Gerald F. Leonard

Professor of Law

Law Alumni Scholar

AB, Oberlin College
PhD in History, University of Michigan
JD magna cum laude, University of Michigan

Areas of Interest
Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Procedure, Legal History

Gerald Leonard is a leading historian of American constitutionalism. He is the author of two books that helped launch and extend the “constitutional politics,” or “popular constitutionalism,” approach to American constitutional history: The Partisan Republic: Democracy, Exclusion, and the Fall of the Founders’ Constitution, 1780s-1830s (Cambridge University Press, 2019) (with Saul Cornell), and The Invention of Party Politics: Federalism, Popular Sovereignty, and Constitutional Development in Jacksonian Illinois (University of North Carolina Press, 2002). His other writings have offered reevaluations of the Dred Scott case, Thomas Jefferson’s constitutional thought, Oliver Wendell Holmes’s philosophies of constitutional and criminal law, and the history of American approaches to substantive criminal law. He is coeditor of the pamphlet series, New Essays on American Constitutional History, for the American Historical Association. Professor Leonard also writes about contemporary criminal law, challenging conventional views about mistake of law and about federal sentencing, among other matters.

A faculty member since 1997, and Law Alumni Scholar since 2007, Professor Leonard served as associate dean for academic affairs from 2006 to 2009. Before coming to BU, Professor Leonard clerked for the Honorable David Souter of the United States Supreme Court and for the Honorable J. Dickson Phillips, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

  1. Gerald Leonard, review of Catherine Jacquet, The Injustices of Rape: How Activists Responded to Sexual Violence, 1950–1980, (2019), 107 Journal of American History 1054 (2021). Publisher
  2. Gerald Leonard & Saul Cornell, The Partisan Republic: Democracy, Exclusion, and the Fall of the Founders' Constitution, 1780s–1830s, Cambridge University Press (2019).
  3. Gerald Leonard, "A History of Violence: American Constitutional History and the Criminal System," in The Oxford Handbook of Legal History , M. Dubber & C. Tomlins, eds., Oxford University Press (2018).
  4. Gerald Leonard, "Fletcher v. Peck and Constitutional Development in the Early United States," 47 U. C. Davis Law Review 1843 (2014).
    Publisher | Scholarly Commons
  5. Gerald Leonard, "Jefferson's Constitutions," in Constitutions and the Classics: Patterns of Constitutional Thought from Fortescue to Bentham 369, D. J. Galligan, ed., Oxford University Press (2014). SSRN | Scholarly Commons
  6. Gerald Leonard & Christine Dieter, "Punishment Without Conviction: Controlling the Use of Unconvicted Conduct in Federal Sentencing," 17 Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law 260 (2012).
    SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  7. Gerald Leonard, "Law and Politics Reconsidered: A New Constitutional History of Dred Scott," 34 Law and Social Inquiry (2009). [Unabridged version (2009)]
    Westlaw | SSRN | Scholarly Commons
  8. Gerald Leonard, New Essays on American Constitutional History, Gerald Leonard & Keith Whittington, eds., American Historical Association (2009-14). [series editor -seven pamphlets]
  9. Gerald Leonard, "Some Reasons Why Criminal Harms Matter," in Criminal Law Conversations 153, Paul H. Robinson, Kimberley Kessler Ferzan & Stephen P. Garvey, eds., Oxford University Press (2009).
  10. Gerald Leonard & Saul Cornell, "The Consolidation of the Early Federal System, 1791-1812," in The Cambridge History of Law in America 518, C. Tomlins & M. Grossberg, eds., Cambridge University Press (2008).
  11. Gerald Leonard, "Civilizing Darwin: Holmes on Criminal Law," in Modern Histories of Crime and Punishment 198, M. Dubber & L. Farmer, eds., Stanford University Press (2007).
  12. Gerald Leonard, "Iredell Reclaimed: Farewell to Snowiss's History of Judicial Review," 81 Chicago-Kent Law Review 867 (2006).
    Westlaw | SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  13. Gerald Leonard, "Holmes on the Lochner Court," 85 Boston University Law Review 1001 (2005).
    Westlaw | SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  14. Gerald Leonard, "Towards a Legal History of American Criminal Theory: Culture and Doctrine from Blackstone to the Model Penal Code," 6 Buffalo Criminal Law Review 691 (2003).
    Westlaw | SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  15. Gerald Leonard, The Invention of Party Politics: Federalism, Popular Sovereignty, and Constitutional Development in Jacksonian Illinois, University of North Carolina Press (2002).
    Scholarly Commons
  16. Gerald Leonard, "Party as a 'Political Safeguard of Federalism': Martin Van Buren and the Constitutional Theory of Party Politics," 54 Rutgers Law Review 221 (2001).
    Westlaw | SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  17. Gerald Leonard, "Rape, Murder, and Formalism: What Happens If We Define Mistake of Law?" 72 University of Colorado Law Review 507 (2001).
    Westlaw | SSRN | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  18. Gerald Leonard, "Comment on Frederick Schauer's Prediction and Particularity," 78 Boston University Law Review 931 (1998).
    Westlaw | HeinOnline (BU) | HeinOnline | Scholarly Commons
  19. Gerald Leonard, "Federal Law and Athletic Eligibility for Students with Disabilities," 27 School Law Bulletin 1 (1996).
  20. Gerald Leonard, "The Ironies of Partyism and Antipartyism: Origins of Partisan Political Culture in Jacksonian Illinois," 87 Illinois Historical Journal (Spring 1994).
  21. Gerald Leonard, Partisan Political Theory and the Unwritten Constitution: The Origins of Democracy in Illinois, 1818-1840, University of Michigan (1992). [Ph.D. dissertation]
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