David M. Shapiro

Clinical Professor of Law


David Shapiro has devoted his career to fighting for racial justice and civil rights, first at the ACLU National Prison Project, and since 2012 as a MacArthur Justice Center attorney and a Northwestern Law clinical faculty member. He has spent major portions of his career as both a federal trial court lawyer and a federal appellate lawyer. 

In 2016, David founded the Justice Center’s Supreme Court and Appellate Program, which he directs. As reported by U.S. Law Week, the group has “won a string of civil rights and criminal justice victories.” The Supreme Court and Appellate Program, which currently consists of fourteen appellate attorneys, exists to ensure that people subjected to police brutality, indecent prison conditions, wrongful convictions, and other law enforcement abuse have the best representation possible in appellate and Supreme Court cases—cases that will help to determine the future of civil rights protections throughout the United States.

David has argued appellate cases in state and federal courts across the nation, including the U.S. Supreme Court, the Illinois Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit, and many other appeals courts sitting both as panels and en banc. He has won major victories on such issues as police brutality, deaths in custody, wrongful convictions, prisoners’ religious exercise, criminal sentencing, and freedom of speech. 

David spent the first ten years of his career litigating principally in federal district courts. For example, he obtained a consent decree that restructured a jail’s censorship policies, helped to try a case that abolished the segregation of prisoners with HIV throughout the State of Alabama, and litigated many federal cases on behalf of innocent people who were wrongfully convicted.

David has the privilege of exposing law students to the power of litigation to achieve justice. Students working under his supervision have argued and won cases in federal courts across the United States on such issues as the rights of transgender prisoners, qualified immunity, sexual abuse by correctional officers, and other civil liberties.

David is also an accomplished scholar on civil rights, incarceration, and policing. He has published law review articles on these topics in the Harvard Law Review, the Notre Dame Law Review, and the George Washington Law Review, among many others, in addition to co-authoring a textbook on prisoners’ rights and training federal court staff on civil rights litigation through the Federal Judicial Center. 

David graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College in 2001, was a Fulbright Scholar from 2001-02, graduated from Yale Law School in 2005, and clerked for Judge Edward R. Becker on the Third Circuit.


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  • AB summa cum laude, Harvard College
  • JD, Yale Law School

Prior Appointments

  • Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
  • Clinical Assistant Professor of Law, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
  • Staff Attorney, ACLU National Prison Project
  • Associate, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
  • Law Clerk, Hon. Edward R. Becker, Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

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