Ely, John Hart, 1938-

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John Hart Ely was born in New York City on December 3, 1938. He received his A.B. from Princeton University in 1960 and LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1963. He held the following academic appointments: professor, Yale Law School, 1968-1973; professor, Harvard Law School, 1973-1982; professor, Stanford Law School, 1982-1996, dean of the Stanford Law school from 1982-1987; and professor, University of Miami School of Law, 1996-2003.

In 1962 he clerked for Abe Fortas and assisted with drafting a brief on behalf of Clarence Gideon who had been tried and convicted without legal representation. The next year, Gideon v. Wainwright was overturned by the United States Supreme Court on the grounds that underprivileged citizens accused of serious crimes are entitled to legal representation paid for by the government. After graduating from Yale Law School, he served as the youngest member of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He also was a criminal defense lawyer in San Diego. In 1975 he left academia briefly to work for the U. S. Department of Transportation serving as legal counsel to Secretary William Coleman; Ely was involved in litigation relating to landing rights in the United States for the Concorde, the supersonic transport.

Ely’s most important work was in constitutional law and he was best known for his book, Democracy and Distrust: A Theory of Judicial Review (Harvard, 1980). His other books include War and Responsibility (Princeton, 1993) and On Constitutional Ground (Princeton, 1996).

Ely died on October 25, 2003, in Miami, Florida.

From the guide to the John Hart Ely papers, 1833-2003, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Books from the personal library of John Rawls, 1915-2002. Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Cox, Archibald, 1912-. Papers, 1862-1978. Harvard Law School Library, HLS Library
referencedIn Papers, 1921-2000 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf Cox, Archibald, 1912-. Papers, 1862-1978. Harvard Law School Library, HLS Library
referencedIn Papers, 1918-1993 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf John Hart Ely papers, 1833-2003 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Berger, Raoul, 1901- person
associatedWith Cox, Archibald, 1912- person
associatedWith Paul A. Freund person
associatedWith Rawls, John, 1921-2002 person
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1938-12-03

Death 2003-10-25




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