Tamar R. Birckhead

Print This Page (PDF) Professor of Law


  • J.D. (cum laude), Harvard University
  • B.A., English Literature (cum laude), Yale University

Tamar Birckhead is a professor of law and Director of Clinical Programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she teaches the Youth Justice Clinic, the criminal lawyering process, and juvenile courts and delinquency. Her research interests focus on issues related to juvenile justice policy and reform, criminal law and procedure, indigent criminal defense, and the criminalization of poverty. She regularly teaches a course on juvenile courts and delinquency at Duke Law School. During the 2016-17 academic year, she is teaching at Yale Law School as the Martin R. Flug Visiting Clinical Professor of Law.

Professor Birckhead's scholarship appears in the Buffalo Law Review, North Carolina Law Review, Rutgers Law Review, Wake Forest Law Review, Washington and Lee Law Review, and Washington University Law Review, among other law journals. She also regularly writes commentary, which has been published in The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, and she founded and edits the popular Juvenile Justice Blog. She has presented her work at Harvard Law School, Washington & Lee Law School, Washington University Law in St. Louis, Yale Law School, and the Law & Society Association, among other venues. Professor Birckhead co-edited the third edition of a legal casebook, Children, Parents, and the Law, with Professor Leslie J. Harris.

Prior to joining the UNC School of Law faculty in 2004, Professor Birckhead practiced for ten years as a public defender, representing indigent criminal defendants in the Massachusetts trial and appellate courts as a staff attorney with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and in federal district court in Boston as an assistant federal public defender. Professor Birckhead has defended clients in a wide variety of criminal cases, from violent felony offenses in state court to acts of terrorism in federal court. Among her clients was Richard Reid, the attempted "Shoe Bomber" prosecuted in the First Circuit under the U.S.A. Patriot Act. She has provided expert legal commentary on the challenges of defending terror suspects for CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the National Journal, Bloomberg, and the CBC, among many other television, radio, print, and web-based media outlets.

Licensed to practice in North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts, Professor Birckhead has been a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education programs across the United States as well as a faculty member at the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School. She is a member of the board of directors of the Clinical Legal Education Association. She is also a member of both the board and the advisory committee of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. She is president of the board for the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence and has been a member of the executive council of the Juvenile Justice and Children's Rights Section of the North Carolina Bar Association and a member of the advisory board for the North Carolina Juvenile Defender. Professor Birckhead received her B.A. degree in English literature with honors from Yale University and her J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School, where she served as Recent Developments Editor of the Harvard Women's Law Journal.

Follow Professor Birckhead on Twitter: @tamarbirckhead

UNC Public Defender Mentor Project

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Selected Publications

Show All Publications

  • Children in Isolation: The Solitary Confinement of Youth, 50 WAKE FOREST L. REV. 1 (2014). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein]
  • Introduction: Symposium 2014: Vulnerable Defendants and the Criminal Justice System (with K. Pryal), 93 N.C. L. REV. 1211 (2015). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein]
  • The New Peonage, 72 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 1595 (2015). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein]
  • Defending a Terror Suspect, THE NATION, May 28, 2013. [Document Link]
  • Delinquent by Reason of Poverty, 38 WASH. U. J.L. & POL'Y 53 (2012). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein, BEPress]
  • The " Youngest Profession" : Consent, Autonomy, and Prostituted Children, 88 WASH. U. L. REV. 1055 (2011), reprinted in A.B.A. CRIM. JUST. SEC. JUV. JUST. NEWSL. (JUNE 2011). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein, BEPress, Document Link (PDF)]
  • Graham v. Florida : Justice Kennedy's Vision of Childhood and the Role of Judges, 6 DUKE J. CONST. L. & PUB. POL'Y (Special Issue) 66 (2010). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein, BEPress]
  • North Carolina, Juvenile Court Jurisdiction, and the Resistance to Reform, 86 N.C. L. REV 1443 (2008). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein, BEPress]
  • The Age of the Child: Interrogating Juveniles after Roper v. Simmons, 65 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 385 (2008). [Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, SSRN, Hein, BEPress]
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

If you are seeing this, you are either using a non-graphical browser or Netscape 4.x (4.7, 4.8, etc.) and this page appears very plain. If you are using a 4.x version of Netscape, this site is fully functional but lacks styles and optimizations available in other browsers. For full functionality, please upgrade your browser to the latest version of Internet Explorer or Firefox.