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Jessie Allen

Associate Professor of Law


Professor Jessie Allen teaches jurisprudence, legal ethics, property and a course on rights theory and practice. Her current scholarship considers how traditional legal authorities and practices might contribute to a distinctive rule of law, other than by determining substantive legal outcomes. For example, one recent article proposes that formal doctrinal reasoning might have psychological effects that could distance judges from their usual subjective outlooks. Another essay reinterprets and defends Blackstone’s declaratory theory of common law as a kind of legal ritual.

Professor Allen’s writing and teaching is informed by her experience as a litigator and civil rights advocate. Before coming to Pitt in 2010, 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. As a senior attorney for Advancement Project, a racial justice organization, she litigated voting rights cases in swing states. Before that, she was a staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where her practice focused on challenging state laws that bar voting because of criminal conviction.

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 the blog, Blackstone Weekly, which explores how the iconic eighteenth-century legal treatise, William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, can illuminate twenty-first-century law and culture.

Key/Recent Publications

Books & Chapters

  • Blackstone, Expositor and Censor of Law Both Made and Found, in Blackstone and His Critics,  Anthony Page and Wilfrid Prest, eds., (Bloomsbury 2018) available on SSRN.
  • 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).


  • Performing Justice, in 2 Emotions: History, Culture, Society 52 (2018).
  • Doctrinal Reasoning as a Disruptive Practice, Journal of Law and Courts, Vol. 6, Issue 2 (fall 2018). Available on SSRN.
  • 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.

Programs & Courses