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John Denvir

Research Professor of Law and the Humanities

Research Professor of Law and the Humanities John Denvir received his JD degree from New York University School of Law where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar. He received his LLM from Harvard Law School where he was a CLEPR Fellow. He was a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow with California Rural Legal Assistance where he worked to secure decent health care for farmworkers. Before becoming a research professor, he taught constitutional law at the University of San Francisco School of Law for more than 30 years. In 2004, the graduating class voted him the law school’s “most valuable professor.” As a volunteer attorney with the San Francisco Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, he helped refugees from Latin America win political asylum. Denvir also has been a visiting professor at Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley School of Law, the University of Oregon School of Law, and the University of Kent at Canterbury in the United Kingdom.

He is author of two books on constitutional theory—Democracy’s Constitution: Claiming the Privileges of American Citizenship (University of Illinois Press, 2001) and Freeing Speech: The Constitutional War Over National Security (NYU Press, 2010). He has also been very active in the emerging field of law and film. He edited one of the most read books in the field, Legal Reelism: Movies as Legal Texts (University of Illinois Press, 1996), co-edited a symposium issue of the University of San Francisco Law Review on law and film, and co-founded and served as managing editor for many years of the award winning website Picturing Justice.

Education
  • BA, Holy Cross College
  • LLB, New York University
  • LLM, Harvard University
Prior Experience
  • Staff Attorney, California Rural Legal Assistance
  • Associate, Chickering and Gregory, San Francisco
    Books
    • Freeing Speech: The Constitutional War Over National Security (NYU Press, 2010). (The Kindle edition was published in Feburary 2011 and the paperback edition was published in March 2012.)
    • Democracy's Constitution: Claiming the Privileges of American Citizenship (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001).
    • Legal Reelism: Movies as Legal Texts (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996). (Editor)
    Law Review and Journal Articles
    • "Guile is Good: The Lawyer as Trickster," University of San Francisco School of Law (forthcoming). SSRN
    • "The Casebook Blues: A Review of Landmark Cases Left Out of Your Textbooks," Journal of Law & Social Challenges (2008).
    • "The Slotting Function: How Movies Influence Political Decisions," 4 Vermont Law Review 799 (2004). (Symposium: Law in Film/Film in Law)
    • "Proudly Political," 37 University of San Francisco Law Review  27 (2002).
    • "Law, Lawyers, Film, and Television," 24 Legal Studies Forum 279 (2000).
    • "One Movie No Lawyer Should Miss," 30 University of San Francisco Law Review  1051 (1996).
    • "'Deep Dialogue'—James Joyce's Contribution to American Constitutional Theory," 3 Cardozo Studies in Law & Literature 1 (1991).
    • "Frank Capra's First Amendment," 15 Legal Studies Forum 255 (1991).
    • "Judging Justices: Rehnquist, Brennan, and the Question of Judicial Method," 22 University of Toledo Law Review 757 (1991). (Symposium: The Rehnquist Court)
    • "Comic Relief," 63 Tulane Law Review 1423 (1989).
    • "The Supreme Court: How It Was, How It Is," 13 Legal Studies Forum 205 (1989).
    • "'Ronnie and Roberto': A Reply to Daniel Williams," 23 University of San Francisco Law Review 409 (1989).
    • "Law's Empire," 22 University of San Francisco Law Review 89 (1987).
    • "William Shakespeare and the Jurisprudence of Comedy," 39 Stanford Law Review  825 (1987).
    • "Justice Brennan, Justice Rehnquist, and Free Speech," 80 Northwestern University Law Review 285 (1985).
    • "Earl Warren: A Public Life," 5 Cardozo Law Review 239 (1983). (Book Reviews)
    • "Justice Rehnquist and Constitutional Interpretation," 34 Hastings Law Journal 1011 (1983).
    • "The Constitution, the Court, and Human Rights," 44 Ohio State Law Journal  139 (1983). (Book Review)
    • "Professor Dworkin and an Activist Theory of Constitutional Adjudication," 45 Albany Law Review 13 (1980).
    • "Towards a Political Theory of Public Interest Litigation," 54 North Carolina Law Review  1133 (1976).
    Book Contributions
    • "Seeing the Big Picture: Why Law Fails in The Wire," in Law and Popular Culture: International Perspectives edited by Michael Asimow, Kathryn Brown, and David Papke (Cambridge Scholars Press, forthcoming).
    • "Seeing the Big Picture: Why Law Fails in 'The Wire',"  (forthcoming). (To be published in a book by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.)
    • "What Movies Can Teach Law Students," in Law in Popular Culture edited by Michael D. A. Freeman, 183 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
    • "Rumpole of the Bailey," in Prime Time Law: Fictional Television As Legal Narrative edited by Robert M. Jarvis and Paul R. Joseph, 145 (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, ).
    • "William Shakespeare and the Jurisprudence of Comedy," in Narrative and the Legal Discourse edited by David Ray Papke, 183 (Liverpool: Deborah Charles Publication, 1991).
    Opinion Pieces and Blog Posts
    • "Are All Lawyers Crazy, Or Just the Ones in the Movies?" Los Angeles Daily Journal  (February 1999).
    • "The Big Picture: Nominated Films—Even 'Babe'—Contain Lessons for Lawyers," Los Angeles Daily Journal (March 1996).
    • "…And Underneath All the Bluster, Rehnquist Is a Judicial Activist Too," Los Angeles Daily Journal  (September 1983).
    • "Controlling Welfare Bureaucracy: A Dynamic Approach," Notre Dame Lawyer (1975).
    Other Publications
      Briefs
        Court Citation of Research
          Presentations
          • Presenter, "Seeing the Big Picture: Why Law Fails in 'The Wire'," University of Tilburg in The Netherlands, "Law and Popular Culture: International Perspectives conference," Tilburg, the Netherlands (June 2013).
          • Presenter, "Cinema's War On Law," Fluminense Federal University (UFF) and the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, "Representations of Social Violence in Brazilian Cinema," Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (December 2012).
          • Moderator, "Facts and Fantasies About Lawyers on Television," Stanford Law School Conference, "Channeling Justice: Television and the Legal Profession," Palo Alto, Calif. (May 2011).
          • Presenter, "How Movies and Television Portray Law and Business," University of Illinois College of Law Round-Table, Champaign, Ill. (April 2009).
          • Presenter, "Dirty Harry on Due Process," University of San Francisco School of Law Faculty Teaching and Scholarship Lunch Series, (September 2008).
          Testimony and Hearings
            Written Testimony and Commentary
              Advisor or Consultant
                Counsel
                  Symposia Organization
                    Professional Membership
                      Fellowships
                        Other Service
                        • Visiting Professor UC Berkeley School of Law, Spring 2010