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Primus, Richard

Theodore J. St. Antoine Collegiate Professor of Law

535 Legal Research
Twitter: @Richard_Primus

Richard Primus, the Theodore J. St. Antoine Collegiate Professor of Law, teaches the law, theory, and history of the U.S. Constitution. In 2008, he won the first-ever Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies for his work on the relationship between history and constitutional interp​retation. His writing has appeared in many leading law reviews as well as in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Politico, The New Republic, and Foreign Affairs, and his scholarship has been cited in opinions of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Professor Primus works with constitutional law on the state level as well as the federal. He has helped state governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses solve practical problems involving state-level constitutional law, both in Michigan and in other states.

Professor Primus graduated from Harvard College in 1992 with an AB, summa cum laude, in social studies. He then earned a DPhil in politics at Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and the Jowett Senior Scholar at Balliol College. After studying law at Yale, Professor Primus clerked for The Hon. Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He then practiced law at the Washington, D.C., office of Jenner & Block before joining the Michigan Law faculty in 2001.

Recent Publications

More Publications...

"The Elephant Problem." Review of A Great Power of Attorney: Understanding the Fiduciary Constitution, by Gary Larson and Guy Seidman, co-authors. Geo. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y (Forthcoming).
Full Text: SSRN

"Second Redemption, Third Reconstruction." Cal. L. Rev. (Forthcoming).

"'The Essential Characteristic': Enumerated Powers and the Bank of the United States." Mich. L. Rev. 117, no. 3 (2018): 415-97.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | WWW

"The Republic in Long-Term Perspective." Mich. L. Rev. Online 117 (2018): 1-24.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | WWW

"Family Separation and the Triumph of Cruelty." Foreign Affairs, Council on Foreign Relations. July 13, 2018, sec. Politics & Society.

"The Gibbons Fallacy." U. Pa. J. Const. L. 19, no. 3 (2017): 567-620.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich user) | HEIN | Lexis | SSRN

"The Cost of the Text." Cornell L. Rev. 102, no. 6 (2017): 1651
Full Text: HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Westlaw | SSRN

"The Constitutional Constant." Cornell L. Rev. 102, no.6 (2017): 1691-702.
Full Text: HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Westlaw | SSRN

"Rulebooks, Playgrounds, and Endgames: A Constitutional Analysis of the Calabresi-Hirji Judgeship Proposal." Harvard Law Review Blog, Novermber 24, 2017.
Full Text: WWW

"Constitutional Escapism, or, Can Congress Call a Special Electrion if Trump and Pence are Impeached?" Take Care, September 11, 2017.
Full Text: WWW

"Why Enumeration Matters." Mich. L. Rev. 115 (2016): 1-46.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Lexis | Westlaw | SSRN

"Is Theocracy Our Politics? Thoughts on William Baude's 'Is Originalism Our Law?'." Colum. L. Rev. Sidebar 116 (2016): 44-60.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Lexis | Westlaw | WWW | SSRN

"Of Visible Race-Consciousness and Institutional Role: Equal Protection and Disparate Impact after Ricci and Inclusive Communities." In Title VII of the Civil Rights Act After 50 Years: Proceedings of the New York University 67th Annual Conference on Labor, 295-318. New Providence, NJ: LexisNexis Publishing, 2015.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | SSRN​​

Curriculum Interest Areas


Featured speaker on constitutional interpretation (in debate with Randy Barnett)​ at the U.S. Supreme Court, which was sponsored by the Guggenheim Foundation and the Supreme Court Historical Society, May 2018.

Participant in the Roundtable on Constitutional Norms, Duke Law School, ​March 2018.

Invited commentator at the Cooley Symposium sponsored by the Center on the Constitution, Georgetown Law School, April 2018.

Presented "Enumerated Powers and the Bank of the United States" at the Works-in-Progress Conference, Center for the Study of Originalism, University of San Diego, February 2018.

Invited commentator at the Brennan Center Jorde Symposium, Berkeley Law School, October 2017.

Contributor/discussant at the Theoretical Disagreement in Law Roundtable, Duke Law School, April 2017.

Invited commentator at the Works in Progress Conference, Center for the Study of Originalism, University of San Diego, California, January 2017.

Featured speaker at the 2016 Bench-Bar Conference, Toledo, Ohio, October 2016.

Presented "The Gibbons Fallacy" at Stanford Law School, September 2016.