Michael L. Wells

Marion and W. Colquitt Carter Chair in Tort and Insurance Law

B.A., J.D., University of Virginia


Federal Courts
Constitutional Law
Constitutional Litigation

Biographical Information: 

Michael L. Wells joined the Georgia Law faculty in 1978 and, in 2004, was named the holder of the Marion and W. Colquitt Carter Chair in Tort and Insurance Law after occupying a prestigious J. Alton Hosch professorship for 13 years. He specializes in torts, federal courts and constitutional litigation.

His scholarship includes a new edition of Constitutional Torts (with professors Tom Eaton and Sheldon Nahmod) and Constitutional Remedies (with Professor Eaton). He has also published numerous articles in such leading journals as the Cornell Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Virginia Law Review, Georgia Law Review, William & Mary Law Review, Constitutional Commentary and Yale Journal of International Law.

Select articles include: "A Common Lawyer's Perspective on the European Perspective on Punitive Damages" in the Louisiana Law Review (2010), "State-Created Property and Due Process of Law" in the Georgia Law Review (2009) (with Alice Snedeker), "Scott v. Harris and the Role of the Jury in Constitutional Litigation" in Review of the Law (2009), "International Norms in Constitutional Law" in the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law (2004) and "Proximate Cause and the American Law Institute: The False Choice Between the 'Direct Consequences' Test and the 'Risk Standard'" in the University of Richmond Law Review (2003).

Wells is fluent in French and has served as a visiting professor at the University of Lyon (III) in Lyon, France, on six occasions and as a professor at the Duke-Geneva Institute in Transactional Law. He is a member of the American Law Institute.

Wells earned his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Virginia, where he served as articles editor for the Virginia Law Review. He has served as a judicial clerk for Judge John D. Butzner Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and practiced with the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., for two years before joining the law faculty at UGA. He has also served as a visiting professor at the College of William & Mary and Boston University, and he has been a visiting scholar at the University of Aix-Marseille in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Publications & Activities



Wrongful Convictions, Constitutional Remedies, and Nelson v. Colorado, 86 Fordham L. Rev. 2199 (2018).

Judicial Federalism in the European Union, 54 Hous. L. Rev. 697 (2017).

What Did the Supreme Court Hold in Heffernan v. City of Paterson?, 51 Ga. L. Rev. Online 1 (2016). 

Attorney’s Fees, Nominal Damages, and Section 1983 Litigation, 24 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 89 (2016) (with T. Eaton).

Harmonizing European Tort Law and the Comparative Method, 9 J. C.L. Stud. 539 (2016)

Constitutional Remedies: Reconciling Official Immunity with the Vindication of Rights, 88 St. John’s L. Rev. 713 (2014).

Civil Recourse, Damages-As-Redress, and Constitutional Torts, 46 Ga. L. Rev. 1003 (2012).

Time and Change in Judge-Made Law: Convergence Divisions of Authority, and the Restatement, 1 Wake Forest L. Rev. Online 21 (2011).

A Common Lawyer's Perspective on the European Perspective on Punitive Damages, 70 La. L. Rev. 557 (2010).

Scott v. Harris and the Role of The Jury in Constitutional Litigation, 29 Rev. Liti. 65 (2009)

State-Created Property and Due Process of Law: Filling the Void Left by Engquist v. Oregon Department of Agriculture, 44 Ga. L. Rev. 161 (2009) (with Alice Snedeker).

A Litigation-Oriented Approach to Teaching Federal Courts Law, 53 St. Louis U. L.J. 857 (2009).

Race-Conscious Student Assignment Plans after Parents Involved: Bringing State Action Principles to Bear on the De Jure/De Facto Distinction, 112 Penn St. L. Rev. 1023 (2008) (symposium issue).

"Sociological Legitimacy" in Supreme Court Opinions, 64 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1011 (2007).

The "Order-of-Battle" in Constitutional Litigation, 60 SMU L. Rev. 1539 (2007).

Identifying State Actors in Constitutional Litigation: Reviving the Role of Substantive Context, 26 Cardozo L. Rev. 99 (2004).

International Norms in Constitutional Law, 32 Ga. J. Int'l. Comp. L. 429 (2004).

Proximate Cause and the American Law Institute:  The False Choice Between the "Direct Consequences" Test and the "Risk Standard," 37 U. Rich. L. Rev. 389 (2003).

Article II and the Florida Election Case: A Public Choice Perspective,  61 Md. L. Rev. 711 (2002) (with Jeffrey Netter).

Were There Adequate State Grounds in Bush v. Gore?, 18 Const. Commentary 403 (2001).

Section 1983, The First Amendment and Public Employee Speech:  Shaping the Right to Fit the Remedy (and Vice Versa), 35 Ga. L. Rev. 939 (2001).

Corrective Justice and Constitutional Torts, 35 Ga. L. Rev. 903 (2001) (with Bernard Dauenhauer).

Suing States for Money: Constitutional Remedies After Alden and Florida Prepaid, 31 Rutgers L.J. (2000).

"Available State Remedies" and the Fourteenth Amendment, 33 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1665 (2000).

Three Arguments Against Mt. Healthy: Tort Theory, Constitutional Torts, and Freedom of Speech, 51 Mercer L. Rev. 583 (2000).

