Distinguished Clinical Professor of Law
Sarah E. Ricks
Rutgers Law School
217 N 5th St
Camden, NJ 08102

Sarah E. Ricks, the co-director of the Pro Bono Research Project, teaches legal writing, civil rights litigation, public interest research  and advanced legal writing. A former attorney for the City of Philadelphia, she is a member of the American Law Institute, a former board member of the Women’s Law Project and chairs a subcommittee for the American Bar Association.

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Courses Taught
  • Expertise

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 (now Troutman Pepper). 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 U.S. Supreme Court case Fulton v. Philadelphia. As a Commissioner, she has sat on panels hearing evidence and issuing rulings on employment, housing, 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 is a Board Member of the Women's Law Project (2021 - current) and previously served 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), and co-taught the Marshall Brennan Constitutiional Literacy seminar for 6 years.



Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation: A Context and Practice Casebook (Carolina Academic Press 3d Ed. 2020), and Teacher's Manual, are part of an innovative casebook series designed and edited by Michael Hunter Schwartz. Book catalogue listing The companion website includes relevant guest speakers, links, and other teaching materials: http://constitutionallitigation.rutgers.edu/


Contributions to Gerry Hess, Steven Friedland, Sophie Sparrow, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, Techniques for Teaching Law II (Carolina Academic Press 2011)

Book chapter: Constitutional Research, in Suzanne Rowe, Federal Legal Research (Carolina Academic Press 2d Ed. 2015)

ARTICLES on Civil Rights or Federal Appellate Courts

The Murky Landscape of Post-Iqbal Supervisory Liability in the Seventh Circuit, ABA Civil Rights Newsletter (Fall 2013), http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/civil/newsletter.html

A Modest Proposal for Regulating Unpublished, Non-precedential Federal Appellate Opinions While Courts and Litigants Adapt to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1, 9 Journal of Appellate Practice and Process 17 (Spring 2007) (solicited) Click Here to view in pdf format. 

Third Circuit Clarifies Inconsistency in State-Created Danger, The Legal Intelligencer (July 31, 2006)(reprinted in The Pennsylvania Lawyer (Aug. 2006)

The Perils of Unpublished Non-precedential Federal Appellate Opinions: A Case Study of the Substantive Due Process State-Created Danger Doctrine in One Circuit, 81 Wash. L. Rev. 217 (2006) Available here in pdf format.

  • cited in Perez v. City Of Philadelphia, 701 F.Supp.2d 658, 666 (E.D.Pa. 2010)
  • cited in Sinclair on Federal Practice s 19:14, Additional Resources (2023) 
  • cited in Wright & Miller: Federal Prac. & Proc.s 3978.10, Citing Unpublished Opinions (2024).

Evolution of a Doctrine: The Scope of the Parental Liberty Interest Protected by Substantive Due Process After McCurdy, 3 Rutgers J. L. & Urb. Pol'y. No. 1 (Fall 2005), http://www.jlup.org (with link to amici brief to Third Circuit authored in Dec. 2002 on behalf of the Cities of Newark and Camden, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in McCurdy v. Dodd)

2003 Scholarship Grant from Association of Legal Writing Directors for abstract on The Perils of Unpublished Non-precedential Federal Appellate Opinions: A Case Study of the Substantive Due Process State-Created Danger Doctrine in One Circuit

RU-486: The Moral Property of Women, 1 Yale Journal of Law & Feminism 75 (1989)

ARTICLES on Teaching

Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste: Erasing Lines Between Faculty, The Second Draft (Winter 2013-14), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2346379

Integrating the Teaching of Doctrine and Skills:An Example Intended to Stimulate Ideas for Your Own Class, The Law Teacher (Fall 2013), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2321854

How Can I Help My Law Professors Help My Job Search, The National Jurist (September 2013) at p. 8

Reflections on the Twentieth Anniversary of Founding the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 21 Yale J.L. & Feminism 248 (2009).

Effective Brief Writing Despite High Volume Practice: Ten Misconceptions that Result in Bad Briefs, 38 Toledo L. Rev. 1113 (2007)(excerpted in New Jersey Lawyer (Dec.2006)) Click Here to view in pdf format, available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=996907 

Student to Lawyer: Teaching the Culture(s) of Law Practice, The Second Draft: Bulletin of the Legal Writing Institute (Dec. 2006).

Teaching 1L's to Think Like Lawyers By Assigning Memo Problems With No Clear Conclusions, Perspectives (Fall 2005) (reprinted in Legal Assistants Association of Utah News (June 2006)

Some Strategies to Teach Reluctant Talkers to Talk About Law, 54 Journal of Legal Education 570 (Dec. 2004) Click Here to view in pdf format.

Using Macros to Comment on Student Writing: A Little Technology Can Improve Consistency, Quality & Efficiency, The Second Draft: Bulletin of the Legal Writing Institute (Dec. 2004) (reprinted in The Law Teacher (May 2005))

A Case is Just an Example: Using Common Experience to Introduce Case Synthesis and Rule Statements and then Applying Those Skills in a Legal Context, Vol. 18, No. 1 The Second Draft: Bulletin of the Legal Writing Institute (Dec. 2003)

You Are in the Business of Selling Analogies & Distinctions, Perspectives, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Spring 2003)

INTERVIEWS on civil rights or public interest law

Local Lawyers Active on Mayor Nutter's Transition Teams, The Legal Intelligencer (Feb. 2008)

Law Students Build a Link: Rutgers Camden Pro Bono Research Project Sharpens Skills While Serving Practitioners, The Philadelphia Lawyer (Fall 2004) Available here in pdf format.

U.S. Courts Grapple With Constitutional Claims for Loss of Adult Children, Trial (March 2004)
Available here

Selected APPELLATE BRIEFS Available on Westlaw's Online Brief Bank

Webb (3d Cir. 2001) (state-created danger theory of substantive due process)

P.R. (Pa. Supreme Court 2001) (standard for distinguishing accidental injury from child abuse under the Pennsylvania child abuse statute)

Vakkas (3d Cir. 2000) (whether a secured creditor's self-help remedy is "state action")

Gatter (3d Cir. 2000) (absolute witness immunity for police who broke the "blue wall of silence")

Williams (3d Cir. 1999) (procedural and substantive due process claims resulting from police failure to disclose exculpatory information)

Gilbert (3d Cir. 1999) (employment discrimination)

Miller (3d Cir. 1998) (substantive and procedural due process claims against social worker for taking temporary custody of child)

Pennsylvania Ass'n of Rural and Small Schools (Pa. Supreme Ct. 1998) (amici curiae City and School District of Philadelphia supporting state constitutional challenge to Pennsylvania system of funding public education)

Atlantic Used Auto Parts (3d Cir. 1997) (procedural due process claim against City of Philadelphia)

  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Civil Rights & Civil Liberties
  • Federal Courts
  • Legal Education
  • Legal Research
  • Legal Writing