Laurence Tribe

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Laurence Tribe
Laurence Henry Tribe

(1941-10-10) October 10, 1941 (age 77)
Spouse(s)Carolyn Ricarda Kreye (1964-2008; 2 children)
Academic background
Alma mater Harvard University (AB, JD)
Academic work
Sub-discipline U.S. Constitutional Law
Institutions Harvard Law School
Notable students Barack Obama [1]
Ted Cruz
John Roberts [2]
Elena Kagan [3]
Kathleen Sullivan [1]

Laurence Henry Tribe (born October 10, 1941) is an American legal scholar who is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at the Harvard Law School of Harvard University. Tribe's scholarship focuses on American constitutional law. He also works with the firm Massey & Gail LLP on a variety of matters. [4]

Harvard Law School law school in Cambridge

Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1817, it is the oldest continuously operating law school in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. It is ranked first in the world by the QS World University Rankings and the ARWU Shanghai Ranking.

Harvard University Private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Constitutional law body of law

Constitutional law is a body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of different entities within a state, namely, the executive, the parliament or legislature, and the judiciary; as well as the basic rights of citizens and, in federal countries such as the United States and Canada, the relationship between the central government and state, provincial, or territorial governments.


Tribe is a constitutional law scholar [5] [6] and cofounder of American Constitution Society. He is the author of American Constitutional Law (1978), a major treatise in that field, and has argued before the United States Supreme Court 36 times. [7]

American Constitution Society organization

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is a progressive legal organization. The group's stated mission is to "promote the vitality of the U.S. Constitution and the fundamental values it expresses: individual rights and liberties, genuine equality, access to justice, democracy and the rule of law."

Early life and education

Tribe was born in Shanghai, China, the son of Paulina (née Diatlovitsky) and George Israel Tribe. [8] His family was Jewish. His father was from Poland and his mother was born in Harbin, to immigrants from Eastern Europe. [9] [10] [11] He was raised in the French Concession of Shanghai. [9] Tribe attended Abraham Lincoln High School, San Francisco, California. He holds an A.B. in mathematics, summa cum laude from Harvard College (1962), and a J.D., magna cum laude from Harvard Law School (1966), where he was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. Tribe was a member of the Harvard team that won the intercollegiate National Debate Tournament in 1961 and coached the team to the same title in 1969. [12]

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

Harbin Prefecture-level & Sub-provincial city in Heilongjiang, Peoples Republic of China

Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province, and largest city in the northeastern region of the People's Republic of China. Holding sub-provincial administrative status, Harbin has direct jurisdiction over nine metropolitan districts, two county-level cities and seven counties. Harbin is the eighth most populous Chinese city according to the 2010 census, the built-up area had 5,282,093 inhabitants, while the total population of the sub-provincial city was up to 10,635,971. Harbin serves as a key political, economic, scientific, cultural, and communications hub in Northeast China, as well as an important industrial base of the nation.

Abraham Lincoln High School (San Francisco) public high school located in the Sunset District of San Francisco, California

Abraham Lincoln High School (ALHS) is a California Distinguished public high school located in the Sunset District of San Francisco, California. In 2018, ALHS was ranked #499 and earned a gold medal by U.S. News & World Report, placing it in the top 2% of public high schools nationally.


Tribe served as a law clerk to Mathew Tobriner on the California Supreme Court from 1966–67 and as a law clerk to Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1967–68. He joined the Harvard Law School faculty as an assistant professor in 1968, receiving tenure in 1972. Among his law students and research assistants while on the faculty at Harvard have been President Barack Obama (a research assistant for two years), Chief Justice John Roberts (as a law student in his classes), US Senator Ted Cruz, Chief Judge and Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan (as a research assistant). [13]

Law clerk person who provides assistance to a judge in researching issues before the court and in writing opinions

A law clerk or a judicial clerk is an individual—generally an attorney—who provides direct assistance and counsel to a judge in making legal determinations and in writing opinions by researching issues before the court. Judicial clerks often play significant roles in the formation of case law through their influence upon judges' decisions. Judicial clerks should not be confused with legal clerks, court clerks, or courtroom deputies who only provide secretarial and administrative support to attorneys and/or judges.

