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Brian Kalt

Brian Kalt

Professor of Law & Harold Norris Faculty Scholar

Expert in constitutional law of the presidency, presidential pardons, impeachment, succession and the 25th Amendment.

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Area of Expertise

Structural Constitutional Law Administrative Law Juries The Bill of Rights Tort Reform


Before coming to MSU College of Law in 2000, Brian Kalt was an associate at the Washington, D.C., office of Sidley Austin. He earned his juris doctor from Yale Law School, where he was an editor on the Yale Law Journal. After law school, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Danny J. Boggs, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Professor Kalt's research focuses on structural constitutional law and juries. At MSU Law, Kalt teaches Tort and Administrative law.

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Yale Law School: J.D., | 1997

University of Michigan: A.B., with Highest Distinction, | 1994

Selected Press

There’s no requirement to tell the public if the 25th Amendment is invoked

The Washington Post | 2021-01-07

This op-ed was written by Brian C. Kalt is professor of law at Michigan State University and the author of "Unable: The Law, Politics, and Limits of Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment."

Section 4 of the amendment allows the vice president and Cabinet to temporarily transfer the president’s powers to the vice president. Several sources reported that Cabinet members were actively discussing invoking Section 4, effectively replacing President Trump with Vice President Pence. Then a more startling suggestion began circulating on Twitter: that Section 4 had already been invoked. If Section 4 is invoked, would we necessarily know? The short answer is yes, probably. But the longer answer is not as simple. The 25th Amendment does not have any sort of formal requirement of transparency.

Does Trump have power to pardon himself? It’s complicated

Associated Press | 2020-12-07

No president has attempted to pardon himself while in office, so if Trump tries to do so in the next six weeks, he will be venturing into legally untested territory without clear guidance from the Constitution or from judges. Legal experts are divided on an inherently ambiguous question that was left vague by the Founding Fathers and has never had to be definitively resolved in court. “You could say, implicit in the definition of a pardon or implicit in the notion of granting a pardon — because the Constitution uses the word ‘grant’ — is that it’s two separate people,” said Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University. “You can’t grant something to yourself. You can’t pardon yourself.” It could also seem to run afoul of the fundamental principle that no one — in this case, a president issuing himself a pardon — may serve as a judge in his own case.

Could Trump pardon family members and other close associates? His prior pardons may set the stage for more

USA Today | 2020-12-04

As Trump weighs granting additional pardons to close associates – and perhaps family members and even himself – experts said he may not pay much of a political price, no matter whom the recipients are. The number of pardons with a political sheen Trump has signed – along with the unorthodox way he's wielded the power – may have desensitized the public to the issue. The reaction to Flynn's pardon, though muted, underscored that the president's broad clemency powers are increasingly viewed – like much else – along partisan lines: Democrats express outrage, and Trump's supporters cheer. That division, several experts said, may partly explain why some Americans shrug their shoulders. "He has a large and loyal base who will accept his explanation for his actions, which will likely be that he and the people he has pardoned did nothing wrong and need to be protected from the deep state,” said Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University.

Donald Trump Threatened To Pardon Himself. Is That Even A Thing?

MSN | 2020-11-11

So, the big question... Can Donald Trump pardon himself? In short, the answer is nobody knows. No president has ever had the need to try it. But then, there's never been a president quite like Trump. “When people ask me if a president can pardon himself, my answer is always: ‘Well, he can try,'” Brian Kalt, a constitutional law professor at Michigan State University, told Reuters. “The Constitution does not provide a clear answer on this.” Many legal experts have said that a self-pardon would be unconstitutional because it violates the basic principle that nobody should be the judge in his or her own case. Kalt said this, in his view, was the stronger argument.