Sam Erman is a scholar of law and history, whose 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 U.S. 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.
Erman’s other projects span widely. He is co-authoring a project concerning the 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.
Prior to joining the USC Gould School of Law faculty, Erman served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy and to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland. He received his JD and PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan.