Faculty Profile: Prof. Mark Graber

Schmoozing with Prof. Mark Graber

Growing up on Long Island, N.Y., Maryland Carey Law Prof. Mark Graber was always the kid organizing neighborhood basketball games—naming the time, the location, and making sure the ball was inflated.

The court has changed, but these days, the constitutional law professor is still bringing people together, and the team comprises top thinkers dedicated to the preservation of constitutional democracy.

This brain trust of constitutional scholars from prestigious institutions around the country, and, increasingly, around the world, are enticed to conferences Graber arranges and his rapidly growing “constitutionaldemocracy” listserv, surely because of the professor’s welcoming demeanor and self-deprecating wit, but mostly because Graber himself is a foremost scholar on constitutional law and politics.

From his office on the second floor of the law school’s downtown Baltimore building, Graber not only plans his classes, meets with students, and writes, but he also organizes the long-running Constitutional Law Schmooze, began by Harvard Law Professor Mark Tushnet in the mid-1980. The conference now known worldwide simply as, “The Schmooze,” draws both superstars and emerging researchers from institutions such as Yale, Penn, Princeton, and the London School of Economics to Maryland Carey Law to put their heads together on topics like “Interest Groups and the Constitution.”  It has grown to be nationally acknowledged as the leading conference for scholars who work on the border of law, political science and history.

“I love getting scholars who have work in common to talk to each other,” says Graber. “It is powerful to address pressing legal issues collectively and from differing perspectives.”

With 13 books to his credit and too many articles and book chapters to count, Graber is nationally recognized as a founder of the American Constitutional Development movement, which analyzes constitutional doctrine combining tools from the disciplines of law, history, government, and American politics.

From his early work challenging the rooted model of the counter-majoritarian problem in constitutional courts, to his recent book, Constitutional Democracy in Crisis? exploring the rise of populist regimes around the world, Graber has been on the leading edge of consciousness shifting in the constitutional law world for over 35 years.

Actively involved in multiple professional organizations in the fields of law and political science, including the American Political Science Association, Law and Society, the American Society for Legal History, and the American Association of Law Schools, Graber has been a regular reviewer for prominent academic presses, including those at Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, and Cambridge. He has also been a regular reviewer for multiple prestigious law, political science, and history journals, and served on the editorial boards of one press and four academic journals.

With a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Dartmouth, a Ph.D. in political science from Yale, and a JD from Columbia, Graber joined Maryland Carey Law in 2003 after serving on the faculty in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, for over 10 years. He also has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Oregon, Harvard, and Yale. In 2016, Graber was named Regents Professor, the most prestigious University System of Maryland (USM) rank. The seventh Regents Professor in USM history, Graber is the only professor on the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus to hold the title.

For students—from those in their first semester to 3Ls on the brink of graduation—who get to take constitutional law classes with Graber, his depth of expertise and energy mean a top-notch classroom experience complete with historical and political context and rousing discussions on how constitutional law relates to current issues, like impeachment and Brexit. Always cognizant of the weighty charge of training the next generation of lawyer leaders, he emphasizes to students the special responsibility of those in the legal profession to uphold rule of law principles underlying the constitution. “We need to understand and respect legality,” says Graber. “If lawyers do not uphold and defend constitutional norms, who will?”

With his extensive professional connections and experience, Graber also offers opportunities to students to ready them for legal careers in ways that go beyond academics.

As director of Maryland Carey Law’s National Trial Team, he helps student advocates hone their litigation skills through practice with judges and experienced attorneys, and competitions around the country.

In Graber’s new colloquium co-taught with Professor Peter Danchin, upper-level students are treated to conversations with an impressive list of constitutional law experts, including Aziz Z. Huq, a University of Chicago law professor whose new book How to Save a Constitutional Democracy won the International Society of Public Law ICON-S Book Prize; and Penelope Andrews, president of the Law and Society Association, who was the first female dean at Albany Law School. “In the colloquium, students meet great people,” says Graber, “but they also get socialized as professionals.”

Father to three grown daughters and husband to Dr. Julia Frank, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry of George Washington University, Graber has reached a career/life sweet spot. He gets to schmooze with dynamic thinkers, write books, play an integral part in preparing students to be ethical lawyers and citizens, and play too much online chess in his office.

 “I would rather be teaching than in any other profession,” reflects Graber. “Other than,” he adds with a swish of the wrist, “playing point guard for the NY Knicks.”

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