Criminal law scholar Alexandra Natapoff joins Harvard Law School

Credit: courtesy of Alexandra Natapoff

Alexandra Natapoff, a leading expert in criminal law and procedure, misdemeanors, informants, public defense, and law and inequality, joins the Harvard Law faculty on July 1 as the Lee S. Kreindler Professor of Law. She was previously a visiting professor of law in fall 2018. Natapoff comes to HLS from the University of California, Irvine School of Law where she was the Chancellor’s Professor of Law and co-director of the Center in Law, Society and Culture.

“Professor Natapoff’s influential and impactful scholarship on the criminal justice system has drawn critical attention to pathologies of the misdemeanor system, and argues persuasively that systemic change is necessary to realize the imperatives of fair process and equal justice under the law,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean of Harvard Law School.

“It’s an honor to join this institution,” said Natapoff. “I look forward to working with its extraordinary faculty, students, and staff.”

An award-winning legal scholar and criminal justice expert, Natapoff has testified before Congress, helped draft legislation at both the state and federal levels, and is quoted frequently by major media outlets. Her most recent book, “Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal” (Basic Books, 2018), describes the powerful influence that misdemeanors exert over the U.S. criminal system. It was selected by Publishers Weekly as a Best Book of 2018. She is also author of “Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice (NYU Press), which won the ABA Silver Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books. Her extensive scholarship has also appeared in Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and NYU Law Review, among other journals.

In 2009, Natapoff created Snitching.org, a public education website/blog devoted to the law and public policy regarding the use of criminal informants.

A member of the American Law Institute, she was appointed as an adviser to the ALI Principles of Law, Policing Project in 2015. She was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2016 for her scholarly work on misdemeanors and the American criminal justice system.

At HLS, Natapoff will teach Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. She and Professor Andrew Crespo 08 will host a speaker series titled “Policing in America,” which will critically examine police practices and the possibilities for reforming the American penal system.

Prior to joining the academy, Natapoff served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Baltimore, MD, and was the recipient of an Open Society Institute Community Fellowship. She also worked as a legal advocate in low-income neighborhoods in Baltimore as the founder and director of the Urban Law and Advocacy Project.

Natapoff graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School where she was article editor for the Stanford Law Review and the winner of the Steven M. Block Civil Liberties Writing Award for distinguished written work relating to personal freedom. She earned her B.A., cum laude, from Yale University.