Deborah Pearlstein

Assistant Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Robertson Hall
phone: 212-790-0200

Deborah Pearlstein joined the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 2007 as an Associate Research Scholar in the Law and Public Affairs Program. In fall 2010, she will be teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a Visiting Faculty Fellow in national security and international human rights.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as articles editor of the Harvard Law Review, Pearlstein clerked for Judge Michael Boudin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, then for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Returning to academia from an active law practice in national security law and human rights, Pearlstein's scholarly interests include the powers of the executive branch and the role of the courts, and issues of international law enforcement in domestic courts  Her work has appeared in journals including the Harvard Law Review, Harvard Journal of Law & Policy, and Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and she has taught courses in national security law, international human rights and U.S. constitutional law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Stanford Law School and at Princeton University. She has also served as a teaching fellow for undergraduates at Harvard College and for Masters Degree candidates at Harvard Law School.

From 2003-2006, Pearlstein served as the founding director of the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First, where she led the organization’s efforts in research, litigation and advocacy surrounding U.S. detention and interrogation operations. Among other projects, Pearlstein led the organization's first monitoring mission to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; prepared a series of briefs amicus curiae to the U.S. Supreme Court; and co-authored multiple reports on the human rights impact of U.S. national security policy, including Command’s Responsibility, which provided the first comprehensive accounting of detainee deaths in U.S. military custody since 2002, and received extensive press coverage worldwide. Throughout her tenure, Pearlstein also worked closely with members of the military and intelligence communities, including in launching a series of off-the-record workshops to address key policy challenges in U.S. counterterrorism efforts Still an active contributor to the field, Pearlstein was appointed in 2009 to the ABA's Advisory Committee on Law and National Security.

Pearlstein's work in human rights followed two years in litigation practice at the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson in California, where she worked on a range of constitutional, regulatory and public law issues, briefing and arguing cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts. In 2002, Pearlstein received the Voting Rights Award from the ACLU Foundation of Southern California for pro bono work on voting reform following the 2000 presidential election.

A frequent public speaker on security-related topics in U.S. constitutional and international law, Pearlstein has repeatedly testified before Congress on questions of U.S. detention and interrogation policy. She has been a regular contributor to Slate and The American Prospect, and has been widely quoted in the media on issues of U.S. counterterrorism policy, including as an invited guest on PBS’s The News Hour and NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and in outlets from the New York Times and Washington Post to Nightline and ABC’s World News Tonight She now comments regularly at the international law blog, Opinio Juris

Before embarking on a career in law, Pearlstein served in the White House from 1993-1995 as a Senior Editor and Speechwriter for President Clinton. In addition to her law degree, Pearlstein holds an A.B. from Cornell University as a College Scholar in literature, politics and social change.

Life after LAPA
Deborah Pearlstein joined the Cardozo faculty following her tenure as an Associate Research Scholar in the Law and Public Affairs Program at the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. Her research focuses on national security law and the separation of powers, and has appeared in journals including the Harvard Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Columbia Human Rights Law Review.


Recent publications include:

After Deference: Formalizing the Judicial Power in Foreign Relations Law, 159 U. Penn. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2010).

Ratcheting Back: International Law as a Constraint on Executive Power, 26 Const. Comment. (forthcoming 2010).

Form and Function in the National Security Constitution, 41 Connecticut L. Rev. 1549 (2009).

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