The Catholic University of America

Cara H. Drinan

Professor Drinan joined the faculty in 2006 as a visiting professor and scholar-in-residence. She joined the full-time faculty in the fall of 2007. She teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and a seminar on Gender, Law and Policy.  
Before coming to the law school, Professor Drinan was an adjunct professor at George Mason University, where she taught Constitutional Law: Criminal Process and Rights. Prior to joining the academy, as a litigator in private practice, Professor Drinan worked on a wide range of issues, including federal regulatory compliance matters, contract disputes, employment matters, civil rights issues, a patent infringement suit, and an Oklahoma death penalty appeal.
Professor Drinan holds a B.A., summa cum laude, from Bowdoin College, an M.A. from Oxford University in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She was a 1995 recipient of a Truman Scholarship and a 1997 recipient of a Marshall Scholarship.
Professor Drinan's scholarship focuses on criminal justice reform, with a particular emphasis on access to justice, juvenile justice and the death penalty. 


Research and Writing

Select Publications

    • Misconstruing Graham & Miller, 91 WASH U. L. REV. 785 (2014).

    • Getting Real about Gideon: The Next Fifty Years of Enforcing the Right to Counsel, 70 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 1309 (2013).
    • Lafler and Frye: Good News for Public Defense Litigation, 25 FED. SENTENCING REP. 138 (2012).
    • Clemency in a Time of Crisis, 28 Ga. St. Univ. L. Rev. 1123 (2012).

    • Graham on the Ground, 87 Wash. L. Rev.51 (2012). 

    • The National Right to Counsel Act: A Congressional Solution to the Nation’s Indigent Defense Crisis, 47 Harv. J. on Legis. 487 (2010). 

    • The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation, 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009).

    • The Revitalization of Ake: A Capital Defendant’s Right to Expert Assistance, 60 Okla. L. Rev. 283 (2007).   
Select Academic & Professional Presentations
  • Invited Symposium Participant, Washington & Lee University School of Law (November 2012)(Gideon at Fifty)
  • Invited Symposium Participant, Georgia State University College of Law (January 2012)(Clemency in a Time of Crisis)
  • Roundtable Participant, AALS/ABA Criminal Justice Legal Educators Colloquium (October 2011)(Clemency in a Time of Crisis)
  • Panelist, Law & Society Conference (June 2011) Graham on the Ground
  • Invited Speaker, William & Mary Law School (March 2011)(The Indigent Defense Crisis: Reform at the Macro and Micro Level)
  • Invited Speaker, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (March 2011)(Why Lawyers Matter: Pursuing National Indigent Defense Reform)
  • Invited Speaker, American University, Washington College of Law (September 2010)(Paths to Indigent Defense Reform)
  • Invited Symposium Speaker, University of Tennessee College of Law (May 2010)(Systemic Litigation as a Solution for Excessive Workloads)
  • Invited Colloquium Speaker, University of Georgia Law School (October 2009)(The National Right to Counsel Act: A Legislative Solution to the Nation’s Indigent Defense Crisis)
  • Invited Speaker, AALS New Law Teachers Conference (June 2008-June 2011)(speaking on variety of teaching issues) 


In Her Words ...

“I want my students to recognize that we all have a stake in our criminal justice system. Crimes are prosecuted in our names; our tax dollars underwrite the system; and it’s our obligation as fellow citizens to ensure the system’s fairness and accuracy."

– Cara H. Drinan



Office: 420 Law School
The Catholic University of America
3600 John McCormack Rd., NE
Washington, D.C. 20064

Phone: 202-319-5508



  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure: The Investigative Process
  • Gender, Law and Policy


Stanford Law School, 2002

The University of Oxford, 1999 

Bowdoin College, 1996


Areas of Expertise

  • Access to counsel
  • Indigent defense
  • Structural litigation
  • Clemency
  • Death Penalty
  • For additional information about our professors' areas of speciality, see the Catholic University Experts page.


  • Adjunct law professor, George Mason University, 2004-05
  • Associate, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, 2002-03