Professor Kami Chavis Simmons named director of Wake Forest Law’s new Criminal Justice Program

Photo of Wake Forest Law School Professor Kami Chavis

Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Justice Program Kami Chavis

This fall, Wake Forest Law is introducing its Criminal Justice Program, which is designed to facilitate critical thinking and scholarly engagement surrounding criminal justice systems in the United States.

The Criminal Justice Program offers students interested in criminal justice an opportunity to engage in theoretical and practical dialogue about these issues to enhance their doctrinal classroom experiences.

“The Program will publicize the scholarship, advocacy efforts and policy work of people within and outside the legal academy on a variety of criminal justice topics,” says Executive Dean for Academic Affairs Ron Wright. “We believe this will enrich the student experience at Wake Forest Law.”

Professor Simmons, who currently teaches courses related to criminal law and criminal procedure, has been named Director of the Program. After earning her J.D. from Harvard Law School, Professor Simmons worked as an associate at private law firms in Washington, D.C., where she practiced in the areas of civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense, and internal investigations. Prior to joining Wake Forest, she was also an assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, and participated in a wide range of criminal prosecutions and appeals on behalf of the U.S. government. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the American Criminal Law Review, the Journal of Criminal and Criminology and the Wake Forest Law Review.  Professor Simmons frequently makes presentations on law-enforcement issues and is a national expert in the field of police accountability.

According to Professor Simmons, “The Criminal Justice Program will sponsor scholarly discussions open to the entire campus and broader community on topics such as wrongful convictions, police accountability, mass incarceration, sentencing and search and seizure issues. We also plan to tap into the valuable resources of our local alumni to serve as mentors for students interested in criminal justice careers.”

Professor Simmons continued, “In addition to the black-letter law students learn in their doctrinal courses, we want students to develop an appreciation for the realities of the criminal justice system. The Program will provide opportunities for all interested students to see criminal justice in action through prison tours, ride-alongs with police officers and other organized activities.”

Interim Dean Suzanne Reynolds (’77) is excited about the benefits the new Program will offer Wake Forest Law students.

“I am happy that Wake Forest Law is bringing attention to these important issues,” she says. “Professor Simmons’ scholarship has been important in assessing the conduct of law enforcement, and her expertise in these and other topics make her the natural leader of these efforts.”

The Program’s inaugural event will be a film screening of the “Central Park 5” documentary followed by a discussion. This film tells the story of five teenagers who were wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.  The event is 4:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 21, in Room 1302 and is co-sponsored by the Criminal Law Roundtable. Professor Simmons and Professor Mark Rabil, director of the Innocence & Justice Clinic, will facilitate a discussion following the screening.

For more information on the Criminal Justice Program, contact Professor Kami Simmons.