Robert A. Sedler

Robert A. Sedler

Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus

Robert A. Sedler

  • Biography

    Robert A. Sedler is a distinguished professor at Wayne State University Law School, where he teaches courses in Constitutional Law. In April 2019, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel appointed Sedler a special assistant attorney general. He advises on matters related to constitutional law and civil rights law

    Prior to coming to Wayne State in 1977, he was a professor of law at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Sedler earned his A.B. degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1956 and his law degree degree from the same university in 1959. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif.

    In 2005, he was elected to the Wayne State University Academy of Scholars, which is the highest recognition that may be bestowed upon faculty members by their colleagues. He served as president of the academy during the 2007-08 academic year.

    Sedler has published extensively in both of his fields, and there have been many citations to his works by courts and academic commentators. In 1994, he published a book on American Constitutional Law for the International Encyclopedia of Laws. The book was updated and republished in 2000 and 2005. It was updated and republished in 2012, 2014, and 2017 with the title Constitutional Law in the United States. It will be updated and republished again in 2019.

    Sedler has litigated a large number of civil rights and civil liberties cases in Michigan, Kentucky and elsewhere, mostly as a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. Cases he has litigated in Michigan include the Dearborn Parks case, the racial discrimination in adoption and foster care case, a challenge to the suspicionless drug testing of welfare recipients. He served as a member of the Social Action Commission of the Union for Reform Judaism from 2003 to 2009 and is a member of its Amicus Brief Committee.

    Sedler was named a Gershenson Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Wayne State for 1985-87 and received the Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1988. From 2000 to 2005, he held the Gibbs Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. He also has received awards from the NAACP Kentucky Conference in 1975, ACLU of Kentucky in 1976, NAACP Metropolitan Detroit Branch in 1986, Southwestern Michigan ACLU in 1988, Metropolitan Detroit ACLU in 1994, Oakland County ACLU in 2002 (together with Rozanne Sedler) and Metropolitan Detroit Chapter of the American Jewish Committee in 2012 (together with Rozanne Sedler). In 2019, he received a Champion of Justice Award from the Michigan Association for Justice.

    In 2015, he was named an honorary professor at the Ural State Law University, Yekaterinburg, Russia, where he has made a number of presentations on American Constitutional Law and comparisons with Russian constitutional law.

    Sedler was the chairperson of the Michigan State Bar Constitutional Law Committee from 1981 to 1987 and of the Legal Education Committee from 1988 to 1994. In 2012, he was awarded the State Bar of Michigan John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award, which is presented periodically to an educator from a Michigan law school whose influence on lawyers has elevated the quality of legal practice in the state. In 2014, along with Dana Nessel, Carole Stanyar and Kenneth Mogill, he received a State Bar of Michigan Champion of Justice Award as the legal team in DeBoer v. Snyder, a successful constitutional challenge to Michigan’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The DeBoer case was one of four cases under the heading of Obergefell v Hodges, where the United States Supreme Court declared all bans on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional in 2015.

  • Degrees and Certifications

    J.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Law
    B.A., University of Pittsburgh

  • Courses Taught

    Constitutional Law
    Conflict of Laws
    The Law of the First Amendment – Free Speech

  • Selected publications

    Integration and Equal Educational Opportunity in the ‘Post Racial' Era, Reclaiming Integration and the Language of Race in the "Post-Racial" Era (2015).

    Understanding the Establishment Clause: A Revisit, 59 Wayne Law Review 589 (2014).

    The “Law of the First Amendment” Revisited, 58 Wayne Law Review 1003 (2013), Symposium in Wayne Law Review, “Special Issue in Honor of Robert A. Sedler and the Law of the First Amendment, with contributions by Professors Joel M. Gora, James Weinstein, and Kevin W. Saunders.

    Separation of Church and State, Neutrality and Religious Freedom in American Constitutional Law, Oxford Forum on Public Policy online
    Vol. 2013, no. 2.

    Self-Censorship and the First Amendment, Symposium Issue on Censorship and the Media, 25 Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public
    Policy 13 (2011).

    Religion, Politics and American Foreign Policy in the Middle East, Oxford Forum on Public Policy online Vol. 2011, no.3.

    The Constitution and the American Federal System, 55 Wayne Law Review 1487, 2009.

    The Constitution, the Courts, and the Common Law, 53 Wayne Law Review 153, 2007.

    The Protection of Religious Freedom Under the American Constitution, 53 Wayne Law Review 817, 2007.

