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Legendary Lawyer to Speak at TJSL

October 3, 2012

Michael Tigar Speaking in Mauritius

Michael E. Tigar, who is considered to be one of America’s greatest lawyers, will make two presentations at Thomas Jefferson School of Law on Tuesday, October 23, one of which is a cross-examination skills training session from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Moot Courtroom. Tigar, who is Emeritus Professor at Washington College of Law and at Duke Law School, will speak earlier in the day to the TJSL community about “Worker Rights Under Attack:  Outsourcing and Globalization” in Room 323 from 11:30 a.m. -12:50 p.m.

“Michael Tigar is one of the most prominent criminal defense attorneys in the United States,” said TJSL Professor Marjorie Cohn. “A brilliant speaker, Professor Tigar’s work encompasses both incisive legal-political analysis and practice strategies for lawyers. This is a great opportunity to learn from a legal legend.”

Professor Tigar has recently worked with labor and community organizations who are seeking a new set of legal protections for worker rights, nationally and globally.  In this struggle many of the same themes can be seen that dominate discourse about transnational standards of accountability in other areas – environmental protection, financial fraud, and violation of human rights norms.  As a new generation of lawyers prepares for practice, the “new” labor law provides them tools and opportunities.

In the past twenty years, the traditional legal analysis of worker rights has been altered.  Labor law, as traditionally understood, is now transnational.  Militant unions have worked to organize low wage and vulnerable workers in the United States.  Powerful public and private forces, including major multinational corporations, have resisted these campaigns in four ways:

  • outsourcing jobs within the United States,
  • globalization – sending jobs to foreign countries where worker rights are fragile
  • legislation to curtail or eliminate worker rights
  • litigation attacks on union organizational campaigns

“Michael Tigar is an incredible speaker and an inspirational attorney,” said TJSL Professor Meera Deo. “Faculty, students, alumni, and other local attorneys can all learn so much from his experience. We are fortunate to have him return to TJSL.”

The TJSL Center for Law and Social Justice, the TJSL Faculty Colloquium Committee, the National Lawyers Guild-TJSL chapter, and the National Lawyers Guild-San Diego chapter are co-sponsoring these events, which are open to TJSL students, alumni, faculty and staff.

The cross examination skills training also is open to local attorneys and two hours of MCLE credit is available. TO RSVP for the training, please contact:


Michael E. Tigar is Emeritus Professor at Washington College of Law and at Duke Law School.  He has taught at several law schools in North America, Europe and Africa. He is a 1966 graduate of Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley, where he was first in his class, Editor-in-Chief of the law review and Order of the Coif.

He has authored or co-authored thirteen books, three plays, and scores of articles and essays.  He has argued seven cases in the United States Supreme Court, about 100 federal appeals, and has tried cases in all parts of the country in state and federal courts.   His latest books are Trial Stories (2008) (edited with Angela Jordan Davis), Thinking About Terrorism: The Threat to Civil Liberties in Times of National Emergency (2007), and Nine Principles of Litigation and Life (2009).

His clients have included Isabel Letelier, the family of Ronni Moffitt, many victims of the Pinochet repression, Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, John Connally, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Washington Post, Fantasy Films, Terry Nichols, Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Peltier, the Charleston Five, Fernando Chavez, Karl Dietrich Wolff, and Lynne Stewart.  He has represented labor organizations and rank and file workers.  He has been Chair of the 60,000 member Section of Litigation of the American Bar Association, and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Texas Resource Center for Capital Litigation.

In his teaching, he has worked with law students in clinical programs where students are counsel or law clerks in significant human rights litigation.  He has made several trips to South Africa, working with organizations of African lawyers engaged in the struggle to end apartheid, and after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, to lecture on human rights issues and to advise the African National Congress on issues in drafting a new constitution.  He has been actively involved in efforts to bring to justice members of the Chilean junta, including former President Pinochet.  Justice William J. Brennan has written of Mr. Tigar’s career that his “tireless striving for justice stretches his arms towards perfection.”

Mr. Tigar is listed in Professor John Vile’s book, Great American Lawyers: An Encyclopedia (2001), as one of 100 “great” lawyers in United States history.  In 1999, the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice held a ballot for “Lawyer of the Century.”  Mr. Tigar was third in the balloting, behind Clarence Darrow and Thurgood Marshall.  In 2003, the Texas Civil Rights Project named its new building in Austin, Texas, (purchased with a gift from attorney Wayne Reaud) the “Michael Tigar Human Rights Center.”