University of Pittsburgh School of Law Professor Jules Lobel has received the 2020 Great Teacher Award from The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT). SALT is a community of progressive law teachers, law school administrators, librarians, students and affiliates working to improve the legal profession, the law academy, and to expand the power of law to under-served communities. SALT engages in work within and beyond the law school to advance social justice.
Professor Lobel has been a professor at Pitt Law since 1983, compiling an extraordinary record of excellence in teaching and commitment to social justice. Just in the past two decades, Lobel has made it his life’s work to represent prisoners and has become a leading voice in the campaign to end solitary confinement and improve the inhumane conditions of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex. As detailed in his nominating materials, Prof. Lobel has integrated his teaching and social justice lawyering throughout his courses. For example, in 2002, Lobel co-counseled a major class action (Wilkinson v. Austin) challenging prolonged solitary confinement at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. Lobel ultimately took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing that prisoners placed in prolonged solitary had a liberty interest entitling them to due process. For this case, students did research, wrote memoranda, held strategy sessions, mooted Lobel, attended the argument and met with human rights organizations and co-counsel in D.C. Ever since Wilkinson, Lobel has been a leading national change-agent in challenging solitary confinement and has continued to involve his students in his work. This builds on his prior work in partnership with Center for Constitutional Rights, where he litigated many cases challenging human rights violations and abuse of war powers, under international law and U.S. Constitutional Law for a number of years. Prof. Lobel also now co-teaches a prison litigation class with a former student and director of a local nonprofit that Lobel helped get up and running, which combines doctrinal analysis with clinical instruction where the students work on cases, interviewing prisoners, participating in strategy sessions and drafting memoranda and briefs.
Lobel will be recognized during SALT’s 2021 virtual Annual Awards Ceremony on Jan. 8.