Pamela S. Karlan’s formidable reputation as a scholar and Supreme Court advocate, coupled with a deep commitment to progressive causes, have made her a leader of the sometimes disorganized liberal legal movement.
Ms. Karlan, 60, received bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from Yale and clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the Supreme Court. She is now a director of Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. Ms. Karlan made regular media appearances discussing the 2000 presidential election and recount, and was one of the authors of “When Elections Go Bad: The Law of Democracy and the Presidential Election of 2000.”
During the Obama administration, she worked in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service, the highest award employees there can earn.
She has also worked on the California Fair Political Practices Commission and for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
What she brings to the hearing
Her litigation experience also includes work on big cases like the affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and the same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges.
“She is a brilliant, scrupulously careful scholar,” said David Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford who has known Ms. Karlan for more than three decades. “She is also honest and candid, and she has a deep commitment to fairness and the rule of law.”
He added, “If you want to know what something in the Constitution means, it’s hard to think of a better person to ask.”
Is she partisan?
Ms. Karlan has not been very vocal about her stance on the impeachment inquiry. She does not appear to have written columns or made appearances commenting on the proceedings.
But she is widely known in liberal circles. Ms. Karlan is the chairwoman of the board of directors for the left-leaning American Constitution Society. And in December 2016, she and other liberal scholars signed a letter expressing concern over President Trump’s statements and actions during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In May 2017, after reports that Mr. Trump had asked the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, to end an investigation into Michael T. Flynn, then the national security adviser, Ms. Karlan said in an interview with the BBC that Mr. Trump was “behaving extraordinarily badly.” And, she said, “if it becomes clear that the president is trying to obstruct justice and Congress does nothing, that moves us towards a constitutional crisis.”
In 2009, Ms. Karlan was a favorite of the left, cited by some as their choice for the Supreme Court. She did not make President Barack Obama’s short list.