Sam Erman, 07, is a pro­fes­sor of law at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan Law School. A schol­ar of law and his­to­ry, his research and teach­ing focus­es on cit­i­zen­ship, the Con­sti­tu­tion, empire, race, and legal change.

Erman is the author of Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution and Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2018). The book lays out the tragic story of how the United States denied Puerto Ricans full citizenship following annexation of the island in 1898. As America became an overseas empire, a handful of remarkable Puerto Ricans debated with US legislators, presidents, judges, and others over who was a citizen and what citizenship meant. This struggle caused a fundamental shift in constitutional jurisprudence: away from the post-Civil War regime of citizenship, rights, and statehood and toward doctrines that accommodated racist imperial governance.

His other projects span widely. One is a legal history of ways that US officials manipulated status categories to conceal and defend shameful policies concerning slavery, indigeneity, race, empire, and immigration. Another is a co-authored history of birthright nationality in England, France, and the United States.

In addition, Erman is part of a research team seeking to use insights from social psychology to expand access to the legal profession. He has authored and organized numerous friend-of-the-court briefs and published op-eds in news outlets such as CNN Opinion and the Los Angeles Times. Erman’s prize-winning work appears in leading legal and peer-reviewed journals, including Michigan Law Review, California Law Review, and the Journal of American Ethnic History.

Before joining the Michigan Law faculty, Erman served as a professor of law at USC Gould School of Law.