Sarah E. Ricks visited for a year at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. At Penn, she taught Civil Rights Litigation and helped redesign the legal writing curriculum to integrate introductions to client interviewing, negotiation, and counseling, innovations she brought back to Rutgers. Ricks's casebook, Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation, now in its Third Edition, integrates the teaching of legal doctrine and legal skills, and is widely adopted.
Ricks graduated from Yale Law School, where she co-founded the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism and was named the outstanding female graduate of 1990. She graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After clerking for the Hon. Thomas N. O'Neill, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania from 1990-92, she joined Pepper Hamilton in Philadelphia as a litigation associate. From 1995 to 2001, she was an appellate and legislative attorney for the City of Philadelphia Law Department. She litigated dozens of federal and state appeals, including arguments before the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. She represented the City of Philadelphia at the trial and appeal of its public school desegregation suit and in litigation challenging the Pennsylvania system of funding public education.
In 2016, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney re-appointed Ricks a Commissioner on the Philadelphia Commission for Human Relations, which enforces the City's antidiscrimination laws in employment, public accommodations, and housing.Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter originally appointed her in 2008. She continues to serve this government agency, a defendant in the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Fulton v. Philadelphia. As a Commissioner, she has sat on panels hearing evidence and issuing rulings on employment and disability discrimination claims. The Commission substantially revised the Philadelphia antidiscrimination law. The Commission held a year of public hearings on intergroup conflict in the public schools, held a public hearing on racial discrimination in Philadelphia's Gayborhood, and issued government reports covered by print, television, and other media.
In 2009, Ricks was elected to the American Law Institute. Ricks was a Board Member of the Women's Law Project from 2005 - 2013. Since 2012, she has co-chaired the Section 1983 Subcommittee of the American Bar Association Civil Rights Committee and contributed to the ABA Civil Rights blog. She served on the Yale Law School Executive Committee (2012-15).
In December 2003, in ruling on a substantive due process issue that has split the federal circuits, the Third Circuit adopted much of the reasoning of Ricks's brief filed on behalf of Amici Cities of Camden, Newark, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, and repudiated fifteen years of district court decisions.
Ricks and Jill Friedman, Associate Dean for Pro Bono Programs, co-direct the Pro Bono Research Project, which since 2003 has offered free student legal research services to public interest law practitioners. Ricks teaches legal writing, Current Issues in Civil Rights Litigation, Public Interest Research and Writing (a hybrid clinical-writing course), co-teaches the Marshall Brennan Constitutiional Literacy seminar, and serves as a faculty advisor for the Journal of Law and Public Policy.