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Tamar Birckhead - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Tamar Birckhead Tamar Birckhead

Associate Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs | UNC-Chapel Hill


Tamar Birckhead teaches the Youth Justice Clinic, the criminal lawyering process, and juvenile courts and delinquency.



Tamar Birckhead Publication




Legal experts dissect Tsarnaev defense




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.

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.

Industry Expertise (3)

Legal Services Education/Learning Research

Areas of Expertise (6)

Criminal Defense Criminal Justice Criminal Law Juvenile Delinquency Legal Education Sentencing

Accomplishments (1)

Visiting Clinical Professor of Law at Yale Law School (professional)

2016-17 academic year Visiting Clinical Professor of Law

Education (2)

Harvard Law School: J.D., Law 1992

Honors: cum laude, Recent Developments Editor, Harvard Women’s Law Journal

Yale University: B.A., English Literature 1987

Honors: cum laude, John Hersey Prize for a body of journalistic work, Elmore A. Willets Prize for fiction writing, Yale special correspondent, The New York Times, Managing Editor, The New Journal

Affiliations (4)

  • Clinical Legal Education Association: Board of Directors member
  • Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth: Board Member Advisory Committee Member
  • North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence: President of the Board
  • North Carolina Juvenile Defender: Advisory Board member

Media Appearances (4)

When a Clock is Only a Clock: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Human Rights at Home Blog  online


An opinion editorial advising against schools reflexively turning to punitive measures when confronted by typical adolescent misbehavior.

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2 North Carolina teens hit with child porn charges after consensual sexting

Ars Technicia  online


"You must keep in mind that juvenile court jurisdiction in North Carolina ends at age 16, so 16- and 17-year-olds, as in the Fayetteville case, will automatically be charged in adult criminal court with no option for adjudication in delinquency court," Tamar Birckhead, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, told Ars. "Another irony here is that these two teens could have legally had sex with each other in North Carolina, yet they are charged with felonies for texting sexually explicit photos of themselves to each other."

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Some Courts Recreating Debtors’ Prison

Youth Today  online


An opinion editorial discussing the undue minor criminal charges, such as loitering, littering, and unpaid traffic tickets, trigger an array of fees, court costs and assessments in both juvenile and criminal courts that can create insurmountable debt burdens for already-struggling families.

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Emails Give Reason for Anxiety about UNC after Ross

The Appalachian  online


By firing Ross, the board sent a message that opposition to the plan of state leaders to “reshape” the system would be met with real consequences. The board doubled down on this message in February by closing university centers which had expressed liberal viewpoints or interests.

And the effect extends far beyond just top officials and prominent personalities. In a New Yorker piece published in March, Chapel Hill professor Tamar Birckhead revealed that he had been told to use his personal cell phone, rather than university email, to discuss “controversial” topics.

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Courses (2)

Criminal Lawyering Process

(Law 231-Fall 2015)

Youth Justice Clinic

(Law 390-Fall 2015, Spring 2016)