Professor Kami Chavis named Associate Dean for Research and Public Engagement

Photo of Professor Kami Chavis

Criminal Justice Program Director and Professor Kami Chavis, Associate Dean for Research and Public Engagement

Professor Kami Chavis, founder and director of the law school’s Criminal Justice Program, has been named the law school’s Associate Dean for Research and Public Engagement. Dean Suzanne Reynolds (JD ’77) says this position will highlight Professor Chavis’ passion for public engagement.

Professor Chavis says, “In this new role, I will be responsible for helping faculty promote the wonderful scholarship they produce and connect their work with discussions about current issues impacting our broader campus community, nation and beyond.” She notes, “We have faculty who are nationally renowned experts in nearly every subject matter including voting rights, environmental law, criminal justice, health care, immigration and corporate law. We can offer knowledge in the classroom but can also be a resource to the community.”

Professor Chavis intends to increase partnerships with community organizations to provide access to Wake Forest Law professors’ expertise. She says, “We have experts that we want to share with the greater community. This might include having faculty members provide critical analysis of topics as part of participating in panel discussions, moderating town halls or testifying before legislative bodies.”

For example, Professors Chavis and Mark Rabil, director of the law school’s Innocence and Justice Clinic, have partnered with the River Run Film Festival organizers to screen films and participate in panel discussions following the screening at Wake Forest Law and Salem College.

Jane McKim, community director of RiverRun Film Festival, says, “Both films raise sensitive and controversial topics and with Kami’s experience in Washington, particularly in her prosecutorial capacity, she has brought knowledge, professionalism and fairness to the discussions.  Kami’s reputation of intelligence and trustworthiness was particularly highlighted with regard to the recent film, ‘Peace Officer,’about the violence of police swat teams, when members of our local police force agreed to serve on the post film discussion panel with her. ”

McKim says the goal with these events is obviously not to simply show meaningful films.  “It is to also take the opportunity to ‘start’ the necessary conversations, giving the audience the chance to feel comfortable expressing thoughts and opinions, and achieving this through use of the exceptional community resources. Kami and Mark have indeed served as these resources, and we are thrilled that Kami has this new position where we hope to collaborate with her often in presenting meaningful film experiences both in and out of the classroom.”
Chavis adds, “We look forward to more of this type of interaction with the community.”

After earning her J.D. from Harvard Law School, Professor Chavis worked as an associate at private law firms in Washington, D.C., where she participated in various aspects of civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense and internal investigations.  In 2003, she became an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, which involved her in a wide range of criminal prosecutions and in arguing and briefing appeals before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Professor Chavis was elected to the American Law Institute in 2012.  In 2015, she was appointed as a Senior Academic Fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

She teaches and has written extensively in areas related to criminal law, criminal procedure and criminal justice reform. Her work covers police and prosecutorial accountability, federal hate crimes legislation and enforcement and racial profiling and has appeared in a number of sources including the following: the American Criminal Law Review, the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, the University of Alabama Law Review and the Catholic University Law Review.

Professor Chavis, a leader in the field of police accountability, makes presentations on law-enforcement issues around the country.  She frequently appears on national news outlets such as CNN, NPR and Sirius XM. She has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, among others, and is a contributor to the New York Times, The Nation and The Huffington Post.