Michael McConnell

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

Michael W. McConnell is the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. From 2002 to the summer of 2009, he served as a Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. McConnell has held chaired professorships at the University of Chicago and the University of Utah, and visiting professorships at Harvard and NYU. He has published widely in the fields of constitutional law and theory, especially church and state, equal protection, and the founding. In the past decade, his work has been cited in opinions of the Supreme Court second most often of any legal scholar. He is co-editor of three books: Religion and the Law, Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought, and The Constitution of the United States. McConnell has argued fifteen cases in the Supreme Court. He served as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and is Of Counsel to the appellate practice of Kirkland & Ellis.

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Recent Commentary

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The Supreme Court And The Cross

by Michael McConnellvia Defining Ideas
Friday, March 1, 2019

Will the Justices jettison the Lemon Test?


Unfair Advantages: How Licenses And Waivers Threaten The Rule Of Law

by Michael McConnellvia PolicyEd
Friday, March 1, 2019

When laws are clearly written and widely understood, people can easily determine whether their actions are lawful or not. However, Congress has been threatening the rule of law through the use of waivers – that allow individual to act contrary to the rules – and through the use of licenses that require individuals to get permission before working. In order to revitalize the rule of law, Congress should return to passing clearly written laws that neither allow some to ignore the rules nor require permission to act in the first place.


How The Rule Of Law Promotes Prosperity

by Michael McConnellvia PolicyEd
Friday, March 1, 2019

The rule of law is another way of saying that laws, as they are written, are applied equally to everyone. If you break a law, it doesn’t matter how powerful, wealthy, or connected you are: you face the consequences. When followed, the rule of law leads to a more just and prosperous society.

In the News

"Cleaning Up The Lemon Mess"

featuring Michael McConnellvia Reason
Thursday, February 28, 2019

"What lower courts and local governments desperately need is not guidance on hypothetical cases that have never arisen. They need guidance on the many cases they’re wrestling with today. Lemon doesn’t provide that guidance. It makes the problem worse."

In the News

Opinion: Time For Democrats To Abandon Myth About Citizens United

quoting Michael McConnellvia The Mercury News
Wednesday, February 27, 2019

My fellow Democratic politicians like to campaign on overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums advocating for candidates. Presidential hopefuls Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have made it a campaign platform.

In the News

Dems Face Challenges To Beating Trump In Court

quoting Michael McConnellvia The Hill
Thursday, February 21, 2019
The Democratic states fighting President Trump’s emergency declaration face a rough road as they try to convince the courts that his order was unlawful.

Stanford’s Michael McConnell On President Trump’s Declaration Of A National Emergency

interview with Michael McConnellvia Stanford Law School
Saturday, February 16, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Michael McConnell discusses the separation of powers, this latest presidential declaration of national emergency, and the law.

In the News

Parties Line Up To Sue Trump On ‘National Emergency’ Declaration

quoting Michael McConnellvia Fortune
Friday, February 15, 2019

Now that he has declared a “national emergency,” all that stands between President Donald Trump and the money he wants to pay for his promised border wall is the American judiciary. And the Constitution. And the attorneys general of California, Nevada, New Mexico and New York. And a vast array of land owners and local governments.

In the News

Symposium: Government Agencies Shouldn’t Get To Put A Thumb On The Scales

quoting Richard A. Epstein, Michael McConnellvia SCOTUS Blog
Thursday, January 31, 2019

All James Kisor may want is for the Department of Veterans Affairs to alter the effective date of his veteran disability benefits, but his legal challenge to the VA’s denial of his claims has given the Supreme Court an opportunity to revisit one of the more problematic doctrines in administrative law: Auer deference, under which federal courts are obligated to defer to permissible agency interpretations of their own regulations.


Michael McConnell Explains The Constitutionality Of The Affordable Care Act And The Recent Ruling To Overturn It

by Michael McConnellvia Stanford Law School
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Last week, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general. In the ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said that the mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional and so the rest of the law cannot stand without it. In the Q&A that follows, Professor Michael McConnell discusses the ruling and what may be next for the ACA.