Constitutional Law and Public Law

Many students come to law school with the strong desire to learn about the important constitutional questions of the day. While some students have a general interest in constitutional law, others are more interested in specific areas such as civil rights, education law, election law, family law and poverty law that are governed by constitutional, statutory and administrative law. And a significant number of students come to law school to prepare for a career in criminal justice. UCI Law has rich curricular offerings designed to satisfy students with these interests and to allow students to explore the interconnections among these areas of law.


The first year curriculum at UCI Law provides a strong grounding in public law. Constitutional Analysis familiarizes students with the constitutional framework that governs domestic law and the methods of analysis employed by judges in interpreting the constitution. Statutory Analysis introduces students to the major concepts of the substantive criminal law while also providing students with the statutory interpretation skills that are necessary to navigate the complex statutes that govern many areas of public law including election law and civil rights.

Students can build on this foundation with upper-division courses that further their understanding of federal litigation and specific constitutional issues, such as Federal Courts, First Amendment Law and Criminal Procedure, or than help them delve into specific areas of public law such as Election Law, National Security Law, Education Law, Family Law and Civil Rights Litigation. 

Hands-On Learning and Public Service

At UCI Law, students can get real-world experience in many areas of public law through clinics and they can provide related public service through pro bono work.  In the Appellate Litigation Clinic, students represent a client in an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This involves meeting the client and investigating the issues on appeal, reviewing the trial record, developing and researching a theory and writing an Opening Brief and Reply Brief before ultimately arguing the case before the Ninth Circuit. The substantive nature of the cases is often immigration (political asylum cases, cancellation of removal, ineffective assistance of counsel), although it can be prisoner § 1983 civil rights cases on behalf of inmates, or habeas cases.

In the Domestic Violence Clinic, students work directly with clients who are victims of domestic violence. Students represent domestic violence survivors in protection order and immigration cases, conduct community education in juvenile detention centers, and collaborate with community organizations.

Pro bono projects that relate to public law include working with the District Attorney’s office, the Public Defender’s office and the Alternate Public Defender’s office, working with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County to assist elderly and disabled clients in obtaining SSI benefits, working with the Learning Rights Law Center to assist families in need of special education services, working with Orange County Public Defender’s Office New Leaf Clinic to help clients expunge criminal convictions and working with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County to provide family law assistance to low income clients. Pro bono opportunities touching on matters of public law are numerous. View a more complete list of pro bono projects.

Additional Opportunities

Students interested in matters of constitutional and other public law immigration law have numerous other opportunities to explore these interest. UCI Law students have established a variety of organizations with a focus on such issues.  The UCI Law chapter of the American Constitutional Society (ACS), the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), the Black Law Students Association, the Children’s Advocacy Group, the Criminal Law Society, the Latinx Law Students Association (LLSA), OutLaw, and the Women’s Law Society have all hosted forums and activities pertaining to constitutional and public law issues. 

Recent events at the law school related to constitutional and public law have included an annual Supreme Court Term in Review panel and public lectures from well-known public lawyers. The Law School’s Center on Law, Equality and Race also sponsors events relating to public law, such as its symposia on topics such as law, race and social equality.