    The Louisville-Jefferson County School Desegregation Case: A Lawyer’s Retrospective, 105 REGISTER OF THE KENTUCKY HISTORICAL SOCIETY 3, 2007.

    The Media and National Security, in Symposium, 53 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1025, 2007

    Property and Speech, in Symposium, “The Rehnquist Court and the First Amendment,” 21 WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY JOURNAL OF LAW AND POLICY 123 (2006).                         

    Introduction to the Symposium: “Lay Beyond Borders: Jurisdiction in an Era of Globalization,” 51 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1065 (2005).

    The American Federal System and the War on Terrorism, in LEGAL ISSUES IN HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT (American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government Law) (2005)

    The Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Speech in the United States and the Russian Federation: A Comparative Analysis. Translated into Russian and published in the STATE AND LAW: IMPORTANT ISSUES OF HISTORY AND THE PRESENT DAY, Mari State University Law Faculty, vol. 3, p. 170 (2004).

    Implementing Brown: A Lawyer’s View, in Symposium: 50 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 835 (2004).

    The Constitution Should Protect the Right to Same Sex Marriage, 49 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 975 (2004).

    Affirmative Action, Race and the Constitution: From Bakke to Grutter, 92 KENTUCKY LAW JOURNAL 219 (2003-2004).

    American Federalism, State Sovereignty, and the Interest Analysis Approach to Choice of Law, in Law and Justice in a Multistate World: Essays in Honor of Arthur T. Von Mehren (Nafziger & Symeonides, eds. 2002)

    The Settled Nature of American Constitutional Law, 48 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1-180, Special Issue (2002)

    Interest Analysis, "Multistate Policies,” and Considerations of Fairness in Conflicts Torts Cases, 37 WILLAMETTE LAW REVIEW  233 (2001)

    The First Amendment and Land Use: An Overview; “Nude Dancing,” in Protecting Free Speech and Expression: The First Amendment and Land Use Law (Mandelker & Rubin eds., American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government Law 2001) 

    The Louisiana Codification and Tort Rules of Choice of Law, 60 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW 1331 (2000)

    Choice of Law in Conflicts Torts Cases: A Third Restatement or Rules of Choice of Law? 75 INDIANA LAW JOURNAL 615 (2000)

    The Role of "Intent" in Discrimination Analysis, in Non-Discrimination Law: Comparative Perspectives (Loenen & Rodrigues, eds.1999)

    Abortion, Physician-Assisted Suicide and the Constitution: The View from Without and Within, 12 NOTRE DAME JOURNAL OF LAW, ETHICS & PUBLIC POLICY 529 (1998)

    Understanding the Establishment Clause: The Perspective of Constitutional Litigation, 43 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1317 (1997)

    Are Absolute Bans on Assisted Suicide Constitutional?  I Say No, 72 UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT-MERCY LAW REVIEW 725 (1995)

    The Constitution and Personal Autonomy: The Lawyering Perspective, 11 THOMAS M. COOLEY LAW REVIEW 771 (1994)

    Constitutional Challenges to Bans on "Assisted Suicide": The View From Without and Within, 21 HASTINGS CONSTITUTIONAL LAW QUARTERLY 777 (1994)

    Constitutional Law - United States (1994), Update and Republication (2000), (2005), with Contemporary Revision of Text of United States Constitution (1995).  Published as part of the Constitutional Law Series of the International Encyclopedia of Laws.

    Interest Analysis, Party Expectations, and Judicial Method in Conflicts Torts Cases: Reflections on Cooney v. Osgood Machinery,Inc., 59 BROOKLYN LAW REVIEW 1323 (1994)

    Interest Analysis, State Sovereignty, and Federally-Mandated Choice of Law in "Mass Tort" Cases, 56 ALBANY LAW REVIEW 855 (1993)

    Continuity, Precedent and Choice of Law: A Reflective Response to Professor Hill, 38 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1419 (1992)

    The Unconstitutionality of Campus Bans on "Racist Speech": The View from Without and Within, 53 UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH LAW REVIEW 631 (1992)

    Doe v. University of Michigan and Campus Bans on "Racist Speech": The View from Within, 37 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1325 (1991)

    The First Amendment in Litigation: The "Law of the First Amendment," 48 WASHINGTON AND LEE LAW REVIEW 1 (1991)

    The Constitution, Racial Preference, and the Supreme Court's Institutional Ambivalence: Reflections on Metro Broadcasting, 36 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1187 (1990)

    Professor Juenger's Challenge to the Interest Analysis Approach to Choice of Law: An Appreciation and a Response, 23 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-DAVIS LAW REVIEW 865 (1990)

    The Case Against All Encompassing Federal Mass Tort Legislation: Sacrifice Without Gain (with A. Twerski), 73 MARQUETTE LAWREVIEW 76 (1989); State Choice of Law in Mass Tort Cases: A Response to "A View from the Legislature," (with A. Twerski), 73 MARQUETTE LAW REVIEW 625 (1990).

