Risa Goluboff is the 12th, and the first female, dean of the University of Virginia School of law. She is a nationally renowned legal historian whose scholarship and teaching focuses on American constitutional and civil rights law, and especially their historical development in the 20th century.
Goluboff is the author of The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Harvard, 2007), which won the 2010 Order of the Coif Biennial Book Award and the 2008 James Willard Hurst Prize. Her second book, Vagrant Nation: Police Power, Constitutional Change, and the Making of the 1960s (Oxford, 2016) was supported by a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Constitutional Studies and a 2012 Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. It received the 2017 David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History, among other honors. Goluboff is also co-editor (with Myriam Gilles) of Civil Rights Stories (Foundation Press, 2008), and the author of numerous shorter works.
Goluboff has been quoted or cited by The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic and more, appeared on PBS documentaries and the popular radio podcast “BackStory,” and written for Slate.com.
In 2008, Goluboff received the Law School’s Carl McFarland Award for excellence in faculty scholarship, and in 2011 the University of Virginia's All-University Teaching Award. She is affiliated with both the Miller Center and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. In 2012, the Organization of American Historians named Goluboff a distinguished lecturer. Goluboff has served as a visiting professor at Columbia, Chicago and New York University law schools.
Prior to her academic career, Goluboff clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court. She also served as a Fulbright Scholar to South Africa.
In 1950s America, it was remarkably easy for police to arrest almost anyone for almost any reason. The criminal justice system-and especially the age-old law of vagrancy-played a key role not only in maintaining safety and order but also in enforcing conventional standards of morality and propriety. A person could be arrested for sporting a beard, making a speech, or working too little. Yet by the end of the 1960s, vagrancy laws were discredited and American society was fundamentally transformed. What happened? In Vagrant Nation, Risa Goluboff provides a groundbreaking account of this transformation. By reading into the history of the 1960s through the lens of vagrancy laws, Goluboff shows how constitutional challenges to long-standing police practices were at the center of the multiple movements that made "the 1960s." Vagrancy laws were so broad and flexible that they made it possible for the police to arrest anyone out of place in any way: Beats and hippies; Communists and Vietnam War protestors; racial minorities, civil rights activists, and interracial couples; prostitutes, single women, and gay men, lesbians, and other sexual minorities. As hundreds of these "vagrants" and their lawyers claimed that vagrancy laws were unconstitutional, the laws became a flashpoint for debates about radically different visions of order and freedom. In Goluboff's compelling portrayal, the legal campaign against vagrancy laws becomes a sweeping legal and social history of the 1960s. Touching on movements advocating civil rights, peace, gay rights, welfare rights, and cultural revolution, Vagrant Nation provides insight relevant to this battle, as well as the battle over the legacy of the 1960s' transformations themselves.