Michael Paulsen

Distinguished University Chair and Professor

(651) 962-4831
(800) 328-6819, Ext. 2-4831

1000 LaSalle Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403-2015

Office Location: MSL 420

J.D., Yale Law School

M.A., Yale Divinity School

B.A., Northwestern University

Michael Paulsen received his B.A. degree with distinction from Northwestern University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received an M.A. degree in Religion from Yale Divinity School and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and a recipient of the Harlan Fiske Stone Prize for appellate advocacy.  After graduation from law school, he joined the Department of Justice in the Criminal Division Honors Program, and has also served as staff counsel for the Center for Law & Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. and as an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel.

Prior to coming to the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Paulsen served as the McKnight Presidential Professor of Law and Public Policy, Briggs and Morgan Professor of Law, and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship at the University of Minnesota Law School. 

Professor Paulsen is among the nation’s leading scholars of constitutional interpretation, and his publications include articles in the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Chicago Law Review, NYU Law Review, Texas Law Review, California Law Review, and the Georgetown Law Journal, among many others. 

Courses Taught

Number Title Credits
600 Civil Procedure 4
768 Federal Jurisdiction 3
844 Lincoln and the Constitution 2
950 Supervised Resrch & Writing .5

Areas of Academic Expertise:

Constitutional Interpretation

From the article "Grand Ideas: Faculty members describe the best ideas from their scholarship" St. Thomas Lawyer Magazine Fall 2011

Among my contributions to the area of constitutional law is the insight that the power of constitutional interpretation is not the sole or unique province of the judiciary. The Constitution establishes constitutional supremacy, not judicial supremacy. The power of constitutional interpretation is not vested in a single body or branch, but like other important constitutional powers, is divided and shared by many actors in our constitutional system, none of which has the sole or superior power to act, and each of which is checked by the others. The implications of this insight are reflected in numerous scholarly articles, in my new co-authored casebook, The Constitution of the United States (Foundation Press, 2010), and a forthcoming co-authored book for general readers, The Constitution: An Intelligent Introduction and Brief History.

Upcoming: Book projects on the radically religious reasons and logic underlying America’s commitment to religious liberty and on the constitutional issues surrounding the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

Contributions and mentions in the media


Michael Stokes Paulsen & Luke Douglas Paulsen, The Constitution: An Intelligent Introduction and Brief History [working title; forthcoming].

Michael Stokes Paulsen (ed.), Our Constitution: Landmark Interpretations on American’s Governing Document (2013).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Steven G. Calabresi, Michael W. McConnell, & Samuel Bray, The Constitution of the United States, (Foundation Press, 2010) [casebook] (2d ed. 2013).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said-Opinion of “Justice Paulsen”, (book chapter) in J. Balkin ed., What Roe v. Wade Should Have Said: The Nation’s Top Legal Experts Relate America’s Most Controversial Decision (2005).



Is Religious Freedom Irrational?

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Is Religious Freedom Irrational? 112 Mich. L. Rev. 1043 (2014) (reviewing Brian Leiter, Why Tolerate Religion? (2013)).

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Kermit Gosnell and Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Kermit Gosnell and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, ____U. of St. Thomas Journal of Law & Pub. Pol’y  _____(forthcoming 2014)(symposium issue)

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The Text, the Whole Text, and Nothing But the Text, So Help Me God: Un-writing Amar’s Unwritten Constitution

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Text, the Whole Text, and Nothing But the Text, So Help Me God:  Un-writing Amar’s Unwritten Constitution, 81 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1385 (2014) (reviewing Akhil Amar, America’s Unwritten Constitution:  The Precedents and Principles We Live By (2012)).

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The Plausibility of Personhood

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Plausibility of Personhood, 74 Ohio State L. J. 13 (2013). 

