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Saturday, December 11, 2004

CrimProf Spotlight: Tulane's Pamela Metzger

Pmetzger This week the CrimProf Blog splotlights Pamela Metzger of TulaneMetzger writes:   

"I am the oldest of three children raised in a Reform Jewish household in Atlanta. Judaism’s emphasis on social justice and learning remains a profound influence in my life and it played a major role in my decision to pursue a career that combines rigorous scholarship with the Jewish concept of tikkun olam: repairing the world.

As an idealistic teenager, I thought that being a public defender was the noblest thing a person could do. I left Atlanta for Dartmouth College at the end of Dartmouth’s first decade of co-education. I became extremely involved in social action: I spent most of one winter camping out on the college green in a shanty town as part of a (successful) divestment campaign. I also served as a crisis intervention worker at the local battered women’s shelter. In addition, I was a Senior Fellow of the College: I got an office, a budget, and the green light for a yearlong project on feminist theory.

After college, I spent a year in Massachusetts working as the Assistant to the Chief Counsel of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the statewide public defender organization. There, I organized training programs for lawyers on topics as diverse as representing clients with AIDS and assisting minors in obtaining judicial consent for abortions. That experience confirmed that I wanted to attend law school, so I headed off to New York University School of Law.

At NYU I found a vibrant intellectual community, filled with ‘true believers’ like me, who wanted to put theory into practice. I arrived in the midst of a support staff strike and quickly became involved with a group of progressive students who supported the workers. Later, I served on the staff of the Review of Law and Social Change and the Moot Court Board. The National Moot Court Competition convinced me (as if I’d had any doubt) that I wanted a trial practice.

Upon graduation, I went to work at the Federal Defender’s Office in New York City. My years at Federal Defenders were challenging, often heartbreaking, but wonderful. I loved my clients and I loved the work: giving voice to the poor ennobles not only the lawyer, but also the system. Still, I was frustrated by the limits necessarily imposed by the criminal defense model; I wanted an opportunity to think about, and write about, systemic problems and their potential solutions.

After a brief stint in private practice, I found my first teaching job as a visitor at Washington & Lee. There, I taught criminal procedure (bail to jail) and directed the Alderson Legal Assistance Project, a clinic serving the legal needs of women incarcerated at the federal facility in Alderson, West Virginia. However, my family and I longed for a more urban environment and one with a significant Jewish community. The challenge was finding a position that would enable me to ‘triangulate’ my work so that I could give significant attention to scholarship, teaching, and practice.

I found that position in 2001 when I joined Tulane’s law faculty as Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Law Clinic. In addition to directing the clinic, I teach an Advanced Criminal Practice seminar and Constitutional Criminal Procedure.

Tulane has offered me opportunities that other professors can only imagine. We have a unitary tenure track, so my scholarship is actively supported with both time and money. My clinical teaching support is unparalleled and our clinic’s diverse caseload continues to stretch my lawyering skills. Our two most exciting projects are (1) our developing Louisiana Supreme Court practice; and (2) our holistic representation of battered women charged with crimes. Through our Domestic Violence project, our clinic handles not only criminal cases brought against battered women, but also related civil matters. I now lecture around the country, teaching defense attorneys and prosecutors about battered women charged with crimes, and about the collateral consequences of their arrest or conviction.

Meanwhile, my scholarship continues to focus on Sixth Amendment issues; in particular, I am engaged by the ‘disconnect’ between constitutional doctrine and real world practices. I have just completed an article addressing ‘constitutional cheating’ – systemic practices that ‘cheat’ the constitution by legislating around constitutional protections, such as the Confrontation Clause and the Winship rule. My current project critiques a complex web of right-to-counsel doctrines which give prosecutors control over defendants’ right to counsel."  (For publications, click here).

Each Saturday, CrimProf Blog will spotlight on one of the 1500+ criminal justice professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the criminal justice professorate to the attention of the broader criminal justice community.  Please email us suggestions for future CrimProf profiles, particularly new professors in the field.

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