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Experienced Civil Rights Advocate Danielle Jefferis Joins CWSL Faculty

Professor Danielle Jefferis

Assistant Professor of Law Danielle C. Jefferis brings her unique teaching and practice experience to California Western this fall.

Jefferis joins the Cal Western faculty from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where she taught in the Civil Rights Clinic. There, she supervised law students in their direct representation of clients in complex civil rights cases before federal, district, and appellate courts with a heavy focus on prisoners’ rights claims.

This year, she will teach Cal Western first-year students Civil Procedure I and II and upper-level students Prison Law and Policy.

“I’m so excited to join the Cal Western faculty,” says Jefferis, “where professors are engaged in both rigorous research and scholarship that have a tangible impact on the law and our society and meaningful teaching and mentorship that ensure our students graduate with the skills and experience they need to become effective and compassionate advocates.”

Students will benefit from Jefferis’ practice experience, which lies at the intersection of constitutional law and prisoners’ rights and brings a distinctive edge to her teaching.

Before joining Denver Law faculty, Jefferis was the Nadine Strossen Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project in New York. There she participated in all aspects of federal litigation and advocacy concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional and civil rights as they relate to national security laws, policies, and practices.

Prior to that, Jefferis was an associate attorney with the civil rights firm of Killmer, Lane & Newman in Denver, where she represented clients in civil and constitutional rights cases involving federal and state civil rights statutes, including 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Title VII, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

In 2018, she was a member of a team of clinic faculty and student attorneys that successfully challenged the constitutionality of a federal prisoner’s conviction, resulting in his release from prison. One of her most memorable moments as an attorney and teacher was witnessing her client reunite with his family after being separated from them for more than a decade.

“The law impacts all of us in very real—and very different—ways,” says Jefferis. “One of my primary responsibilities as a professor is to bring my practice experience into the classroom to expose students to the reality of the law and, especially, the reality of the law’s impacts on their future clients’ lives.”

Jefferis’ scholarship focuses on theories of punishment and the law and policy governing prison and detention. She has recently published various scholarly papers on those subjects, most notably an invited submission for the Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy titled Private Prisons, Private Governance: Essay on Developments in Private-Sector Resistance to Privatized Immigration Detention.

She has provided expert commentary on private detention issues for national and international media outlets, including VICE, Mother Jones, and NowThis. She has been solicited as an amicus curiae three times for cases involving prison law and prisoners’ rights around the country, most recently in Prison Legal News v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, March 2019.

“My scholarship aims to expose the structural inequities in our civil justice system and examine the ways in which the law falls short in protecting some of the most disenfranchised people in our society,” says Jefferis. “Highlighting those inequities and harms forces lawyers and lawmakers to reckon with the reasons the law has developed in the ways it has and, hopefully, advances progress toward meaningful change.”

As well as her scholarly work, Jefferis is much-in-demand as a presenter and panelist in the fields of prison reform and prisoners’ rights and has presented her research at Harvard Law School, the University of Texas at Austin, and Loyola University School of Law to name a few.

Jefferis is excited to join the faculty at Cal Western and to get to know her new colleagues and students. Despite the current confines of COVID-19, she is confident of developing meaningful relationships with her new protégés.

“Don’t lose sight of why you came to law school,” she says. “Whether it was to make a difference in your own life, for your family or your community, or for society, that purpose matters. I can’t wait to meet you, and I can’t wait to see how you advance those goals and purpose.”

When Professor Jefferis posted news of her acceptance of her Cal Western appointment on Twitter, one of her many followers who offered their congratulations summed up the opportunity for the California Western community perfectly:

“Congrats, Danielle! They are lucky to get to learn and work with you!”

To learn more about Professor Jefferis’ scholarly work, click here.