John Hart Ely

Dean John Hart Ely

Former Dean, Stanford Law School

John Hart Ely was one of the most important constitutional scholars of his generation. He was born in 1938 and died in 2003. As a summer associate following his second year at YLS, Ely assisted Abe Fortas in litigating Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a criminal defendant's right to counsel. After graduating from Yale, Ely served as a staff attorney on the Warren Commission, and then clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren before going on to serve as a public defender in San Diego. Later in his career, he served as General Counsel of the Department of Transportation during the Ford Administration.

Ely taught at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, and the University of Miami School of Law and served as dean at Stanford. In 1980, Ely published the highly influential Democracy and Distrust, which developed a theory of judicial review that emphasized the role of the courts in safeguarding the democratic process. In 1993, Ely published War and Responsibility, a comprehensive constitutional analysis of war powers. His last book, On Constitutional Ground, was published in 1996 and covers a variety of constitutional law issues, including federalism and criminal procedure.


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