James E. Pfander

Owen L. Coon Professor of Law


James E. Pfander has focused his teaching and research on the role of judicial systems in constitutional democracies.  His latest book, Cases Without Controversies:  Uncontested Adjudication in Article III Courts (Oxford U. Press 2021), explores the history of litigation in the courts of the United States, showing that Congress had the power to assign the federal courts cognizance of no-injury claims to register a claim of right under federal law.  Building on that history, the book develops a new account of the meaning of Article III’s provision for the adjudication of “cases and controversies,” one that challenges the Supreme Court’s current thinking.  A symposium on the blog, Balkinization, features reviews of the book from a range of scholars.

Much of Pfander’s recent scholarship explores the role of courts in securing government accountability.  In The Common Law Origins of Ex parte Young, 72 Stan. L. Rev. 1269 (2020), Pfander and Wentzel trace the rise of the suit for injunctive relief to common law modes of enforcing official compliance with law.  In The Myth of Personal Liability:  Who Pays When Bivens Claims Succeed?, 72 Stan. L. Rev. 561 (2020), Pfander joined with Schwartz and Reinert to question the Supreme Court’s assumption that government officials face personal liability for damages awarded in constitutional tort litigation.  More generally, Dicey’s Nightmare:  An Essay on the Rule of Law, 107 Cal. L. Rev. 737 (2019), shows that nineteenth century courts erected far fewer obstacles to suits against federal government officers than their twenty-first century counterparts. In Constitutional Torts and the War on Terror (Oxford U. Press 2017), Pfander documents and evaluates the failure of the federal courts to address the merits of the claims of individuals who were subjected to extraordinary rendition, military detention, and torture during the Bush Administration’s war on terror. Other books include Civil Procedure: A Modern Approach (7th ed. 2018) (with Marcus, Redish & Sherman); Federal Courts: Cases, Comments, and Questions (8th ed. 2018) (with Redish & Sherry), Principles of Federal Jurisdiction (4th ed. 2021).

With an interest in the comparative effectiveness of judicial oversight in other systems, Pfander has taught and lectured in such countries as the Czech Republic, Israel, Morocco, Romania, and the United Kingdom.  A member of the American Law Institute, Pfander recently concluded his work as reporter/consultant to the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. He has served as chair of both the federal courts and civil procedure sections of the Association of American Law Schools.



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  • BA, University of Missouri
  • JD, University of Virginia

Prior Appointments

  • Prentice H. Marshall Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Visiting Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

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