Berkeley Law - Faculty Profiles
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Elisabeth A. Semel
Title: Clinical Professor of Law; Director, Death Penalty Clinic
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
FSU Contact: Olivia Layug
After graduating from UC Davis School of Law, Elisabeth Semel became a deputy public defender. In 1980, she entered private practice and, in 1983, formed the firm of Semel & Feldman. Semel has defended criminal cases in the state and federal courts with an emphasis on representation at the trial level, including homicides and capital cases. In 1997, Semel left private practice to serve as the director of the American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project in Washington, D.C.
Semel joined the Boalt faculty in 2001, as the first director of the Death
Penalty Clinic. In that capacity, Semel represents clients facing capital
punishment at all stages of the proceedings in California and several states
in the South. Semel and her students have filed amicus curiae briefs in
death penalty cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, including Miller-El v.
Cockrell, Miller-El v. Dretke, and Snyder v. Louisiana (all dealing with
race discrimination in jury selection).
Semel's recent publications include, "Batson and the Discriminatory Use of
Peremptory Challenges in the 21st Century" (with Tom Meyer) in Jurywork:
Systematic Techniques (West, 2011-12 Ed.); Reflections on Justice Stevens'
Concurring Opinion in Baze v. Rees: A Fifth Gregg Justice Renounces Capital
Punishment, 43 UC Davis L. Rev. 783 (2010). She has written numerous
articles about criminal defense practice, including: "The Lone Star State is
Not Alone in Denying Due Process to Those Who Face Execution" (1999);
"Racial Injustice: Work to be Done Outside the Courtroom" (1998); "Talk to
the Media About Your Client? Think Again" (with C. Sevilla, 1997) (all
published in The Champion); "Breathing Life into Batson" (2003); "The Good,
the Bad and the Evil: News from the Hill" (1997); and "Victims' Rights: New
Amendment to the Federal Constitution?" (1996), all published in the
California Criminal Defense Practice Reporter. Beginning in 2003, Semel's
annual annotated summaries of cases dealing with Batson v. Kentucky (race or
gender discrimination in jury selection) have been posted electronically and
included in various criminal defense publications. Semel frequently provides
commentary in the mainstream media on issues relating to the rights of
individuals accused of crime, particularly those facing the death penalty.
Semel has received many awards, including the Outstanding Legal Service Award (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 2008); the Distinguished Alumni Award (UC Davis School of Law, 2000), John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service (Bard College, 1997), the Marshall Stern Award for Legislative Advocacy (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 1996), the Civil Rights Award (San Diego League of Women Voters, 1995) and the E. Stanley Conant Award for Protecting the Rights of the Indigent Accused (Defender Programs of San Diego, 1982).
B.A., Bard College (1972)
J.D., UC Davis (1975)
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