A Universally Cited Professor

From 2009 to 2013, Professor Kerr was the number one most cited U.S. law professor in criminal law and criminal procedure. — Leiter Rankings

Search the web for criminal procedure and computer crime law expert Orin S. Kerr, and phrases such as “terrifyingly prolific” and “universally cited” appear over and over again—not surprising for someone whose scholarship has been cited in more than 150 judicial opinions and almost 2,000 academic works.

In the years since his first articles appeared in print—when Professor Kerr was a JD student at Harvard Law School—his impressive list of legal scholarship has grown to include authoring more than 50 legal articles, co-authoring the leading casebooks and six-volume treatise in criminal procedure, and regularly contributing to The Volokh Conspiracy. From 2009 to 2013, Professor Kerr was the No. 1 most cited U.S. law professor in criminal law and criminal procedure, according to Leiter Ranking’s “High-Impact Faculty.”

“Orin is the leading American scholar on computer crime law and on computers and the Fourth Amendment, and one of the very top scholars on the Fourth Amendment more generally,” says Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and the creator and writer of the popular legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy. “His work is routinely cited by other scholars and judges—something that, unfortunately, is true for only a few academics. He is also exceptionally fair-minded and thoughtful, and a beautiful writer. It is a great honor to have him as a co-blogger.”

Professor Kerr, recently named a Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law at GW, joined the law school’s faculty in 2001 after three years as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. With two mechanical engineering degrees in addition to his JD, it would have made sense for Professor Kerr to teach criminal law or intellectual property law when he arrived at GW, but there was more of a need for him to teach criminal law and criminal procedure—a serendipitous academic scheduling occurrence that led him away from studying patents and toward becoming a go-to legal scholar on the Fourth Amendment and computer crime law. 

That was fine with Professor Kerr. He says the pull to study the field of criminal law also came from its “human element — it’s not just about whether a big corporation gets to keep a pot of money.”

His scholarship led to his serving as counsel on several pro bono cases, even arguing Davis v. United States before the Supreme Court in 2011— a case that literally stemmed from his dedication to writing. Professor Kerr had written a brief trying to obtain a writ of certiorari for another case. After it was denied, he wrote an article, “Good Faith, New Law, and the Scope of the Exclusionary Rule,” published in the Georgetown Law Journal, articulating why he thought defendants should win if and when the Supreme Court agreed to review the issue. The Supreme Court ultimately agreed to hear the issue in Davis, and Professor Kerr agreed to write the briefs and handle the oral argument.

Professor Kerr’s illustrious career has included several opportunities to write and study at the highest levels of the law. In 2003, he took a leave of absence from the law school to serve as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. This marked Professor Kerr’s second stint as a law clerk for a federal judge; he served Judge Leonard I. Garth on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit after graduating from law school. 

In 2009 and 2010, Professor Kerr served as special counsel for Supreme Court nominations to the U.S. Judiciary Committee, advising leaders on the nominations of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. 

Most recently, from 2012 to 2014, he served as the inaugural scholar-in-residence at the Law Library of Congress for the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation Program on Demography, Technology, and Criminal Justice. 

“Although Professor Kerr clerked for the Supreme Court many years ago, his reputation for excellence persists to this day,” says GW Professor of Law Gregory E. Maggs. “When he writes on criminal procedure, especially on matters pertaining to modern technological developments, the court wants to know his views. Earning this high esteem is something every former clerk aspires to achieve.”
— By Claire Duggan