Constitutional Remedies, Section 1983 and the Common Law, 68 Miss. L. J. 157 (1999).

Remedies for the Misappropriation of Intellectual Property by State and Municipal Governments Before and After Seminole Tribe: The Eleventh Amendment and Immunity Doctrines, 55 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 849 (1998) (with Paul Heald).

Naked Politics, Federal Courts law, and the Canon of Acceptable Arguments, 47 Emory L. J. 89 (1998).

Constitutional Torts, Common Law Torts, and  Due Process of Law, 72 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 617 (1997).

Who's Afraid of Henry Hart?, 14 Const. Comment. 175 (1997).

Punitive Damages for Constitutional Torts, 56 La. L. Rev. 841 (1996).

Original Intent and Article III, 70 Tul. L. Rev. 75 (1995) (with Edward Larson).

Positivism and Anti-Positivism in Federal Courts Law, 29 Ga. L. Rev. 655 (1995).

Busting the Hart & Wechsler Paradigm, 11 Const. Comment. 557 (1995).

French and American Judicial Opinions, 19 Yale J. Int'l L. 81 (1994).

Scientific Policymaking and the Torts Revolution: The Revenge of the Ordinary Observer, 26 Ga. L. Rev. 725 (1992).

Behind the Parity Debate: the Decline of the Legal Process Tradition in the Law of Federal Courts, 71 B.U. L. Rev. 609 (1991).

Against an Elite Federal Judiciary: Comments on the Report of the Federal Courts Study Committee, 1991 BYU L. Rev. 923 (1991).

Congress's Paramount Role in Setting the Scope of Federal Jurisdiction, 85 Nw. U. L. Rev. 465 (1991).

Governmental Inaction as a Constitutional Tort: Deshaney and its Aftermath, 66 Wash. L. Rev. 107 (1991) (with Thomas A. Eaton).

The Unimportance of Precedent in the Law of Federal Courts, 39 DePaul L. Rev. 357 (1990).

Rhetoric and Reality in the Law of Federal Courts: Professor Fallon's Faulty Premise, 6 Const. Comment. 367 (1989).

Comments on Why Punitive Damages Don't Deter Corporate Misconduct Effectively, 40 Ala. L. Rev. 1073 (1989).

The Impact of Substantive Interests on the Law of Federal Courts, 30 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 499 (1989).

Contract Law in the USSR and the United States, vol. 1, History and General Concept, 18 Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 293 (1988).

Is Disparity a Problem?, 22 Ga. L. Rev. 283 (1988).

Means, Ends and Original Intent: A Response to Charles Cooper, 4 J.L. & Pol. 81 (1987).

The Past and the Future of Constitutional Torts: From Statutory Interpretation to Common Law Rules, 19 Conn. L. Rev. 53 (1986).

Why Professor Redish Is Wrong about Abstention, 19 Ga. L. Rev. 1097 (1985).

Substantive Due Process and the Scope of Constitutional Torts, 18 Ga. L. Rev. 201 (1984) (with Thomas A. Eaton.)

Affirmative Duty and Constitutional Tort, 16 U. Mich. J.L. Reform 1 (1983) (with Thomas A. Eaton).

The Role of Comity in the Law of Federal Courts, 60 N.C. L. Rev. 59 (1981).

The Governmental-Proprietary Distinction in Constitutional Law, 66 Va. L. Rev. 1073 (1980) (with Walter Hellerstein).

Habeas Corpus and Freedom of Speech, 1978 Duke L. J. 1307.

Preliminary Injunctions and Abstention: Some Problems in Federalism, 63 Cornell L. Rev. 65 (1977).


Constitutional Torts, 4th ed. (Carolina Academic Press 2015) (with Sheldon H. Nahmod and Thomas A. Eaton).

Cases and Materials on Federal Courts, 3rd ed. (West Academic, 2015) (with William Marshall & Gene R. Nicho)

Cases and Materials on Federal Courts, 2nd ed. (Thomson/West, 2011) (with William Marshall, Gene R. Nichol and Larry W. Yackle)

Constitutional Torts, 3rd ed. (LexisNexis 2010) (with Sheldon H. Nahmod and Thomas A. Eaton).

Cases and Materials on Federal Courts (Thomson/West, 2007) (with William Marshall and Larry W. Yackle) (2009 supp.).

Constitutional Torts, 2nd ed. (LexisNexis 2004) (with Sheldon H. Nahmod and Thomas A. Eaton).

Constitutional Remedies: A Reference Guide to the United States Constitution(Praeger Press 2002)  (with Thomas A. Eaton).

Constitutional Torts (Anderson Pub. Co., 1995) (with Sheldon H. Nahmod and Thomas A. Eaton).


Preface, Pouvoir et Societe en Temps de Crise (Perspectives Juridiques, 2003).

Constitutional Torts Deterrence and Corrective Justice (2 sound cassettes). (Recorded Resources Corp., 2001) (with others).

Why Constitutional Torts Deserve a Book of Their Own, 22 Seattle L. Rev. 857 (1999) (with Thomas A. Eaton and Sheldon H. Nahmod).

Contract Law in the U.S.S.R. and the United States, 18 Ga. J. Intl.& Comp. L. 192 (1988) (book review).