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.

FULL BIOGRAPHY

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. Called the “intellectual guru” of progressive federalism in the New York Times, her work has been featured in The Atlantic’s “Ideas of the Year” section, the Ideas Section of the Boston Globe, NPR’s On the Media, the New York Times, and Time. 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

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


The Ideological Reasons Why Democrats Have Neglected Local Politics

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is cited in an article about a growing focus by Democrats on state and local politics.

Monday, December 12, 2016


We’re about to see states’ rights used defensively against Trump—A Commentary by Heather Gerken

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Q&A: Professor Heather Gerken Discusses Progressive Federalism

Professor Heather Gerken explains how federalism and localism can be useful sites of politicking for people of all political stripes.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


States’ Rights for the Left

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is cited in an article about states’ rights and progressive federalism. A similar article appeared in Time Magazine.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


A Wisconsin court case may be the last best hope to fix gerrymandering by 2020—A Commentary by Heather Gerken

Heather Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


‘All Resistance Is Local’: A Plan of Progressive Action for the Trump Years

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken authored part of a roundtable debate about federalism.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Districts Favor G.O.P. Unfairly, Court Finds in a Key State Case

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about a recent court victory in a complaint over partisan redistricting in Wisconsin. Nicholas Stephanopoulos ’06, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, is mentioned.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Jefferson: The Musical

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about state’s rights.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Election Day Check In: Will Lawsuits Delay the Outcome?

William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law Stephen Carter ’79 and J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken are quoted in an article about the election.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Let’s Cheer This Badass Nevada Judge Who Understands Twitter Harassment

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about a Trump campaign legal challenge in Nevada.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Philadelphia’s transit strike could affect who wins the election

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is interviewed about whether Pennsylvania can order striking transit workers back to work on election day.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


Nonprofits Work at Polls to Smooth Voting and Rebut ‘Rigged’ Claims

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about research on election processes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


The Supreme Court After Scalia

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in an article about the future of the Supreme Court.

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”

Sunday, May 29, 2016


From Jail To Yale: Ex-Offender Graduates With Law Degree 10 Years After Release

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken and Lecturer in the Practice of Law and Legal Writing Noah Messing ’00 are quoted in a profile of Dwayne Betts ’16, who will be a fellow with the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Donald Trump’s Campaign Backs Down From Threatened Lawsuit Over Delegates

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is quoted in a story about the rules around state primaries and caucuses.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


New Hampshire Predicts 78% of GOP Nominees Despite Only 82% Resemblance with U.S.

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken was interviewed as part of a feature on the New Hampshire primary.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Equality and American Democracy; Why Politics Trumps Economics

Research by J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken is cited in an article titled “Equality and American Democracy; Why Politics Trumps Economics.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The Supreme Court Is a Partner in Transformation, Not the Sole Agent—A Commentary by Heather K. Gerken

Heather K. Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Did the Roberts Court Really Lurch Left?

J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law Heather Gerken and John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence William Eskridge ’78 contributed to a roundtable about the Roberts court.

Monday, November 3, 2014


On Voting Rights, Amendments Are Too Hard to Achieve and Enforce—A Commentary by Heather Gerken

Heather K. Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School. 

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.