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James Sample - Hofstra University. Hempstead, NY, US

James Sample

Professor of Law | Hofstra University


Professor Sample regularly comments on voting rights and constitutional issues in leading media outlets.









Before joining the Hofstra Law faculty in 2009, Professor Sample served as an attorney in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law since 2005. Before joining the Brennan Center, he worked on Brian Schweitzer's gubernatorial campaign in Montana and clerked for Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Professor Sample received his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2003. While at Columbia, Professor Sample was a Harlan Fiske Stone and James Kent Scholar and served as a notes editor on the Columbia Law Review. He has written several publications and legal briefs on the topic of judicial elections, campaign financing and recusal.

Professor Sample regularly comments on voting rights and constitutional issues in leading media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Law Journal, Slate.com and The Huffington Post, as well as at national conferences.

Citations to Professor Sample's work on issues related to democracy include in opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court, articles in the Harvard Law Review, Columbia Law Review and other leading journals, as well as in major media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, U.S. News & World Report, the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, USA Today and The National Law Journal, as well as in leading blogs and regional outlets throughout the country.

Prior to attending law school, Professor Sample was a three-time Emmy Award winner for his work as a producer with NBC Sports.

Industry Expertise (1)


Areas of Expertise (6)

The Supreme Court

Voting Rights

Voting Rights Policy

Constitutional Law

Judicial Elections

Administrative Law

Education (2)

Columbia University: J.D. 2003

Boston College: B.A. 1995

Media Appearances (38)

What are the lasting effects of Trump's conviction

WCBS-TV News  tv


Hofstra Law Prof. James Sample provides a closer look at the legal and political implications of Donald Trump's conviction in his "hush money" trial.

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Hofstra Law Prof. James Sample provides a closer look at the legal and political implications of Donald Trump's conviction in his "hush money" trial.

WCBS-TV News  tv


Hofstra Law Prof. James Sample provides a closer look at the legal and political implications of Donald Trump's conviction in his "hush money" trial.

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Jury Deliberation in Hush Money Trial

CNN International  tv


In the hours leading up to the verdict in former President Donald Trump's "hush money" trial, Professor Sample spoke to CNN International.

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Experts Question Alito’s Failure to Recuse Himself in Flag Controversy

The New York Times  print


Professor of Law James Sample is featured in The New York Times article: “Experts Question Alito’s Failure to Recuse Himself in Flag Controversy.” Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has faced scrunity for inverted flags displayed outside his homes, indicating support for the “Stop the Steal” movement. He recently issued an explanation to Democratic lawmakers that the flags had been flown by his wife, thereby absolving him from the need to recuse himself on pending cases involving former President Donald Trump. Many legal ethicists are troubled by this reasoning. “The court has never suffered from an excess of transparency,” said Professor Sample, “and an explanation is helpful if it’s thorough. Explanation is unwelcome if it’s hyper-selective and borderline dishonest.”

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Justice Alito Tells Lawmakers He Will Not Recuse Himself from Trump Cases

Scripps Morning Rush  online


Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has faced scrunity for inverted flags displayed outside his homes, indicating support for the “Stop the Steal” movement. He recently issued an explanation to Democratic lawmakers that the flags had been flown by his wife, thereby absolving him from the need to recuse himself on pending cases involving former President Donald Trump. Many legal ethicists are troubled by this reasoning.

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Could Trump Go To Prison? Trump's Legal Troubles Explained

Al Jazeera  online


Tracking Trump’s legal cases and what they mean for the US election. Former US President Donald Trump is at the centre of six legal cases, including the Stormy Daniels hush-money trial that’s happening in New York. He’s the first-ever US president to be criminally charged, let alone one who’s running for the top job again. In total, there are four criminal cases plus two civil ones. What are they all about? What could they mean for the US presidential election in November? And could Trump actually go to prison?

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Experts urge Senate to pass SCOTUS ethics code amid Alito flag debacle

Salon  online


Salon interviewed Professor of Law James Sample about Senate passage of a bill that would require the Supreme Court to adopt a stronger ethics code. Demands for the bill’s passage have come in the wake of sightings of political flags hanging outside the homes of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and charges that Justice Clarence Thomas inappropriately accepted gifts and trips.

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What we learned from Day 1 of Trump's "hush money" trial

WCBS-TV News  tv


Jury selection is underway in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial of alleged "hush money" payments. Hofstra law professor James Sample offered commentary on the case.

