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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...

"Reframing Article I, Section 8." Fordham Law Review. (Forthcoming).
Full Text: SSRN

"Suspect Spheres, Not Enumerated Powers: A Guide for Leaving the Lamppost." Roderick Hills, co-author. Mich. L. Rev. (Forthcoming).
Full Text: SSRN

"Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Future of Originalism." In Hamilton and the Law: Reading Today's Most Contentious Legal Issues through the Hit Musical, edited by Lisa A. Tucker, 3-11. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2020.

"Marshaling McCulloch." Review of The Spirit of the Constitution: John Marshall and the 200-Year Odyssey of McCulloch v. Maryland, by David S. Schwartz. Ark. L. Rev. 73, no. 1 (2020): 89-94.
Full Text: WWW

"The Support-or-Advocacy Clauses." Cameron O.Kistler, co-author. Fordham L. Rev. 89, no. 1 (2020): 145-93.
Full Text: SSRN | WWW

"Herein of 'Herein Granted': Why Article I's Vesting Clause Does Not Support the Doctrine of Enumerated Powers." Const. Comment. 35, no. 3 (2020): 301-344.
Full Text: SSRN | WWW

"Segregation in the Galleries: A Reconsideration." Mich. L. Rev Online. 118 (2020): 150-8.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | SSRN | WWW

"The Most Revealing Word in the United States Reports." Green Bag 22, no. 4 (2019): 333-40.
Full Text: SSRN

"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 17, no. 2 (2019): 373-406.
Full Text: HEIN (UMich Users) | HEIN | SSRN

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

"Second Redemption, Third Reconstruction." Cal. L. Rev. 106, no. 6 (2018): 1987-99.
Full Text: MLaw Repository | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Lexis | Westlaw | WWW

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

"'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 | HEIN (UMich users) | HEIN | Westlaw | WWW

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

Curriculum Interest Areas


Co-organizer of the Symposium on the Federalist Constitution, held October 2020 under the auspices of the Fordham Law Review.

Co-authored U.S. Supreme Court amicus brief representing 19 Republican former members of Congress in Trump v. Vance, March 2020.

Spoke about originalism and living constitutionalism in connection with the PBS project "A More or Less Perfect Union," Hillsdale College, February 2020.

Argued Cockrum v. Donald J. Trump for President as lead counsel for plaintiffs, January 2019.

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.