Mathew Oscar Tobriner was an American labor attorney, law professor, and Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court from July 2, 1962, to January 20, 1982.

Potter Stewart American judge

Potter Stewart was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1958 to 1981. During his tenure, he made, among other areas, major contributions to criminal justice reform, civil rights, access to the courts, and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

In 1978, Tribe published the first version of what has become one of the core texts on its subject, American Constitutional Law. It has since been updated and expanded a number of times. [14]

In 1983 Tribe represented Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon in the appeal of his federal conviction on income tax charges. [11]

Sun Myung Moon Korean religious leader (1920–2012)

Sun Myung Moon was a Korean religious leader, also known for his business ventures and support for political causes. A messiah claimant, he was the founder of the Unification movement, and of its widely noted "Blessing" or mass wedding ceremony, and the author of its unique theology the Divine Principle. He was an opponent of communism and an advocate for Korean reunification, for which he was recognized by the governments of both North and South Korea. Businesses he promoted included News World Communications, an international news media corporation known for its American subsidiary The Washington Times, and Tongil Group, a South Korean business group (chaebol), as well as various related organizations.

Tribe represented the restaurant Grendel's Den in the case Larkin v Grendel's Den in which the restaurant challenged a Massachusetts law which allowed religious establishments to prohibit liquor sales in neighboring properties. The case reached the United States Supreme Court in 1982 where the court overturned the law as violating of the separation of church and state. [15] The Lawyer's Guide to Writing Well criticizes the opening of his brief as a "thicket of confusing citations and unnecessary definitions" stating that it would have been "measurably strengthened" if he had used the "more lively imagery" that he had used in a footnote later in the document. [16]

In the 1985 National Gay Task Force v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, Tribe represented the National Gay Task Force who had won an Appeals Court ruling against an Oklahoma law that would have allowed schools to fire teachers who were attracted to people of the same sex or spoke in favor of civil rights for LGBT people. The Supreme Court deadlocked which left the Appeals Court's favorable ruling in place, declaring the law would have violated the First Amendment. [17]

The Supreme Court ruled against Tribe's client in Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986 and held that a Georgia state law criminalizing sodomy, as applied to consensual acts between persons of the same sex, did not violate fundamental liberties under the principle of substantive due process. However, in 2003 the Supreme Court overruled Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas , a case for which Tribe wrote the ACLU's amicus curiae brief supporting Lawrence, who was represented by Lambda Legal. [17]

Tribe testified at length during the Senate confirmation hearings in 1987 about the Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination, arguing that Bork's stand on the limitation of rights in the Constitution would be unique in the history of the Court. [18] His participation in the hearings raised his profile outside of the legal realm and he became a target of right-wing critics. [18] His phone was later found to have been wiretapped, but it was never discovered who had placed the device or why. [18]

Tribe's 1990 book Abortion: Clash of Absolutes, was called "informative, lucidly written and cogently reasoned" in a review in the Journal of the American Bar Association. [5]

In 1992, Tribe reargued Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., before the Supreme Court on behalf of the Liggett tobacco company. [19]

Tribe was part of Al Gore's legal team regarding the results of the 2000 United States presidential election. Due to the close nature of the vote count, recounts had been initiated in Florida, and the recounts had been challenged in court. Tribe argued the initial case in Federal Court in Miami in which they successfully argued that the court should not stop the recount of the votes which was taking place and scheduled to take place in certain counties. [20] David Boies argued for the Gore team in a related matter in the Florida State Courts regarding the dates that Secretary of State of Florida Katherine Harris would accept recounts. [20] When the original Federal case, Bush v. Gore , was appealed, Gore and his advisers decided at the last minute to have Boies instead of Tribe argue the case at the Supreme Court. [20] The court determined that recounts of votes should cease and that accordingly George W. Bush had been elected President.

