Michael McConnell

Senior Fellow
Awards and Honors:
American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Michael W. McConnell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. From 2002 to the summer of 2009, he served as a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Before his appointment to the bench, McConnell was the Presidential Professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah; before that he was the William B. Graham Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. He has also been a frequent visiting professor at Harvard Law School.

In his academic work, McConnell has written widely on such subjects as freedom of religion, segregation, unenumerated rights, and constitutional history and theory. He is coeditor of Religion and the Law (Aspen Publishing, 2002) and Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought (Yale University Press 2002).

McConnell was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 18, 1955. He graduated from Michigan State University (BA, 1976) and the University of Chicago Law School (JD, 1979). Before entering teaching, he served as law clerk to Chief Judge J. Skelly Wright on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Associate Justice William J. Brennan Jr. on the United States Supreme Court, as assistant general counsel of the Office of Management and Budget, and as assistant to the solicitor general of the United States.

McConnell has argued eleven cases in the Supreme Court and served as chair of the Constitutional Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools, cochair of the Emergency Committee to Defend the First Amendment, member of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, and special counsel to Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. In 1996, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Recent Commentary


Yes, We Should Consider Refugees’ Religion

by Michael McConnellvia Politico
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Americans have heard a lot of nonsense in the past week about the role of religion in our refugee policy – from both sides. Senator Ted Cruz has been derided, mostly justly, for saying that no Muslim refugees – but only Christians – should be admitted to this country from the killing fields of Syria and Iraq.

Main EssayAnalysis and Commentary

Defiant, Not Deferred, Action

by Michael McConnellvia Peregrine
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Last November, the Obama Administration announced that it will cease enforcement of the immigration laws with respect to some four million undocumented persons. Instead it will award them legal status and work authorizations. Quite apart from whether this is good policy, it is almost certainly bad law.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Obama’s Immigration Order Was Blocked

by Michael McConnellvia Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The injunction isn’t about prosecutorial discretion. It is about granting illegal aliens benefits not allowed by law.

No, He Can't

by Michael McConnellvia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 18, 2013

The president has no constitutional authority to suspend the employer mandate—or, for that matter, any other law.

Michael McConnell bio photo

McConnell discusses the Affordable Care Act on CNBC

by Michael McConnellvia CNBC
Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Michael McConnell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, discusses Obama’s choice to put off for a year enforcing some of the provisions in Affordable Care Act. McConnell notes that the president does not have the authority to decide which laws he will enforce. If we allow Obama to enforce some laws and not others, this sets a precedent that future presidents might also try to use.

Barack Obama
Analysis and Commentary

Obama Suspends the Law

by Michael McConnellvia Wall Street Journal
Monday, July 8, 2013

President Obama's decision last week to suspend the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act may be welcome relief to businesses affected by this provision, but it raises grave concerns about his understanding of the role of the executive in our system of government.


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Analysis and Commentary

The Constitution and Same-Sex Marriage

by Michael McConnellvia Wall Street Journal
Thursday, March 21, 2013

For most Americans, the Supreme Court cases being heard on Tuesday and Wednesday next week are about same-sex marriage. But the cases—Hollingsworth v. Perry (the Proposition 8 case from California) and U.S. v.

Protestors at Wisconsin capitol building

Leader of the PAC

by Michael McConnellvia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 26, 2012

Scott Walker’s opponent got most of the PAC money but lost anyway. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, it turns out, represents a double-edged sword. By Michael W. McConnell.

Michael McConnell on SCOTUS ACA ruling

by Michael McConnellvia Advancing a Free Society
Monday, July 2, 2012

Read his column at Reuters: "These are significant rulings in support of federalism and the ideal of limited government.

Analysis and Commentary

You Can’t Say That

by Michael McConnellvia New York Times Book Review
Sunday, June 24, 2012

A legal philosopher urges Americans to punish hate speech...