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Stanford professor Pamela Karlan to testify on impeachment

The latest House hearing weighing President Trump’s impeachment will feature a Stanford law professor who’s known as a star of the liberal legal world.

Pamela S. Karlan, who’s taught constitutional law at Stanford since 1998, is one of four legal scholars who will testify in the House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

Sanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan is set to testify during the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing Wednesday. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) 

The hearing will focus on the impeachment process, and seems likely to amount to an Impeachment 101 class for the committee’s members — and the millions of Americans watching.

Karlan, who got her bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees at Yale University, is an expert in voting rights and the co-founder of Stanford’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, which lets students work on real-life cases before the high court. She has argued at the Supreme Court herself nine times, most recently earlier this year when she represented two men who allege they were fired from their jobs because they’re gay.

“If you want to know what the constitution says about something, there are few if any people in the country better to turn to than Pam Karlan,” said David Sklansky, another Stanford Law Professor who clerked together for former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun at the same time Karlan did. “I think she will give very clear and cogent testimony and will provide an excellent analysis of the legal questions of impeachment.”

Early in the Obama years, Karlan was considered a possible Supreme Court nominee. But she was passed over by the White House, disappointing some progressive activists who described her as a potential liberal counterweight to the conservative standard-bearer Antonin Scalia. 

Later on in the administration, Karlan worked a stint at the Justice Department, serving as the deputy assistant attorney general for voting rights between 2014 and 2015. She was in charge of implementing the Supreme Court ruling that struck down the anti-same-sex marriage Defense of Marriage Act. She’s also worked as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and a commissioner on California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

Wednesday’s impeachment hearing, which starts at 7 a.m. Pacific time, follows several televised showdowns in the House Intelligence Committee in recent weeks. Those hearings featured diplomats and State Department officials who testified about President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden

The White House declined an invitation from the committee to participate in this week’s hearing. 

“An invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with any semblance of a fair process,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to chairman Jerrold Nadler Sunday. 

The other law professors who will speak Wednesday are Noah Feldman of Harvard and Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina, both also chosen by the committee’s Democrats, and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, chosen by the Republicans. 

Karlan — who has described herself as “sort of snarky” and is known for quoting poetry during her classes — has encouraged her Stanford students not to shy away from taking tough stands.

“In a lawyer, courage is a muscle,” she said in her 2009 commencement address at the law school. “You develop courage by exercising it. Sitting on the fence is not practice for standing up.”

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