Theodore M. Shaw

Print This Page (PDF) Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights


  • J.D. (Charles Evans Hughes Fellow), Columbia University School of Law (1979)
  • B.A., College of Social Studies (Honors), Wesleyan University (1976)

Theodore M. Shaw is the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill. Professor Shaw teaches Civil Procedure and Advanced Constitutional Law/Fourteenth Amendment. Before joining the faculty of UNC Law School, from 2008-2014 Professor Shaw taught at Columbia University Law School, where he was Professor of Professional Practice. During that time he was also “Of Counsel” to the law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright (formerly Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP). His practice involved civil litigation and representation of institutional clients on matters concerning diversity and civil rights.

Professor Shaw was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of twenty-six years. He has litigated education, employment, voting rights, housing, police misconduct, capital punishment and other civil rights cases in trial and appellate courts, and in the United States Supreme Court.From 1982 until 1987, he litigated education, housing, and capital punishment cases and directed LDF’s education litigation docket. In 1987, under the direction of LDF's third Director-Counsel, Julius Chambers, Mr. Shaw relocated to Los Angeles to establish LDF’s Western Regional Office. In 1990, Mr. Shaw left LDF to join the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School, where he taught Constitutional Law, Civil Procedure and Civil Rights. While at Michigan, he played a key role in initiating a review of the law school’s admissions practices and policies, and served on the faculty committee that promulgated the admissions program that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger.

In 1993, Mr. Shaw returned to LDF as Associate Director-Counsel, and in 2004, he became LDF’s fifth Director-Counsel. Mr. Shaw’s legal career began as a Trial Attorney in the Honors Program of the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., where he worked from 1979 until 1982.

Mr. Shaw has testified on numerous occasions before Congress and before state and local legislatures. His human rights work has taken him to Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. In addition to teaching at Columbia and at Michigan Law School, Professor Shaw held the 1997-1998 Haywood Burns Chair at CUNY School of Law at Queens College and the 2003 Phyllis Beck Chair at Temple Law School. He was a visiting scholar at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia in 2008-2009. He is a member of the faculty of the Practicing Law Institute (PLI).

Mr. Shaw served on the Obama Transition Team after the 2008 presidential election, as team leader for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Professional Activities

From 1986 until 1989, Mr. Shaw served as an alumni-elected trustee of Wesleyan University, before his appointment as a charter trustee from 1991 until 2003. He retired from the Board as senior vice-chair, and is Trustee Emeritus. He is on the Board of Equal Rights Trust, a London-based international human rights organization, The International Center for Transitional Justice, and has served on the Legal Advisory Committee of the European Roma Rights Centre, a Budapest-based human rights organization. Mr. Shaw has also served as a member of the Board of American Constitution Society, and is a member of the Board of Directors of The New Press. He is also a member of the Board of Deacons of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in the City of New York.

Professional Honors

Mr. Shaw has received numerous honors and awards, including an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Wesleyan University in 2014, the 2012 Harlem Neighborhood Defenders Office W. Haywood Burns Humanitarian Award, the 2012 Office of the Appellate Defender Milton S. Gould Award for Outstanding Advocacy, the 2011 Wesleyan University Distinguished Alumnus Award, the 2011 Connecticut Fair Housing Council Mildred and Richard Loving Award, the 2011 Shirley Chisholm Award, the 2008 National Council of Jewish Women Faith and Humanity Award, the National Bar Association’s Judicial Council Civil Liberties Award, the 2008 Groundwork Impact Award, the 2007 Association of Public and Land Grant Universities Cade Distinguished Service Award, the 2006 Office of Black Ministry of the Archdiocese of New York Pierre Toussaint Medallion, the 2006 Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Excellence in Legal Service Award, the 2006 National Urban League Center for Urban Leadership Whitney M. Young, Jr. Leadership Award, the 2003 Columbia University School of Law Lawrence A. Wien Prize for Social Responsibility, the 2003 National Bar Association Young Lawyers Division A. Leon Higginbotham Memorial Award, the 2003 Wesleyan University Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, the 1998 New York Metropolitan Bar Association Outstanding Attorney of the Year, the 1991 Wesleyan University Distinguished Service Award, and the 1990 Los Angeles Langston Bar Association Civil Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.

Educational Background

Mr. Shaw received a B.A. with Honors from Wesleyan University in 1976. He earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1979, where he was a Charles Evans Hughes Fellow.

Mr. Shaw was an Aspen Fellow in Law and Social Justice in 1987, a Twenty-First Century Trust Fellow in London, England in 1989, and a Salzburg Fellow in Salzburg, Austria in 1990.

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