights and life chances. Moreover, conservatives and liberals agree that the growth in our prison population has long passed the point of diminishing returns. Stigmatizing and confining of a large segment of our population should be unacceptable to Americans. Loury's call to action makes all of us now responsible for ensuring that the policy changes.