    The Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Religion, Expression, and Association in Canada and the United States: A ComparativeAnalysis, 20 CASE-WESTERN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 577 (1988)

    The Constitution, Racial Preference, and the Equal Participation Objective, in Slavery and Its Consequences: The Constitution, Equality and Race (Goldwin & Kaufman, eds. 1988)

    The Profound Impact of Milliken v. Bradley, 33 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1693 (1987)

    The Constitution and the Consequences of the Social History of Racism, 40 ARKANSAS LAW REVIEW 677 (1987)

    Moffatt Hancock and the Conflict of Laws:  An American-Canadian Perspective, 37 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAW JOURNAL 62 (1987)

    The Sum and Substance of Conflict of Laws (with Roger C. Cramton) (3d ed. 1987)
    Federal and State Power over International Trade under the United States Constitution, in The Legal Framework for Canada-United States Trade (Irish & Carasco eds. 1987)

    Legal Approaches to Resolving Problems of Racial Discrimination in Education and Employment in the United States, 7 URBAN LAW AND POLICY (North-Holland) 297 (1985)

    The Negative  Commerce Clause as a Restriction on State Regulation and Taxation: An Analysis in Terms of Constitutional Structure, 31 WAYNE L.REV. 885 (1985)

    The State Constitutions and the Supplemental Protection of Individual Rights, 16 TOLEDO LAW REVIEW 465 (1985)

    Constitutional Protection of Individual Rights in Canada:  The Impact of the New Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 59 NOTRE DAME LAW REVIEW 1194 (1984)

    Choice of Law in Michigan:  Judicial Method and the Policy-Centered Conflict of Laws, 29 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1193 (1983)

    Interest Analysis and Forum Preference in the Conflict of Laws:  A Response to the "New Critics", 34 MERCER LAW REVIEW  593 (1983)

    The Legitimacy Debate in Constitutional  Adjudication:  An Assessment and a Different  Perspective, 44 OHIO STATE LAW JOURNAL 93 (1983)

    Constitutional Limitations on Choice of Law: The Perspective of Constitutional Generalism, 10 HOFSTRA LAW REVIEW 59 (1981); reprinted in Italian, Limiti contituzionali alla scelta della legge applicabile: prospettiva di generalismo costituzionale, Rivista di diritto internazionale privato e processuale, no.2,p.241 (1983).

    The Assertion of Constitutional Jus Tertii: A Substantive Approach, 70 CALIFORNIA LAW REVIEW 308 (1982)

    Response to Conflict of Laws Dialogue, 32 HASTINGS LAW JOURNAL 1628 (1981)

    The Constitution and School Desegregation: The Nature of the Substantive Right, 68 KENTUCKY LAW JOURNAL 879 (1980)

    Racial Preference and the Constitution: The Societal Interest in the Equal Participation Objective, 26 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 1227 (1980)

    On Choice of Law and the Great Quest:  A Critique of Special Multistate Solutions to Choice-of-Law Problems, 7 HOFSTRA LAW REVIEW 807 (1979)

    Beyond Bakke:  The Constitution and Redressing the Social History of Racism, 14 HARVARD CIVIL RIGHTS-CIVIL LIBERTIES LAW REVIEW 133 (1979)

    Comments on Metropolitan Desegregation and the Courts, 10 URBAN LAW REVIEW 149 (1979)

    Younger and Its Progeny:  A Variation on the Theme Of Equity, Comity and Federalism, 9 TOLEDO LAW REVIEW 149 (1978)

    Judicial Jurisdiction and Choice of Law in Interstate Accident Cases:  The Implications of Shaffer v. Heitner, 1978 WASHINGTON UNIV. L.Q. 329

    Choice of Law in Michigan - A Time to Go Modern, 24 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 829 (1978)

    The Governmental Interest Approach to Choice of Law:  An Analysis and a Reformulation, 25 UCLA L. REV. 181 (1977)

    Rules of Choice of Law Versus Choice of Law Rules: Judicial Method in Conflicts Torts Cases, 44 TENN. L. REV. 975 (1977)

