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

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Obama’s Unconstitutional Immigration Order

by Michael McConnellvia Defining Ideas
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Framers adopted the Take Care Clause to ensure that the President is forbidden from making law unilaterally. 


Defusing The Supreme Court Fight

by Michael McConnellvia Wall Street Journal
Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wait for a lame-duck vote. And get Hillary on the record now.


Stanford Law Faculty On Justice Scalia’s Legacy

by Michael McConnellvia Stanford Law School
Monday, February 15, 2016

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death has triggered memories as well as debate. The conservative justice, who was a visiting professor at Stanford Law School in 1980-81, was known for his provocative opinions and sharp wit. Here are some thoughts on his legacy from professors at Stanford Law School.

Justice Antonin Scalia discusses the premise of his book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

Antonin Scalia Was Democracy’s Legal Champion

by Michael McConnellvia Wall Street Journal
Sunday, February 14, 2016

He changed the way judges looked at text and law, and he was the best writer the Supreme Court has ever known.


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.