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The Priority of God: A Theory of Religious Liberty

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Priority of God: A Theory of Religious Liberty, 39 Pepperdine L. Rev. 1159 (2013).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Priority of God (A Theory of Religious Liberty), Pepp. L. Rev. (forthcoming, 2012).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Disaster: The Worst Religious Freedom Case in Fifty Years, 24 Regent U. L. Rev. 283 (2012).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution, 27 Const. Comment. 531 (2011).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, How to Count to Thirty-Four: The Constitutional Case for a Constitutional Convention, 34 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y  837 (2011).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, The War Power, 33  Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 113 (2010).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Does the Constitution Prescribe Rules for Its Own Interpretation?, 103 Nw. U. L. Rev. 857 (2009).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Constitutional Power to Interpret International Law, 118 Yale L.J. 1762 (2009).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Freedom of Speech at a Private Religious University, 2 U. St. Thomas J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 104 (2008).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, A Government Of Adequate Powers, 31 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y 991 (2008).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Lincoln and Judicial Authority, 83 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1227 (2008). 

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Does the Supreme Court’s Current Doctrine of Stare Decisis Require Adherence to the Supreme Court’s Current Doctrine of Stare Decisis?, 86 N.C. L. Rev. 1165 (2008). 

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Precedent As Tactical Weaponry, 86 Tex. L. Rev. See Also 56 (2008).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Prospective Abolition of Abortion: Abortion and the Constitution in 2047, 1 U. St. Thomas J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 51 (2007).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Can a Constitutional Amendment Overrule a Supreme Court Decision?, 24 Const. Comment. 285 (2007).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, How to Interpret the Constitution (and How Not To), 115 Yale L.J. 2037 (2006).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Is St. Paul Unconstitutional?, 23 Const. Comment. 1 (2006).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Emancipation Proclamation and the Commander in Chief Power, 40 Ga. L. Rev. 807 (2006).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Killing Terri Schiavo, 22 Const. Comment. 585 (2005).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Intrinsically Corrupting Influence of Precedent, 22 Const. Comment. 289 (2005).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Constitution of Necessity, 79 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1257 (2004).

Vasan Kesavan & Michael Stokes Paulsen, Let’s Mess with Texas, 82 Tex. L. Rev. 1587 (2004).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Marbury’s Wrongness, 20 Const. Comment. 343 (2003).

Vasan Kesavan & Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Interpretive Force of the Constitution’s Secret Drafting History, 91 Geo. L.J. 1113 (2003).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Irrepressible Myth of Marbury, 101 Mich. L. Rev. 2706 (2003).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Worst Constitutional Decision of All Time, 78 Notre Dame L. Rev. 995 (2003).

Vasan Kesavan & Michael Stokes Paulsen, Is West Virginia Unconstitutional?, 90 Calif. L. Rev. 291 (2002).

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Youngstown Goes to War, 19 Const. Comment. 215 (2002).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Lawson’s Awesome (Also Wrong, Some), 18 Const. Comment. 231 (2001).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Scouts, Families, and Schools, 85 Minn. L. Rev. 1917 (2001).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Looking for a Model Answer: May Congress Prohibit Sex-Selective Abortions?, 17  Const. Comment. 165 (2000).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Abrogating Stare Decisis by Statute: May Congress Remove the Precedential Effect of Roe and Casey?, 109 Yale L.J. 1535 (2000).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, A Constitutional Independent Counsel Statute, 5 Widener L. Symp. J. 111 (2000).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Dead Man’s Privilege: Vince Foster and the Demise of Legal Ethics, 68 Fordham L. Rev. 807 (1999).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Nixon Now: The Courts and the Presidency After Twenty-Five Years, 83 Minn. L. Rev. 1337 (1999).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, I’m Even Smarter than Bruce Ackerman: Why the President Can Veto His Own Impeachment, 16 Const. Comment. 1 (1999).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Who “Owns” the Government’s Attorney-Client Privilege?, 83 Minn. L. Rev. 473 (1998).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Medium Rare Scrutiny, 15 Const. Comment. 397 (1998).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Hell, Handbaskets, and Government Lawyers: The Duty of Loyalty and Its Limits, 61 Law & Contemp. Probs. 83 (1998).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Counting Heads on RFRA, 14 Const. Comment. 7 (1997).

