Thomas Frampton, Expert in Criminal Law, To Join Faculty

Harvard Fellow Brings Practical Experience From Orleans Public Defenders
Thomas Frampton

A former public defender, Thomas Frampton is a criminal law expert whose scholarship focuses on inequality in the criminal justice system. Photo courtesy of Thomas Frampton

May 21, 2020

Thomas Frampton, an expert in criminal law and constitutional procedure, will join the University of Virginia School of Law faculty as an associate professor of law this summer. 

Frampton is currently a Climenko Fellow at Harvard Law School and lecturer on law who split his time between Harvard, where he taught legal research and writing, and pro bono practice in Louisiana.  

He began his career with the Orleans Public Defenders after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 2012, and following a pair of clerkships. In addition, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American studies from Yale University.  

“Thomas Frampton’s integration of his ground-level view of the criminal justice system with doctrinal sophistication makes his scholarship relevant not only to other scholars, but also to lawyers and judges,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “Such engaged scholarship is a hallmark of our distinguished criminal justice faculty, and he will be a wonderful addition to that tradition.” 

Frampton’s recent scholarship is highly focused on the “carceral state,” which refers to mass incarceration in contemporary America, particularly in light of discrepancies based on race and social position. 

“One of the essential challenges in the study and teaching of criminal law today is to grapple with the extraordinary explosion of the carceral state in this country over the past few decades,” Frampton said. “Certainly having a little bit of time in practice has reinforced and enriched that perspective, and I hope that I am able to bring some of that experience into the classroom.” 

His paper “The Jim Crow Jury,” which was published in the Vanderbilt Law Review in 2018, has recently gained traction in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court case Ramos v. Louisiana. The court cited his paper twice in affirming that jury verdicts in criminal trials must be unanimous, something that not all states required. Frampton’s paper had previously been cited in a number of amicus briefs before the court in that case.  

“The Jim Crow jury never fell,” he writes in the paper’s abstract, referring to the way juries have been stacked against African Americans from after the Civil War to today.  

His latest paper, “For Cause: Rethinking Racial Exclusion and the American Jury,” was published in April in the Michigan Law Review. 

As a public defender, Frampton witnessed numerous problems related to race and justice, including jury fairness, firsthand. He was a trial attorney who also assisted on “special litigation” when his fellow attorneys encountered unusual problems, often constitutional in nature. 

Frampton will teach first-year students Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. He said he looks forward to serving as a mentor to students who may be considering criminal law. 

“It’s a pretty extraordinary way to cut your teeth as a young lawyer,” he said of public defense work. “There is a huge and pressing need to go into that arena.” 

He also looks forward to developing his scholarship with the feedback of colleagues he admires, and in some cases has cited, he said, including criminal law experts Josh Bowers, Darryl Brown ’90 and Anne Coughlin, and race and law expert Kim Forde-Mazrui.  

Bowers, who worked with the Bronx Defenders early in his career, said Frampton adds novel academic insight, informed by practice, as well as an enthusiasm to which students will respond.  

“I am extremely excited for Thomas Frampton to join UVA Law,” Bowers said. “Frampton’s jury scholarship is genuinely groundbreaking and valuable. He demonstrates that problems of racial exclusion extend well beyond the use of preemptory challenges. This work is academically rigorous, original and refreshingly informed by practice. He has already shifted how I think about my own teaching and writing. 

“Moreover, he is clearly a generous colleague and an effective and creative educator. I am confident he will be an absolute hit with students.”  

After law school, Frampton clerked for Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and Judge Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  

He was a member of the California Law Review and editor of the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law. He won the highest graduation honors for scholarship and advocacy, and for academic writing.  

In addition to writing about jury discrimination and other criminal law topics, he has a continued scholarly interest in constitutional law, civil rights litigation and labor law.  

Follow Thomas Frampton on Twitter at @TFrampton.  

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