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Jury selection begins Monday in Donald Trump "hush money" trial

WCBS-TV News  tv


Professor Sample gave CBS New York's Jenna DeAngelis a preview of what to expect in court in Lower Manhattan on April 15.

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Fallout from Trump ban from Colorado primary ballot

FOX 5 News NY  tv


Professor Sample spoke to Fox 5 (WNYW-TV), Patch.com, and WRHU-FM about the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling to leave former President Donald Trump off the state’s presidential primary ballot next year. Also see: https://patch.com/new-york/rockvillecentre/trump-vows-appeal-after-removal-colorado-ballot

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Extra Time: George Santos expelled; legacy of Sandra Day O'Connor

WABC-TV Eyewitness News  tv


Professor Sample appeared on News 12 Long Island, WABC-TV Eyewitness News, and Scripps News Service to discuss the historic vote that expelled George Santos from Congress.

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House Speaker Mike Johnson: 'real reservations' about expelling George Santos

Newsday  print


House Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday he has "real reservations” about removing Rep. George Santos from office because of the precedent it would set, but stressed Republicans should “vote their conscience” on any expulsion motion. Professor Sample told Newsday that concerns raised by Johnson that an expulsion vote before a criminal conviction would break precedent should be weighed against Santos’ alleged acts detailed in the House Ethics Report. See additional media clips on this topic: https://news.hofstra.edu/2023/12/01/historic-vote-expells-santos-from-congress/

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Next Steps After Vote to Expel Santos

WCBS-AM  radio


If George Santos is expelled from Congress following a vote, Professor of Law James Sample explained to WCBS-AM that a special election would take place to fill his seat.

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Legal scholar: Voting rights ruling “so extreme” that even “radical” Supreme Court may overturn it

Salon  online


Salon interviewed Professor Sample regarding a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that weakens the Voting Rights Act in seven states. Under this ruling, only the federal government could bring a legal challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

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Supreme Court’s New Ethics Code Is Toothless, Experts Say

The New York Times  print


Critics of the new Supreme Court ethics code say that its lack of an enforcement mechanism and allowing individual justices to decide ethics questions for themselves is problematic. “If we waited for the Supreme Court to voluntarily cede ethics enforcement power to others, we would have better odds waiting for Godot,” Professor Sample said. “Congress can and should pursue meaningful mechanisms to enforce the code.”

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Supreme Court Adopts Ethics Code After Reports of Undisclosed Gifts and Travel

The New York Times  print


The New York Times talked to Professor Sample about the Supreme Court ethics code, which was announced following recent reports of undisclosed travel and gifts.

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Voters had no choice in a number of LI judicial races in Tuesday's elections

Newsday  print


Professor Sample is featured in a Newsday article about party-endorsed judicial candidates running unopposed, thereby not giving voters a real choice in who gets elected.

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James Sample on Donald Trump's Legal Proceedings

CGTN America  online


Professor Sample appeared on CGTN-TV to discuss former President Donald Trump’s testimony in the $250 million lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general’s office.

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Top Bankruptcy Judge’s Exit Shakes Houston Hub He Built

Wall Street Journal  print


The Wall Street Journal interviewed Professor Sample about the resignation of one of the nation’s top bankruptcy judges, after he admitted his failure to disclose a romantic relationship with an attorney following a misconduct probe.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down NY's Concealed Carry Laws

WCBS-TV News  tv


Law Professor Sample spoke with CBS New York regarding the Supreme Court striking down New York concealed carry laws.

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'Arguably Unprecedented': Ethics Experts Say Clarence Thomas Crossed a Line With Jan. 6 Ruling

Law.com  online


Professor Sample shared his thoughts on the ethics behind Clarence Thomas’ Jan. 6 ruling with Law.com. Based on previous reporting prior to the Thomas’ ruling, Sample believes he should have known his wife was involved in the events of Jan. 6, and done more research when the Supreme Court took the case. From there, Sample said, Thomas should have recused himself from the case. “This is not your run-of-the-mill close call. … This is as far beyond the line as any Supreme Court recusal question I have seen, and I’ve studied Supreme Court recusal all the way back to Marbury v. Madison,” said Sample. “There is an order of magnitude of severity here that is arguably unprecedented.”

