Jerry Dickinson

Vice Dean, Associate Professor of Law

Professor Jerry Dickinson, a Pittsburgh native, serves as Vice Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is responsible for the internal administration and operation of the School of Law's programs of legal education, including the management and long-term planning of Law School curriculum, supervision of adjunct faculty, member of the leadership team drafting strategic plans for the Law School, coordination of promotion and tenure processes, budget and financial planning, and the primary representative of the Law School when the Interim Dean is not available.

Dickinson has built a national, international, regional, and local reputation as a constitutional law scholar and civil rights lawyer.

Dickinson's teaching and scholarship specialize in constitutional law. His scholarly works focus on the constitutional politics of the U.S. Supreme Court, the relationship of federal and state courts in the federalist system, state constitutional law, judicial federalism, civil rights and civil liberties, law and democracy, and race and the law. 

He’s published in the nation’s top law reviews, including the N.Y.U. Law ReviewUniversity of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law & PolicyWilliam & Mary Bill of Rights JournalDuke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public PolicyWashington & Lee Law ReviewBaylor Law ReviewOhio State Law Journal, and Cardozo Law Review. His work has been cited by the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third and Sixth Circuits and in amicus briefs filed by Former Members of Congress in federal courts. His work has also appeared in national and international news outlets, such as the New York TimesThe Washington PostUSA TodayRolling StoneRoll CallBoston Globe, Austin American-StatesmanWashington Examiner, Bloomberg, BBC-News, BBC-UK, The Hill, The Atlantic, and MSNBC. 

Internationally, Dickinson is a former Fulbright Scholar to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he studied comparative constitutional law and housing with law faculty at the University of Witswatersrand School of Law. He also worked as a human rights activist organizing and defending squatters in eviction proceedings alongside South African lawyers at Wits University’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies. His publications in South African peer-reviewed law journals have been cited in foreign and international courts, such as the High Court of South Africa.

Dickinson has also been intimately connected to Pennsylvania's local, state, and federal practicing bars for decades. He has built strong and extensive relationships with Pitt Law alumni due to his professional experiences in the city and his personal roots and ties to the region. Before joining the legal academy, Dickinson practiced law in his hometown of Pittsburgh at Reed Smith LLP, where he founded and coordinated the Housing Rights Project, a pro bono initiative advocating on behalf of indigent tenants in eviction proceedings in Allegheny County in collaboration with the Neighborhood Legal Services Association. He also served as a law clerk for the Honorable Theodore A. McKee, then-Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. 

Dickinson has extensive litigation and transactional pro bono experience in civil rights and civil liberties. He has successfully represented indigent tenants in eviction proceedings and fair housing civil rights litigation. Dickinson represented a non-profit organization to establish a community land trust in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh. He served as legal counsel for an activist organization pursuing a ballot referendum to reform law enforcement practices. Dickinson advised a local historic Black church in past discrimination claims. He regularly attends and speaks at protests and rallies on racial justice and human rights issues. 

In 2023, the Pittsburgh Business Times recognized Dickinson as one of the “20 People to Know In Law.” In 2024, he was named the annual Allegheny County Bar Association’s Drum Major Awardee for his work advancing the mission of social and racial justice, equality, and opportunity. Dickinson also regularly appears on local and state television and radio, such as WTAE, KDKA, WPXI, and WESA, and in local print outlets, such as the Pittsburgh Post-GazettePittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Pittsburgh City Paper

Dickinson brings significant political and fundraising experience to the academy. He is a former candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Pennsylvania. In 2020 and 2022, he ran for the Democratic nominations in two high-profile elections for Pennsylvania's 12th and 18th Congressional Districts on platforms involving racial justice, healthcare reform, climate change, gun control, criminal justice reform, and affordable housing. As a candidate, he raised over one million dollars in campaign contributions from 100% individual donations.

Dickinson is a product of the Pittsburgh region. He was born into the Allegheny County foster care system and raised in a large, multiracial foster home of 11 at-risk children. Today, his wife, Emily Dickinson, their two daughters, Nyla and Aria, and the family dog, Denzel, live in the city’s Regent Square neighborhood.

  • Drum Major Award Justice Award, Allegheny County Bar Association, Homer S. Brown Division, January 2024
  • Pittsburgh’s 20 People to Know In Law, Pittsburgh Business Times, August 2023
Recent Publications


Research Interests

Constitutional Law
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Judicial Federalism
State Constitutional Law
Constitutional Property
Democracy and the Law
Race and the Law