Heather Gerken

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Gerken specializes in election law and constitutional law. Her most recent scholarship explores questions of election reform, federalism, diversity, and dissent.


Contact Information

Yale Law School

P.O. Box 208215

New Haven, CT 06520

Education & Curriculum Vitae

J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 1994

A.B., Princeton University, 1991

Courses Taught

  • Advanced Topics in Election Law
  • San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Gerken specializes in election law and constitutional law. She has published in the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, the Stanford Law ReviewMichigan Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Political TheoryPolitical Science QuarterlyRoll Call, Legal AffairsLegal TimesThe New Republic, Democracy Journal, and elsewhere. She has served as a commentator for a number of media outlets, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, NPR, the Lehrer News Hour, Bill Moyers, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC News. Her most recent scholarship explores questions of election reform, federalism, diversity, and dissent. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic’s “Ideas of the Year” section, the Ideas Section of the Boston Globe, and NPR’s On the Media. It has also been the subject of three academic symposia.  

Professor Gerken clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit and Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. After practicing for several years, she joined the Harvard faculty in September 2000 and was awarded tenure in 2005. In 2006, she joined the Yale faculty.  

Professor Gerken has won teaching awards at both Yale and Harvard, been named one of the nation’s “twenty-six best law teachers” by a book published by the Harvard University Press, was featured in the National Law Journal for balancing teaching and research, won a Green Bag award for legal writing, testified three times before Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, and serves as a trustee for Princeton University. Professor Gerken served as a senior legal adviser in the “Boiler Room” for the Obama for America campaign in 2008 and 2012.  Her proposal for creating a “Democracy Index” was incorporated into separate bills by then-Senator Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama, and Congressman Israel and turned into reality by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which created the nation’s first Election Performance Index in 2013.

The Tobin Project

The Democracy Index

Friday, September 16, 2016

“Hacking the Election” Conference to Be Held September 20

The Center for Global Legal Challenges and the Information Society Project will co-host a conference on “Hacking the Election”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Student Clinic Works to Prepare Historic Proposition 8 Case for High Court

Students from Yale Law School’s San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project (SFALP) describe their experiences working on landmark same-sex marriage case.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Elections Performance Index Inspired by Prof. Heather Gerken’s Democracy Index

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken's book Democracy Index inspires new Elections Performance Index.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

YLS Clinic Students Contribute to Noted Gas Pipeline Lawsuit

Two Yale Law students were acknowledged recently for their work with the San Francisco city attorney’s office on a noted gas pipeline lawsuit.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yale Law Students Hear from World’s Top Women Jurists: Follow Your Own Path

The 15th Global Constitutionalism Seminar took place at Yale Law School Sept. 21 through 24, 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

YLS Faculty Honored for Legal Writing by the Green Bag Journal

Yale Law School faculty members are among those honored for exemplary legal writing in 2010 by the Green Bag journal.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

YLS Students Work on High Profile Cases in Partnership with San Francisco Attorney’s Office

Yale Law students are doing cutting-edge work as part of their participation in the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Professor Heather Gerken to Present J. Skelly Wright Inaugural Lecture March 8

Professor Heather Gerken will deliver her inaugural lecture as the first J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law on March 8, 2010.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Professor Heather Gerken Testifies at Senate Committee Hearing on Corporate Campaign Spending

YLS Professor Heather Gerken testified before a U.S. Senate committee on February 2, 2010, about corporate campaign spending.

Friday, September 11, 2009

NYC Plan to Improve Voting System Includes Democracy Index

A “Democracy Index,” first proposed by YLS Professor Heather Gerken, is part of a plan Mayor Mike Bloomberg has introduced in New York City to improve the election process.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Heather Gerken to Join Yale Law School Faculty

Professor Gerken is one of the country's leading experts on voting rights and election law, the role of groups in the democratic process, and the relationship between diversity and democracy.