Donald Kommers

Donald Kommers

Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science
Concurrent Professor Emeritus of Law

CV: View

Donald P. Kommers was the author of well over 100 major articles and books, including the widely acclaimed work, The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany, the 3rd edition of which was published in 2012 by the Duke University Press and reviewed with high praise in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He was also the co-author of a leading course book, American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases, and Comparative Notes, also in its 3rd edition. Kommers lectured widely in dozens of American colleges and universities as well as at selected universities in Germany, Japan, Austria, Chile, Italy, and Croatia. At Notre Dame, he served as the director of the Law School’s Center for Civil and Human Rights from 1976 to 1981 and as the editor of The Review of Politics from 1981 to 1992.

He was the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, among them an honorary doctor of laws degree from Heidelberg University (Germany), an honorary doctorate from St. Norbert College in DePere, Wisconsin, the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association, the Alexander von Humboldt Prize for Senior Scholars, and the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin which offered him a coveted residential fellowship at the American Academy in 2009 where he continued his work on various aspects of German law and politics. He was also the recipient of major fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Max Planck Society, Rockefeller Foundation, German Marshal Fund of the United States, U.S. Fulbright Program, Andrew Mellon Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities. He also served as president of the National Conference Group on German Politics and as an advisor to President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on the Holocaust.

On November 8, 2010, Germany’s Federal President awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his three decades of scholarship on German life and law and for having “remarkably enriched both the American and German legal systems and building a bridge between our two countries as few others have.” On October 26-27, 2012, the American Academy of Berlin, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Justice, and Berlin’s renowned Institute of Advanced Study cosponsored a symposium in his honor in Berlin. The symposium, which celebrated what was called “his extraordinary body of work in German constitutional scholarship,” was titled “The Curious Life of the Grundgesetz (Germany’s Constitution) in America.”

Over the years, Kommers taught a wide variety of courses in German and American politics, American and comparative constitutional law, civil liberties legislation, religion and politics, and international human rights law. He earned his B.A. in philosophy and English literature from the Catholic University of America and his advanced degrees (M.A. and Ph.D.) in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also studied law. As professor emeritus, he continued to teach in the undergraduate constitutional studies program and offered an advanced seminar in comparative constitutional law at Notre Dame Law School.

Kommers passed away on December 21, 2018. (In Memoriam: Donald P. Kommers)

About The Robbie Chair

The Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Chair in Government and International Studies, established in 1976, is the gift of Joseph Robbie in memory of his son, Dr. David L. Robbie, a 1966 cum laude graduate of the University who died in 1976. A native of South Dakota, Mr. Robbie practiced law early in his career in his home state before moving to Minneapolis in 1953, where he became active in urban governmental planning. In 1965, he founded the Miami Dolphins franchise of the National Football League and engaged in numerous Dade County, Florida, civic, charitable and political activities. He also served on the Advisory Council for the University’s College of Arts and Letters. Joseph Robbie died in 1990, and his wife Elizabeth died in 1991.

Courses Taught

LAW73449, Comparative Constitutional Law


Selected Books

  • American Constitutional Law: Essays, Cases, and Comparative Notes, 3rd ed. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009) with John Finn and Gary Jacobsohn.
  • The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany (Duke University Press, 1997).
  • The Federal Constitutional Court (American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 1994).
  • Germany and its Basic Law, edited with Paul Kirchoff (Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1994).
  • Human Rights and American Foreign Policy, edited with Gilbert Loescher (University of Notre Dame Press, 1979).
  • Judicial Politics in West Germany: A Study of the Federal Constitutional Court (Sage Publications, 1976).
  • The Governments of Germany, with Arnold J. Heidenheimer (Crowell, 1975).

Recent Essays

  • Das Bundesverfassungsgericht: Procedure, Practice and Policy of the German Federal Constitutional Court, 3 JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE LAW 194-211 (with Russell Miller) (2008).
  • Germany: Balancing Rights and Duties, in Interpreting Constitutions: A Comparative Study, (Jeffrey Goldsworthy ed., 2006): 161-214.
  • American Courts and Democracy: A Comparative Perspective, in The Judicial Branch (Kermit L. Hall & Kevin T. McGuire eds., 2005) 200-230.
  • Comparative Constitutional Law: Its Increasing Relevance in Defining the Field of Comparative Constitutional Law (Praeger, 2002): 61-70.
  • Die freie Meinungs Yerung in der Rechstprechung des Bundesverfassungsgerichts und des Supreme Court: Ein Vergleich in Verfassungswirklichkeit (Springer-Verlag, 2002): 1-30.
  • The Basic Law: A Fifty-Year Assessment, 53 Southern Methodist University Law Review 447-492 (2000).
  • Autonomy Versus Accountability: The German Judiciary in Judicial Independence in Comparative Perspective (University of Virginia Press, 2001): 131-154.
  • The Constitutionalism of Mary Ann Glendon, 73 Notre Dame Law Review 1333-1354 (1998).
  • Transitional Justice in East Germany, 22 Law and Social Inquiry 829 (1997).
  • The Constitutional Law of Abortion in Germany: Should Americans Pay Attention?, 10 Journal of Contemporary Health Law and Policy 1-32 (1994). (This article based on the author's Brendan Brown Lecture delivered in the Law School of The Catholic University of America.)

Areas of Expertise

  • American Constitutional Law
  • Comparative Constitutional Law
  • Constitutional Courts Around the World
  • Constitutional Law
  • Human Rights Law
  • Law & Religion