Brett Dignam

Clinical Professor of Law

Brett Dignam

Clinical Professor of Law

Brett Dignam is a Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. An award-winning teacher, Dignam has supervised students in a broad range of litigation matters. She has designed and overseen workshops conducted by students for prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Conn. on issues, including immigration, sexual assault, and exhaustion under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

She has participated in major litigation in more than 30 federal and state cases in the area of prisoners' rights.

Dignam came to the Law School following her time at Yale Law School, where she led the Prison Legal Services, Complex Federal Litigation and Supreme Court Advocacy clinics.

Before entering the legal academy, Dignam served as a law clerk for the Honorable William H. Orrick, U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Calif., and then developed a prison litigation practice in both federal and state courts.

She also served as an attorney in the Department of Justice’s criminal appeals and tax enforcement policy section, tax division from 1990 to 1992, where Dignam handled criminal appeals in all federal courts of appeals. Dignam also assisted Deputy Assistant Attorney General James Bruton to form the Division Policy on issues ranging from money laundering to RICO.

Dignam has both a criminal and civil trial and appellate practice in both federal and state courts. She has participated in major litigation at both levels on behalf of prisoners and on tax matters, among other issues.

As an associate professor at Yale Law School, Dignam taught and supervised students in prison legal services; poverty and HIV issues; landlord and tenant isses; and immigration clinics. She guided students through administrative hearings and state and federal trial and appellate courts on issues ranging from state habeas claims to violations of the Voting Rights Act.

Dignam received her J.D. from the University of Southern California, where she was student director of the USC Prison Law Project and chair of the Hale Moot Court Honors Program. She has a M.A. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

  • J.D., University of Southern California, 1983
  • M.A., University of California, Los Angeles, 1975
  • B.A. Mount Holyoke College, 1972
Areas of Expertise
  • Complex federal litigation
  • Ethics in clinical practice
  • Prison legal services
  • Supreme Court advocacy 
Advanced Federal Prison Litigation Clinical Seminar
Mass Incarceration Clinic
Mass Incarceration Clinic-Project Work
S. Advanced Federal Prison Litigation
S. Advanced Federal Prison Litigation-Fieldwork
S. Mass Incarceration

Columbia Law School

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