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Jessie Allen

Jessie Allen

Associate Professor of Law
(412) 624-2175

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Professor Allen teaches property, civil procedure, legal ethics and civil rights. Her scholarship examines traditional legal structures and procedures from new perspectives. Much of her work considers what constructive roles formal legal doctrine and practices may play, other than determining substantive legal outcomes. For example, a recent article, Doctrine as a Disruptive Practice, argues that the structure of doctrinal reasoning may help judges distance themselves from their usual subjective outlooks. In another recent essay, she defends international human rights tribunals against the charge that they are merely show courts by arguing that the international tribunals simply enact a more obviously theatrical version of the role-based, conventionally structured performance all courts must use to trigger enforcement.

Professor Allen’s writing and teaching is informed by her experience as a litigator and civil rights advocate, mainly in federal courts. Before coming to Pitt, Professor Allen worked for several national public interest organizations and at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she was a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General, the branch of DOJ that handles the federal government’s cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. She spent the 2008 election cycle litigating voting rights cases in swing states as a senior attorney for Advancement Project, a racial justice organization. Before that, she was for several years a staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where her practice focused on class-action challenges to states’ criminal disenfranchisement laws.

Professor Allen received her doctorate in law (JSD) from Columbia University, where she was a Heffernan Fellow, and her JD (summa cum laude) from Brooklyn Law School. After graduating from law school, she clerked for Judge Pierre N. Leval, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Judge Edward R. Korman, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She holds a BFA in theater from New York University.

Professor Allen is the author of a legal blog, Blackstone Weekly, that explores how Blackstone’s Commentaries, an iconic eighteenth-century legal treatise, can illuminate twenty-first-century law and culture.

JSD, Columbia University School of Law
JD, Brooklyn Law School
BFA, New York University School of the Arts


Books & Chapters

  • Magical Realism, Law and Magic: A Collection of Essays, Christine A. Corcos, ed. (2010, Carolina Academic Press).
  • “Reading Blackstone in the Twenty-First Century and the Twenty-First Century through Blackstone,” in Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Seminal Text in National and International Context, Wilfrid Prest, ed. (Hart Publishing, Oxford 2014).
  • Of Taints and Time: Race, Cause & Criminal Disenfranchisement, After the War on Crime 166, Mary Louise Frampton, Jonathan Simon & Ian F. Haney Lopez, eds. (2008, NYU Press).


  • Empirical Doctrine 66 Case Western L. Rev. 1 (2015). Available on SSRN.
  • “Law and Artifice in Blackstone’s Commentaries,” 4 Journal of Law: 3 Chapter One, August 2014.
  • The Persistence of Proximate Cause: How Legal Doctrine Thrives on Skepticism, 90 Denver University Law Review 77 (2012). Available on SSRN.
  • Theater of International Justice, 3 Creighton International & Comparative Law Journal 121 (2012). Available on SSRN.
  • Documentary Disenfranchisement, 86 Tulane Law Review 389 (2011). Available on SSRN.
  • A Theory of Adjudication: Law as Magic, 41 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 773 (2008).
  •  Just Words? The Effects of No-Citation Rules in Federal Courts of Appeals, 29 Vermont Law Review 555, (2005).
  • The Right to Cite: Why Fair and Accountable Courts Should Abandon No-Citation Rules, Judicial Independence Series, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law (2005).
  • Introduction: Symposium on Race, Crime, and Voting: Social, Political, and Philosophical Perspectives on Felony Disenfranchisement in America, 36 Columbia Human Rights L. Rev. 1 (2004).
  • Locking Out the Vote, The American Lawyer, (April 2003).
  • Blind Faith & Reasonable Doubts: Investigating Belief in the Rule of Law, 24 Seattle Law Review 691, (2001).
  • Personal and Political: Feminists and the Sex Scandal, Dissent, (Winter 1999).


  • Blackstone Weekly – a weblog conversation with William Blackstone on the Commentaries.