    Standing and The Burger Court: An Analysis and Some Proposals for Legislative Reform, 30 RUTGERS LAW REVIEW 863 (1977)

    Racial Preference, Reality and the Constitution: Bakke v. Regents of the University of California 17 SANTA CLARA LAW REVIEW 329 (1977)

    Functionally Restrictive Substantive Rules in American Conflicts Law, 50 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA LAW REVIEW 27 (1976)

    The Summary Contempt Power and the Constitution: The View from Without and Within, 51 NEW YORK UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 34 (1976)

    Metropolitan Desegregation in the Wake of Milliken - On Losing Big Battles and Winning Small Wars:  The View Largely from Within, 1975 WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW QUARTERLY 535

    The Truly Disinterested Forum in the Conflict of   Laws:  Reflections on Ratliff v. Cooper Laboratories, 25 SOUTH CAROLINA LAW REVIEW 185 (1973)

    Interstate Accidents and the Unprovided for Case: Reflections on Neumeier v. Kuehner, 1 HOFSTRA LAW REVIEW 125 (1973)

    Judicial Method is "Alive and Well": The Kentucky Approach to Choice of Law in Interstate Automobile Accidents, 61 KENTUCKY LAW JOURNAL 378 (1973)

    The Legal Dimensions of Women's Liberation: An Overview, 47 INDIANA LAW JOURNAL 419 (1972)

    Standing, Justiciability and All That: A Behavioral Analysis, 25 VANDERBILT LAW REVIEW 479 (1972)

    The Contracts Provisions of the Restatement of Conflict of Laws (Second): An                        Analysis and a Critique, 72 COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW 279 (1972)

    Dombrowski in the Wake of Younger: The View from Without and Within, 1972 WISCONSIN LAW REVIEW 1

    The Procedural Defense in Selective Service Prosecutions:  The View from Without and Within, 56 IOWA LAW REVIEW 1121 (1971)

    The Territorial Imperative: Automobile Accidents and the Significance of a State Line: 9 DUQUESNE LAW REVIEW 394 (1971)

    Characterization, Identification of the Problem Area and the Policy-Centered Conflict of Laws: An Exercise in Judicial Method, 2 RUTGERS-CAMDEN LAW REVIEW 8 (1970)

    The Dombrowski-Type Suit as an Effective Weapon for Social Change: Reflections from Without and Within, (2 parts), 18 KANSAS LAW REVIEW 237, 629 (1970)

    The Collateral Source Rule and Personal Injury Damages:  The Irrelevant Principle and the Functional Approach (2 parts), 58 KENTUCKY LAW JOURNAL 36, 161 (1969-70)

    Law Reform in the Emerging Nations of Sub-Saharan Africa:  Social Change and Development of the Modern Legal System, 13 ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 195 (1968); reprinted in Law Reform: A Modern Perspective (1969).

    Babcock v. Jackson in Kentucky: Judicial Method and the Policy-Centered Conflict of Laws, 56 KENTUCKY LAW JOURNAL 27 (1967)

    The Development of Legal Systems:  The Ethiopian Experience, 53 IOWA LAW REVIEW 562 (1967)

    Nationality, Domicile and the Personal Law in Ethiopia, 2 JOURNAL OF ETHIOPIAN LAW 161(1965)

    Injunctive Relief and Personal Integrity, 9 ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LAW JOURNAL 147 (1964)

    The Chilot Jurisdiction of the Emperor of Ethiopia:  A Legal Analysis in Historical and Comparative Perspective, 8 JOURNAL OF AFRICAN LAW 59 (1964)

    The Realities of Attorney-Client Confidences (with J. Simeone), 24 OHIO STATE LAW JOURNAL 1 (1963)

    School Segregation in the North and West: Legal Aspects, 7 ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LAW JOURNAL 228 (1963)

    Recognition of Foreign Judgments and Decrees, 23 MISSOURI LAW REVIEW 432 (1963)

    Standing to Assert Constitutional Jus Tertii in the Supreme Court, 71 YALE LAW JOURNAL 599 (1962)

    Conditional, Experimental and Substitutional Relief, 12 RUTGERS LAW REVIEW 639 (1962) 
    The Erie Outcome Test as a Guide to Substance and Procedure in the Conflict of Laws, 37 NEW YORK UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 813 (1962)

    Rights of Defrauded Quiz Show Contestants, 6 WAYNE LAW REVIEW 225 (1960) 

  • Social Science Research Network
  • Books

    Constitutional Law in the United States (Kluwer Law International) 2019 fourth edition

    “Derived from the renowned multi-volume International Encyclopaedia of Laws, this very useful analysis of constitutional law in the United States provides essential information on the country’s sources of constitutional law, its form of government, and its administrative structure. Lawyers who handle transnational matters will appreciate the clarifications of particular terminology and its application. Throughout the book, the treatment emphasizes the specific points at which constitutional law affects the interpretation of legal rules and procedure.”