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Facebook board upholds Trump ban, just not indefinitely

News 12 Long Island  tv


James Sample , constitutional law professor at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law, was interviewed by News 12 Long Island about the decision by a Facebook oversight board to uphold former President Trump’s ban from the social networking platform. Professor Sample discussed the laws associated with the board’s decision to uphold the ban.

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Impeachment Trial Begins Tuesday

NBC 4 - Sunday in New York  tv


Constitutional law professor James Sample appeared on NBC 4 NY’s “Sunday in New York” show to offer analysis of the challenges facing former President Donald Trump’s defense team as his second impeachment trial begins in the U.S. Senate this week.

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Will President Trump Be Impeached Again?

NBC 4 - Sunday in New York  tv


Constitutional law professor James Sample appeared on NBC 4 NY’s “Sunday in New York” show to discuss how impeachment proceedings and a possible trial could unfold against President Trump for his role in inciting rioters to breach the US Capitol.

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Questions About Election Certification

NBC 4 NY - Today in New York  tv


Constitutional law professor James Sample made several appearances on WNBC 4’s “Today in New York” show to discuss the certification of the 2020 presidential election as well as calls to invoke the 25th amendment after rioters breached the U.S. Capitol.

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Q&A With Constitutional Law Professor on Presidential Election

NBC 4 NY  tv


Constitutional law professor James Sample did a series of interviews with NBC 4's "Today in New York" morning show about the legal issues involved in the 2020 presidential election results.

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What the Supreme Court rulings mean for 2 investigations of Trump

Newsday  print


“The decisions today are a loss for President Trump’s legal theory that he is categorically above the law,” said James Sample, a constitutional law professor at Hofstra Law School. “Politically, however, the White House strategy of obstructing the subpoenas and litigating every last aspect of the case, including the proceedings still to come, means the White House will successfully run out the clock such that voters will continue to be deprived of Trump’s financial records in 2020 just as voters were in 2016.”

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Canceled NY Primary Brings Power of Delegates Into Focus

Courthouse News Service  online


Hofstra law professor James Sample pointed to the assertion by Sanders’ delegates that the cancellation of New York’s election deprives the plaintiff candidates and would-be delegates of their opportunity to shape the party’s policy platform. “In turn, because there will be primary elections in many — but not all — New York jurisdictions, New York’s role in shaping the party’s ‘shapers’ will be undemocratically skewed,” Sample said.

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Roger Stone sentenced to 40 months

Voice of America (VOA)  radio


U.S. President Donald Trump's close friend and confidant Roger Stone was sentenced today to 40 months in prison. Hofstra University law professor James Sample speaks to International Edition about the sentence, the controversy over a number of President Donald Trump’s pardons, and the allegation Jullian Assange has made that the administration offered a pardon to him in exchange for saying that Russia was not involved in 2016 election meddling.

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Judge Of 17 Years No Match For The Tangled Web Of Queens Surrogate's Court

Gothamist  online


“The wealth that is processed through the Surrogate’s Court system in the State of New York is extraordinary, and there is an incredible concentration of authority in a very small handful of people,” said James Sample, a Hofstra University law professor who studies New York’s judicial system. “This is one of those dirty little secrets of New York politics.”

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A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment

Business Insider  online


Constitutional law professor James Sample helps explain the impeachment inquiry against President Trump. Features a 4+ minute video with Prof. Sample.

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House Democrats Face Tough Choices on Impeachment Approach

Voice of America (VOA)  online


"...There is at least a significant faction within the House Democrats who want to focus specifically on Ukraine as a way of narrowing the articles of impeachment so as to keep the investigation simple, straightforward, and in many respects, clear cut,” said James Sample, a law professor at Hofstra University in New York.

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Brett Kavanaugh lied brazenly and repeatedly under oath. Any law student knows he cannot sit on the Supreme Court.

NBC News  online


Op-ed by Gowri Ramachandran and James Sample

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Neil Gorsuch Has Web of Ties to Secretive Billionaire

The New York Times  


James Sample, a Hofstra University law professor who has studied Supreme Court recusals, said, “It’s very reasonable to ask a Supreme Court nominee for a more thorough answer” about how he will weigh such decisions, especially since “it seems as though there is a kind of continuous relationship — this is not just a past client.”...