Michael Stokes Paulsen & Steffen N. Johnson, Scalia’s Sermonette, 72 Notre Dame L. Rev. 863 (1997).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, How Yale Law School Trivializes Religious Devotion, 27 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1259 (1997).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Is Bill Clinton Unconstitutional? The Case for President Strom Thurmond, 13 Const. Comment. 217 (1996).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Limited Public Forum: Unconstitutional Conditions on “Equal Access” for Religious Speakers and Groups, 29 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 653 (1996).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Double Jeopardy Law After Akhil Amar: Some Civil Procedure Analogies and Inquiries, 26 Cumb. L. Rev. 23 (1996).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, A RFRA Runs Through It: Religious Freedom and the U.S. Code, 56 Mont. L. Rev. 249 (1995).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Captain James T. Kirk and the Enterprise of Constitutional Interpretation: Some Modest Proposals from the Twenty-Third Century, 59 Alb. L. Rev. 671 (1995). 

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Most Dangerous Branch: Executive Power to Say What the Law Is, 83 Geo. L.J. 217 (1994).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Protestantism and Comparative Competence: A Reply to Professors Levinson and Eisgruber, 83 Geo. L.J. 385 (1994).

Michael Stokes Paulsen & Daniel N. Rosen, Brown, Casey-Style: The Shocking First Draft of the Segregation Opinion, 69 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1287 (1994).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Is Lloyd Bentsen Unconstitutional?, 46 Stan. L. Rev. 907 (1994).

Michael Stokes Paulsen & Michael W. McConnell, The Doubtful Constitutionality of the Clinic Access Bill, 1 Va. J. Soc. Pol’y & L. 261 (1994).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, A General Theory of Article V: The Constitutional Lessons of the Twenty-seventh Amendment, 103  Yale L.J. 677 (1993).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Merryman Power and the Dilemma of Autonomous Executive Brand Interpretation, 15 Cardozo L. Rev.  81 (1993).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Lemon is Dead, 43 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 795 (1993).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Reverse Discrimination and Law School Faculty Hiring: The Undiscovered Opinion, 71 Tex. L. Rev. 993 (1993).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Religion, Equality, and the Constitution: An Equal Protection Approach to Establishment Clause Adjudication, 61 Notre Dame L. Rev. 311 (1986).

Short Pieces

First Things - "The Great Interpreter"

Paulsen, Michael Stokes and Paulsen, Luke, The Great Interpreter (April 15, 2015). First Things, 2015, Forthcoming; U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-09.

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Michael Stokes Paulsen, Good Riddance, Jim Chen, You No-Good Lousy So-and-So, 24 Const. Comment. 1 (2007).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, There is No Winter in Minnesota, 23 Const. Comment. 305 (2006).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Dedication and Forward: Youngstown at Fifty: A Symposium, 19 Const. Comment. 1 (2002).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Grinch Who Stole Legislation (A Sequel), 19 Const. Comment. 539 (2002).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Green Eggs and Legislation, 18 Const. Comment. 1 (2001).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Someone Should Have Told Spiro Agnew, 14 Const. Comment. 245 (1997).

Book Reviews

Michael Stokes Paulsen, The Civil War as Constitutional Interpretation, 71 U. Chi. L. Rev. 691 (2004) (reviewing Daniel Farber, Lincoln’s Constitution, U. Chicago Press, 2003).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Dirty Harry and the Real Constitution, 64 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1457 (1997) (reviewing Akhil Reed Amar, The Constitution and Criminal Procedure: First Principles, Yale U. Press, 1997).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, God is Great, Garvey is Good: Making Sense of Religious Freedom, 72 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1597 (1997) (reviewing John H. Garvey, What Are Freedoms For? , Harvard U. Press, 1996).

Michael Stokes Paulsen, Straightening Out the Confirmation Mess, 105 Yale L.J. 549 (1995) (reviewing Stephen L. Carter, The Confirmation Mess: Cleaning Up the Federal Appointments Process, New York: Basic Books, 1994).