Tamar R. Birckhead

Print This Page (PDF) Associate Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs


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

Tamar Birckhead is an associate professor of law and the 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 will be a Visiting Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School for the 2016-17 academic year. 

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 Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, Washington University Law in St. Louis, Washington & Lee 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. She also regularly teaches a course on juvenile courts and delinquency at Duke Law School.

Professor Birckhead's article on raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in North Carolina has received significant attention at both the state and national levels. She has published several opinion pieces on the subject of raising the age and has been interviewed by radio and print reporters across the state on her findings. She has testified before the N.C. Governor's Crime Commission on the history of raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, and Action for Children North Carolina, the state's premier child advocacy organization, has issued white papers on her research.

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. She is also 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

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UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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