Jim Oleske

Jim Oleske

Professor of Law

Legal Research Center 234
Legal Assistant:


Jim Oleske joined Lewis & Clark Law School in 2011, after serving as Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs during the first two years of the Obama Administration. Professor Oleske’s research focuses on the intersection of religious liberty and other constitutional values, and he was a Fulbright Scholar based at Cardiff University’s Centre for Law and Religion in 2019.

Professor Oleske was the recipient of the inaugural Huffman Scholarship Award at Lewis & Clark for his 2019 article, Free Exercise (Dis)Honesty. His 2015 article, The Evolution of Accommodation: Comparing the Unequal Treatment of Religious Objections to Interracial and Same-Sex Marriages was selected by UCLA’s Williams Institute for a Dukeminier Award, which recognizes the best legal scholarship on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Evolution of Accommodation was subsequently quoted by Justice Sotomayor in her dissenting opinion in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (2023). Professor Oleske received the Leo Levenson Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2014.

In his time at the White House, Professor Oleske worked on several pieces of major legislation, including the 2009 Recovery Act and the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Earlier in his career, he served as an appellate attorney at the National Labor Relations Board; chief of staff of the Oregon Senate Majority Office; a counsel in the Office of U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle; and an associate at a private law firm. Professor Oleske began his career as a law clerk to then-Third Circuit Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Professor Oleske’s Mastodon page.

Specialty Areas and Course Descriptions

Academic Credentials

  • BA 1994 Middlebury College, cum laude
  • JD 1997 Georgetown University Law Center, summa cum laude


Free Exercise Uncertainty: Original Meaning? History and Tradition? Pragmatic Nuance? 
Wayne Law Review (forthcoming 2024)

The ‘Mere Civility’ of Equality Law and Compelled-Speech Quandaries
9 Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 288 (2020)

In the Court of Koppelman: Motion for Reconsideration
2020 BYU L. Rev. 51

Free Exercise (Dis)Honesty
2019 Wisconsin Law Review 689

A Regrettable Invitation to “Constitutional Resistance,” Renewed Confusion Over Religious Exemptions, and the Future of Free Exercise
20 Lewis & Clark Law Review 1317 (2017)

Grand Theory or Discrete Proposal? Religious Accommodations and Health Related Harms
73 Washington & Lee Law Review Online 387 (2016)

“State Inaction,” Equal Protection, and Religious Resistance to LGBT Rights
87 University of Colorado Law Review 1 (2016)

Doric Columns Are Not Falling: Wedding Cakes, the Ministerial Exception, and the Public-Private Distinction
75 Maryland Law Review 142 (2015)

The Evolution of Accommodation: Comparing the Unequal Treatment of Religious Objections to Interracial and Same-Sex Marriages
50 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 99 (2015)

The Born-Again Champion of Conscience
128 Harvard Law Review Forum 75 (2015)

The Public Meaning of RFRA versus Legislators’ Understanding of RLPA
67 Vanderbilt Law Review En Banc 125 (2014)

Obamacare, RFRA, and the Perils of Legislative History
67 Vanderbilt Law Review En Banc 77 (2014)

Lukumi at Twenty: A Legacy of Uncertainty for Religious Liberty and Animal Welfare Laws 19 Animal Law 295 (2013)

Federalism, Free Exercise, and Title VII: Reconsidering Reasonable Accommodation
6 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 525 (2004)

Undue Burdens and the Free Exercise of Religion: Reworking a “Jurisprudence of Doubt”
85 Georgetown Law Journal 751 (1997)