    Constitutional Law - United States (Kluwer Law International) 2005

    This book is a part of the Constitutional Law Series of the International Encyclopedia of Laws. It was first published in 1994. The book seeks to explain the nature and operation of the American constitutional system to an international audience. The book contains the following chapters: The Constitution as the Only Source of Constitutional Law. Constitutional Interpretation: The Role of the Supreme Court. Constitutional Supremacy. Form of Government. The Legislative Power. The Executive Power. Separation of Powers and Conflicts Between Congress and the President. The Judiciary. Independent Non-Political Agencies. The American Federal System. State and Municipal Government. The Interaction Between Federal and State Power. The States and "National Unity." Citizenship and the Relevance of Citizenship. Fundamental Rights and Liberties. Constitutional Problems of Minorities. Judicial Control of Administrative Action. Legal Position of Aliens. War, Treaty and Foreign Affairs Powers. Taxing and Spending Powers. Emergency Laws. The Relationship Between Church and State.

    Across State Lines. (American Bar Association, Section of General Practice) 1989

    In our highly mobile and global society, the conflict of laws has been transformed from a fairly esoteric doctrine to a fact of everyday legal practice. In this book, the author explains how the conflict of laws is applied in a variety of situations with which lawyers must deal. It summarizes the different approaches that are followed by the courts in conflicts cases and the likely outcomes in the various fact-law patterns that present themselves in actual cases.

    Constitutional Law in the United States (Kluwer Law International) 2014 second edition

    “Derived from the renowned multivolume International Encyclopaedia of Laws, this very useful analysis of constitutional law in the United States provides essential information on the country’s sources of constitutional law, its form of government, and its administrative structure,” according to the publisher. “Lawyers who handle transnational matters will appreciate the clarifications of particular terminology and its application.”

  • Accomplishments
    • Robert Sedler contributed a chapter, "The Constitution and Racial Integration in the Public Schools: A Retrospective," in Detroit and the New Political Economy of Integration in Public Education (Ivery & Bassett eds, Palgrave Macmillan 2022). 
    • Robert Sedler presented on insurrection and impeachment for the Greater Detroit Phi Beta Kappa Association.
    • Robert A. Sedler participated in the Berkeley Forum, a student-run program at the University of California-Berkeley, where he discussed reparations for slavery.
    • Robert A. Sedler was a guest speaker for Southeast Michigan Mensa on the subject of “The Constitution, the president and impeachment.” He discussed the constitutional basis of impeachment and that it is a political question in the constitutional sense
    • Robert A. Sedler presented at The Well’s forum titled “Bake Me a Cake: Religious Freedom in America.” Sedler discussed the Free Exercise Clause and religious-based challenges to anti-discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
    • Robert A. Sedler was honored with the Michigan Association for Justice’s Champion of Justice Award at its annual banquet on May 11.
    • Robert A. Sedler participated in the University of Kentucky Libraries’ Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History Initiates Vietnam War Era project titled, “University of Kentucky History: The Turbulent Years, 1965–1975.” During that time period, Sedler was a professor at the university and worked as a volunteer lawyer for the ACLU of Kentucky.
    • Robert A. Sedler was appointed special assistant attorney general by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. In his new role, Sedler, a nationally renowned expert on constitutional law and civil rights law, will advise the attorney general on related matters.
    • Robert A. Sedler was a speaker at the State Bar of Michigan’s Legal Milestone #41 dedication, entitled “First to Abolish the Death Penalty” on Nov. 6. He discussed the significance of the death penalty ban being in Michigan’s constitution.
    • Robert A. Sedler was a panelist at a WSU Presidential Sesquicentennial Symposium titled, “The Free Speech Century: One Hundred Years of the First Amendment,” on Oct. 25
    • Robert A. Sedler participated as a judge in the Soar Mock Trial on the Second Amendment at Adat Shalom Synagogue on Oct. 19.
    • Robert Sedler'sarticle on the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, which was originally published in The Conversation, was mentioned in the SCOTUS Blog Round-up.

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