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Steve SandersSteve Sanders, BA, Political Science and Journalism, '84

Steve Sanders is a faculty member at the University of Michigan law school, an appellate lawyer, and an author and commentator on issues pertaining to sexuality and the law, constitutional rights, and higher education.

Scholarship and teaching

At Michigan law school, where he is a visiting assistant professor, Steve teaches courses on Constitutional Litigation, Sexuality and the Law, and Family Law. He has also taught at the University of Chicago Law School.

His scholarly interests focus on constitutional and choice of law issues in the regulation of marriage and the family; Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence; and academic freedom in higher education. His article "The Constitutional Right to (Keep Your) Same-Sex Marriage" will be published in 2012 in the Michigan Law Review. Another article, "Interstate Recognition of Parent-Child Relationships: the Limits of the State Interests Paradigm and the Role of Due Process," was published in Fall 2011 by the University of Chicago Legal Forum.

A frequent commentator on legal issues regarding sexuality or higher education, Steve has written for the Huffington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, SCOTUSBlog,, the National Law Journal, ACS Blog, the New Republic, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, American Prospect Online, Scripps Howard News Service, Independent Gay Forum, and other print and online sources, and has presented commentaries on the public radio program "Marketplace." He has been interviewed by National Public Radio, the Associated Press, Congressional Quarterly, the National Law Journal, U.S. News and World Report, ABC's Good Morning America, ABA Journal, Above the Law, the Chicago Tribune, Inside Higher Education, the Washington Blade, and many other media.

Steve has given talks, papers, or panel presentations at the the American Political Science Association, the American Educational Research Association, the Law & Society Association, the Popular Culture Association, and the law schools of Yale, Columbia, Duke, Michigan, NYU, Georgetown, the University of Chicago, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern, the University of Iowa, John Marshall, the University of Oregon, and Valparaiso University. He is a member of the APSA's Committee on the Status of LGBT's in the Profession, and previously served as chair of its LGBT Caucus and a member of the executive committee of its Sexuality and Politics section. He has been a judge for the Constance Baker Motley National Moot Court Competition in Constitutional Law and the National Sexual Orientation Law Moot Court Competition at UCLA Law School, and a supervising attorney for Indiana University law school's appellate litigation clinic.

Steve will join the faculty of the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University Bloomington in January 2013.

Litigation experience

From 2006 to 2010, Steve practiced as a member of the Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice group with the global law firm Mayer Brown LLP, where he briefed and/or argued cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, six federal courts of appeals, three state supreme courts, and various federal district and state courts.

In Supreme Court litigation, Steve briefed and argued for petitioners in Pottawattamie County v. McGhee in 2009, becoming the most junior Mayer Brown attorney ever to present a Supreme Court argument in a paid client matter. He also represented the American Civil Liberties Union as amicus curiae in Hui v. Castaneda, a case concerning Bivens actions for constitutional violations in immigration detention facilities. With other Mayer Brown attorneys, he represented a group of retired federal judges as amici in Kiyemba v. Obama, a case dealing with the habeas rights of Guantanamo detainees. He has collaborated with such noted Supreme Court practitioners and scholars as Stephen M. Shapiro, Steven R. Shapiro, Tom Goldstein, Kathleen Sullivan, and Rodney Smolla.

A particular focus of Steve's practice has been representation of college and university faculty members on matters involving academic freedom, constitutional law, and other issues. He has represented law professors, historians, research scientists, and a major faculty professional group as amici curiae in the U.S. Supreme Court, the 7th and 9th circuits, and two state supreme courts. He authored a widely referenced amicus brief for 23 law and history professors in Varnum v. Brien, in which the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state's statutory ban on same-sex marriage. He also represented 24 law professors as amici in National Pride at Work v. Granholm, a case in the Michigan Supreme Court on whether public-employer domestic partner benefit programs violate the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He represented the American Association of University Professors and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at the 9th Circuit in Hong v. Grant, a case on the application of the public-employee speech doctrine to college faculty members, and currently is co-counsel for the AAUP in a 7th Circuit case presenting similar issues.. He serves as a member of the AAUP's litigation committee.

At Mayer Brown, Steve represented clients headquartered in the United States, Italy and the Netherlands, including AT&T, BNSF Railway, Deloitte, KPMG, and Philip Morris Capital Corp. His litigation experience included matters involving federal civil rights claims under 42 USC Sec. 1983, prosecutorial and other official immunities, Bivens actions, federal and appellate jurisdiction, the Anti-Injunction Act, academic freedom and the First Amendment rights of universities and faculty members, the federal telecommunications act, state constitutional law, leveraged leasing transactions, personal jurisdiction, writs of mandamus, obstruction of justice, and accountant liability.

Steve has served as co-editor of the American Bar Association's Appellate Practice Journal, and has spoken on appellate and Supreme Court litigation at Harvard, Indiana University, and the University of North Dakota law schools.


Steve received his J.D. magna cum laude from University of Michigan Law School, where he was elected to the Order of the Coif and received the Bates Memorial Scholarship, the law school's highest award to graduating seniors. While at Michigan, he was an articles editor for the Michigan Law Review; won prizes for Best Brief and Best Oral Advocate in the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition; was a semi-finalist in the National Sexual Orientation Law Moot Court Competition; and, as law clerk to the university general counsel, worked on the landmark affirmative action case Grutter v. Bollinger. After law school, he clerked for the Hon. Terence T. Evans on the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Steve received his B.A. from Indiana University in journalism and political science, and did graduate work in political science and higher education administration. As a reporting intern or stringer for the Chicago Tribune, he covered such stories as an F5 tornado that wiped out the town of Barneveld, Wisconsin, a disputed Indiana congressional election ultimately decided by four votes, and the return of hostages from TWA Flight 847; as a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student, he covered the historic election of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and the funeral of famed Hoosier songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. He was a fellow of the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and was one of three students chosen to interview President Ronald Reagan in the White House for the North American Network.

Higher education administration

Prior to law school, Steve worked for 16 years in higher education administration, serving as Assistant to the Chancellor and as an Assistant Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, where he was also active as a teacher, television producer, and radio interviewer and commentator. He chaired the committee that guided domestic partner benefits to unanimous approval by the IU Board of Trustees, developed and taught the Department of Political Science's first course on Gay and Lesbian Politics, and served as advisor to Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and administrative representative to Union Board, the student programming organization. The IU Student Association recognized him with its Jimmy L. Ross Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Life. For public radio station WFIU, he hosted hour-long interviews with university presidents, faculty members, and personalities including former U.S. surgeon general Jocelyn Elders.

He is a life member of the IU Alumni Association and served from 2007 to 2010 on its executive council. He currently serves on the boards of IU's Arts & Sciences, Journalism, and LGBT alumni associations, and on the Maurer School of Law's LGBT alumni advisory board.

Public service

Steve has served as a board member of the ACLU of Indiana, chairperson of the City of Bloomington Human Rights Commission, and a member of the Platform Committee for the 2000 Democratic National Convention. As Indiana state coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign from 1998-2002, he played key roles in passage of a state hate crimes reporting law; achieving an executive order by Gov. Frank O'Bannon prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against state employees; blocking anti-gay adoption legislation; and opening new channels of communication between the LGBT community and the state's U.S. senators and members of Congress. More recently he was a member of the 2008 Obama campaign's national LGBT steering and policy committee, and is active with the American Constitution Society. He has been recognized with various honors for contributions to legal and political equality, journalism, and college student development, including a Leadership Award from Lambda Legal, the nation's oldest and largest LGBT legal organization.