David Kairys

Professor Emeritus

David Kairys is Professor of Law, the first James E. Beasley Chair (2001-07), and one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers. He authored Philadelphia Freedom, Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer and With Liberty and Justice for Some and co-authored the bestselling progressive critique of the law, The Politics of Law, and authored With Liberty and Justice for Some and over 35 articles and book chapters. His columns have appeared in major periodicals, and he has been profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal, and Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine.

As a civil rights lawyer (full-time 1968-90), Professor Kairys won the leading race discrimination case against the FBI, won challenges to unrepresentative juries around the country, stopped police sweeps of minority neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and represented Dr. Benjamin Spock in a free speech case before the Supreme Court. In 1996, he conceived the city lawsuits against handgun manufacturers, and his public-nuisance theory has become the major basis for a range of challenges to corporate practices that endanger public health or safety.

His recent articles focus on the history of civil rights, particularly the Supreme Court’s decisions on racial issues, the role of courts and the meaning of the rule of law, and a range of issues related to handgun violence.


LL.M., University of Pennsylvania
LL.B., Columbia University
B.S., Cornell University

Research & Teaching Areas

Areas of Expertise

Selected Publications

Publications and Media Appearances

Awards and Recognition

  • Deborah Rhode Award (2007) awarded for extraordinary contribution to public interest by a law professor
  • Civil Liberties Award (unknown) awarded for unknown
  • Pro Bono Award (unknown)
  • Friel-Scanlan Award for Outstanding Scholarship (unknown)