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'Smoke-Filled Rooms' Still Rule New York Judicial Elections



Vito Lopez told her that to be considered for a nomination, she would need to hire his daughter as a law clerk in her court. She declined. “For rejecting that overture, she was in essence blackballed,” says James Sample, a professor at Hofstra University. Lopez Torres was undaunted. Year after year, she asked Brooklyn Democratic leaders to back her at the annual judicial convention, where elected delegates usually rubber-stamp the party choice. Year after year, they declined. So in 2004, she sued the state board of elections. Sample was part of her legal team. The case felt like a long shot, Sample said. But she won — in the District Court, and the Second Circuit. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in...

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Tracing Ward’s path to state judicial bench

The Buffalo News  


But critics ask whether the new jurist’s reward for fueling the party treasury resulted in the most effortless campaign ever waged by a local judicial candidate. Ward avoided fundraising until after his election was assured, endured no bar association rating process before his nomination, and sat out spring and summer campaigning. It all leads James J. Sample, an associate professor at Long Island’s Hofstra Law School and a longtime critic of the state’s judicial nominating system, to reiterate that “legal acumen means nothing compared to political patronage” in determining who sits on New York’s top trial bench. “In other states, the typical fear of judicial elections is contributions from litigants to candidates,” he said. “In New York, the problem is the candidates themselves have to ante up to become judges.”

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How Long Island judges win races before they start



That troubles legal scholars who have long criticized the state’s judicial selection process. “It’s unseemly, it’s unbecoming; but it’s legal and business as usual for New York judgeships,” said James Sample, a Hofstra University law professor who has studied judicial selection...

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Lear Jet Justice in West Virginia? A 'Circus Masquerading as a Court'

ABC News Nightline  tv


As a $90 million jury verdict was wending its way to the West Virginia Supreme Court, the lawyer handling the nursing home abuse case did more than prepare appellate briefs and ready himself for oral arguments. He was, critics said, pulling every lever available to him to try to give his client an edge outside the legal system -- lining up thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for the court’s chief justice and negotiating a private deal to buy a $1.3 million Lear Jet from her husband. When the nursing home case finally reached the state’s high court earlier this year, Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis wrote the majority opinion upholding the jury verdict for the client of lawyer Michael Fuller, though lowering the final payout to just over $40 million. The cut for Fuller’s firm: more than $17 million -- one of the largest payouts he’s ever secured. Davis never disclosed the airplane deal, telling ABC News she was under no obligation to do so because it involved her husband, and not her. But ethics experts have questioned that assertion. “This does not look good for the rule of law,” said James Sample, an expert on judicial ethics at Hofstra University Law School. “A million-dollar sale of an airplane while litigation involving the lawyer who purchases the airplane is pending before the court? Absolutely no question. It’s proper to disclose, and it is improper to not disclose. This is a circus masquerading as a court.”

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Event Appearances (1)

The Agnostic’s Guide to Judicial Selection

Symposium: The Impact of Dark Money on Judicial Elections and Judicial Behavior  DePaul University College of Law


Articles (3)

Supreme Court Recusal: From Marbury to the Modern Day

Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics

2013 For Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, controversies pitting personal conflicts — whether actual or merely alleged — against the constitutional commitment to the rule of law increasingly form the basis of a caustic and circular national dialogue that generates substantially more heat than light. While the profile of these controversies is undoubtedly waxing, the underlying tensions stretch back at least to Marbury v. Madison. For all its seminal import, in Marbury, Chief Justice John Marshall adjudicated a case involving the validity of judicial commissions Marshall had himself signed and sealed. Equally remarkably, one of those judicial commissions belonged to Marshall’s own brother James...

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Retention Elections 2.010

University of San Francisco Law Review

2012 Counter-historically, the highest profile judicial election campaigns of the first judicial elections cycle following the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission were retention and ballot measure, rather than contested elections. Retention elections, in which voters cast their ballots either in favor of returning the incumbent judge to office for another term or for her removal, were intended to balance the values of judicial impartiality and accountability to the public...

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Caperton: Correct Today, Compelling Tomorrow

Syracuse Law Review

2010 This symposium article asserts that Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. is correct in result; correct in its narrowness; and correct in calling on courts to be more rigorous in recusal than due process requires. The article argues that Caperton is a model of judicial restraint and that, paradoxically for a decision overturning a state justice's non-recusal, the majority's approach is a model of cooperative federalism. These characteristics are particularly exemplified by the degree to which the opinion tracks the counsel offered by the Conference of Chief Justices, both as to what the opinion decides, and as to what it does not decide...

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