Since the mid-1990s, Tribe has represented a number of corporations advocating for their free speech rights and constitutional personhood. [21] Tribe represented General Electric in its defense against its liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act ("Superfund"), in which GE and Tribe unsuccessfully argued that the act unconstitutionally violated General Electric's due process rights. [21] [22]

In 2014, Tribe was retained to represent Peabody Energy in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency. Tribe argued that EPA's use of the Clean Air Act to implement its Clean Power Plan was unconstitutional. [23] Tribe's legal analysis has been criticized by other legal commentators, including fellow Harvard Law School professors Richard J. Lazarus and Jody Freeman, who described his conclusion as "wholly without merit". [24] [25] His advocacy for corporations like Peabody has been criticized by some legal experts. [21]

Political involvement and controversy

Tribe is one of the co-founders of the liberal American Constitution Society, the law and policy organization formed to counter the conservative Federalist Society, and is one of a number of scholars at Harvard Law School who have expressed their support for animal rights. [26]

Tribe served as a judicial adviser to the Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. [1] [27] In February 2010, he was named "Senior Counselor for Access to Justice" in the Department of Justice. [7] [28] He resigned eight months later, citing health reasons. [29]

In December 2016, Tribe and notable lawyers Lawrence Lessig and Andrew Dhuey established The Electors Trust under the aegis of EqualCitizens.US to provide pro bono legal counsel as well as a secure communications platform for those of the 538 members of the United States Electoral College who were considering a vote of conscience against Donald Trump in the presidential election. [30]

After the dismissal of James Comey in May 2017, Tribe wrote: "The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Trump for obstruction of justice." Tribe argued that Trump's conduct rose to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that are impeachable offenses under the Constitution. [31] He added: "It will require serious commitment to constitutional principle, and courageous willingness to put devotion to the national interest above self-interest and party loyalty, for a Congress of the president's own party to initiate an impeachment inquiry." [31]

Tribe on the board of the Renew Democracy Initiative, an American political organization founded in 2017 to promote and defend liberal democracy in the U.S. and abroad. [32]

In 2004, Tribe acknowledged having improperly borrowed without attribution several phrases and a sentence in his 1985 book, God Save this Honorable Court, from a 1974 book by Henry Abraham. [33] [34] After an investigation, Tribe was reprimanded by Harvard for "a significant lapse in proper academic practice," but the investigation concluded that Tribe did not intend to plagiarize. [35]

Tribe has stirred controversy due to his promotion of unreliable claims about President Trump's fitness for office. [36] [37] Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan harshly criticized Tribe, saying that he "has become an important vector of misinformation and conspiracy theories on Twitter." [36] According to McKay Coppins of The Atlantic, Tribe has been "an especially active booster" of the Palmer Report, "a liberal blog known for peddling conspiracy theories". [38] Tribe removed the posted tweets following the Palmer Report and contests the accuracy of the story of controversy.

Controversially, Tribe has promoted unreliable sources and conspiracy theories about Donald Trump. [36] [37] [38]

Personal life

Tribe married Carolyn Ricarda Kreye in 1964. They divorced in 2008. Their two children, Mark and Kerry, are visual artists. [39] [40]

On May 22, 2013, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Columbia University during its Class of 2013 commencement. [41]


The following is a list of cases Tribe has argued in the U.S. Supreme Court, as of the end of 2005:

Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia 448 U.S. 555 1981
Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness 452 U.S. 640 1981
Crawford v. Board of Education 458 U.S. 527 1982
Larkin v. Grendel’s Den 459 U.S. 116 1982
White v. Massachusetts Council 460 U.S. 204 1983
Pacific Gas & Electric v. California 461 U.S. 190 1983
Hawaii Housing Auth. v. Midkiff 467 U.S. 229 1984
Northeast Bancorp v. Fed. Reserve 472 U.S. 159 1985
National Gay Task Force v. Board of Education 470 U.S. 159 1985
Fisher v. City of Berkeley 475 U.S. 260 1986
Bowers v. Hardwick 478 U.S. 186 1986
Pennzoil v. Texaco 481 U.S. 1 1986
Schweiker v. Chilicky 487 U.S. 412 1988
Granfinanciera v. Nordberg 492 U.S. 33 1989
Sable Communications v. FCC 492 U.S. 115 1989
Adams Fruit v. Barrett 494 U.S. 638 1990
Rust v. Sullivan 500 U.S. 173 1991
Cipollone v. Liggett 505 U.S. 504 1992
TXO v. Alliance Resources 509 U.S. 443 1993
Honda Motor Co. v. Oberg 512 U.S. 415 1994
U.S. v. Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone 516 U.S. 415 1996
Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party 520 U.S. 351 1997
Vacco v. Quill 521 U.S. 793 1997
Amchem Products v. Windsor 521 U.S. 591 1997
Baker v. General Motors 522 U.S. 222 1998
AT&T v. Iowa Utilities Board 525 U.S. 366 1999
Ortiz v. Fibreboard 527 U.S. 815 1999
Bush v. Gore I 531 U.S. 70 2000
New York Times Co. v. Tasini 533 U.S. 438 2001
U.S. v. United Foods 533 U.S. 405 2001
FCC v. NextWave 537 U.S. 293 2002
State Farm v. Campbell 538 U.S. 408 2003
Nike v. Kasky 539 U.S. 654 2003
Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association 544 U.S. 550 2005

Tribe has argued 26 cases in the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals:[ citation needed ]

Worldwide Church of God v. California 623 F.2d 613 [ permanent dead link ]9th1980
Grendel's Den v. Goodwin 662 F.2d 102 1st1981
Pacific Legal Foundation v. State Energy Resources 659 F.2d 903 [ permanent dead link ]9th1981
United States v. Sun Myung Moon 718 F.2d 12102nd1983
Romany v. Colegio de Abogados742 F.2d 321st1984
Westmoreland v. CBS752 F.2d 162nd1984
Colombrito v. Kelly 764 F.2d 122 2nd1985
Texaco v. Pennzoil 784 F.2d 1133 2nd1986
U.S. v. Bank of New England 821 F.2d 844 1st1987
U.S. v. Gallo 859 F.2d 1078 2nd1988
U.S. v. GAF Corporation884 F.2d 6702nd1989
U.S. v. Western Electric Company900 F.2d 283D.C.1999
Fineman v. Armstrong World Industries980 F.2d 171D.C.1992
U.S. v. Western Electric Company993 F.2d 1572D.C.1993
Lightning Lube v. Witco Corporation4 F.3d 11533rd1993
Hopkins v. Dow Corning Corporation33 F.3d 11169th1994
Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone v. U.S.42 F.3d 1814th1994
Georgine v. Amchem Products, Inc. 83 F.3d 610 3rd1996
BellSouth Corp. v. F.C.C. 144 F.3d 58 D.C.1998
SBC Communications v. F.C.C. 154 F.3d 226 5th1998
City of Dallas v. F.C.C. F.3d 341 5th1999
U.S. West v. Tristani "182 F.3d 1202" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2008. (90.5 KB)10th1999
U.S. West v. F.C.C. "182 F.3d 1224" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2008. (220 KB)10th1999
Southwest Voter Registration v. Shelley "344 F.3d 914" (PDF). (23.0 KB)9th2003
Pacific Gas and Elec. v. California "350 F.3d 932" (PDF). (144 KB)9th2003
General Electric v. E.P.A. "360 F.3d 188" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 27, 2007. (49.8 KB)D.C.2004



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