Tamar Rebecca Birckhead is an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she teaches the Juvenile Justice Clinic, the Criminal Lawyering Process, and Juvenile Courts and Delinquency. Her research interests focus on issues related to juvenile justice policy and reform, criminal law and procedure, indigent criminal defense, and the criminalization of poverty. She also teaches Juvenile Courts and Delinquency at Duke Law School during the spring semester.
Professor Birckhead’s legal scholarship appears in the Buffalo Law Review, North Carolina Law Review, Rutgers Law Review, Washington and Lee Law Review, and Washington University Law Review, among other law journals. She also writes commentary, which has been published in several newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, and she is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Professor Birckhead has presented her work at Harvard Law School, George Washington Law School, Washington & Lee Law School, Brooklyn Law School, and the Law & Society Association, among other venues.
She co-edited the third edition of a casebook, Children, Parents, and the Law, with Professor Leslie J. Harris (Oregon). She is also an adjunct assistant professor at Duke Law School where she teaches a course on juvenile courts and delinquency during the spring semester.
Professor Birckhead’s article on raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in North Carolina has received significant attention at both the state and national levels. She has published several opinion pieces on the subject of raising the age and has been interviewed by radio and print reporters across the state on her findings. She has testified before the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission on the history of raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction, and Action for Children North Carolina, the state’s premier child advocacy organization, has issued white papers on her research. In addition, The Campaign for Youth Justice, a national organization dedicated to ending the practice of trying, sentencing, and incarcerating youth under 18 in the adult criminal justice system, highlighted Professor Birckhead’s research in their newsletter and interviewed her for their weekly radio program, Juvenile Justice Matters. The John Locke Foundation has also cited her work in its white paper endorsing raising the age in North Carolina.
Prior to joining the UNC School of Law faculty in 2004, Professor Birckhead practiced for ten years as a public defender, representing indigent criminal defendants in the Massachusetts trial and appellate courts as a staff attorney with the Committee for Public Counsel Services and in federal district court in Boston as an assistant federal public defender. Professor Birckhead has defended clients in a wide variety of criminal cases, from violent felony offenses in state court to acts of terrorism in federal court. Among her clients was Richard Reid, the attempted “Shoe Bomber” prosecuted in the First Circuit under the U.S.A. Patriot Act.
Licensed to practice in North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts, Professor Birckhead has been a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education programs across the United States as well as a faculty member at the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School. She is both a board and an advisory committee member of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. She is president of the board for the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence and has been appointed to the executive council of the Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. She is also a member of the advisory board for the North Carolina Juvenile Defender as well as a member of the Criminal Defense Section and the Juvenile Defender Section of the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers. Professor Birckhead received her B.A. degree in English literature with honors from Yale University and her J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School, where she served as Recent Developments Editor of the Harvard Women’s Law Journal.