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Karen Tani

Title: Assistant Professor of Law
Tel: 510-642-8305
Email Address: ktani@law.berkeley.edu

FSU Contact: Stephanie Dorton

Karen M. Tani is a scholar of U.S. legal history and social welfare law. Her research explores the legal architecture of the U.S. welfare state and the practices of its designers, administrators, critics, and beneficiaries, with the aim of illuminating change over time in the logic of American governance and the meaning of citizenship. She teaches Torts, Legal History, and social welfare law.

Tani's current research project is a book, titled States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972 (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2015/2016). The book examines legal contests over welfare benefits and administration in the years between the New Deal and the modern welfare rights movement. Tani's published and forthcoming work includes "Administrative Equal Protection: Federalism, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Rights of the Poor," which was recently selected for presentation at the 2014 Harvard/Stanford/Yale Junior Faculty Forum and will appear in Volume 100 of the Cornell Law Review (2015); "States' Rights, Welfare Rights, and the 'Indian Problem': Negotiating Citizenship and Sovereignty, 1935-1954," recently published in the Law and History Review (Feb. 2015); and "Welfare and Rights before the Movement: Rights as a Language of the State," published in 2012 in the Yale Law Journal. Her work has also appeared in The Blackwell Companion to American Legal History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) and The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History (University of Georgia Press, 2011).

Tani is the first graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's J.D./Ph.D. program in American Legal History. Following her law school graduation, she clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Prior to joining Berkeley Law, Tani was a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in Legal History at New York University School of Law and the George Sharswood Fellow in Law and History at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Tani serves on the Board of Directors of the American Society for Legal History and is a member of the Organization of American Historians. She contributes regularly to the Legal History Blog. At Berkeley, Tani is an affiliate of the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program and the Center for the Study of Law and Society.


B.A., Dartmouth College (2002)
J.D., University of Pennsylvania (2007)
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania (2011)

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