Deborah Pearlstein

Director, Program in Law and Public Policy and Charles and Marie Robertson Visiting Professor in Law and Public Affairs
P*LAW Advisory Committee

Deborah Pearlstein is Director of the Princeton Program in Law and Public Policy and Charles and Marie Robertson Visiting Professor of Law and Public Affairs.  Before joining Princeton, she was Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo Law School, Yeshiva University, and held visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. Her research on the U.S. Constitution, international law, democracy and national security has appeared widely in leading law journals and in the popular press, including The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Professor Pearlstein has served as Chair of the AALS National Security Law Section, on the ABA's Advisory Committee on Law and National Security, and has repeatedly testified before Congress on topics from executive war powers to congressional oversight.  Today, she serves on the editorial board of the peer-reviewed Journal of National Security Law and Policy, and was appointed in 2021 to a U.S. State Department Advisory Committee focused on helping to ensure the timely declassification and publication of government records surrounding major events in U.S. foreign policy.

A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, Professor Pearlstein clerked for Judge Michael Boudin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, then for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court. Before entering academia, she practiced at the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson in San Francisco, earning the Voting Rights Award from the ACLU of Southern California for her litigation work on voting systems reform following the 2000 presidential election. From 2003-2007, Professor Pearlstein served as the founding director of the Law and Security Program at Human Rights First, where she led the organization’s efforts in research, litigation and advocacy surrounding U.S. detention and interrogation operations, and served on the first team of independent military commission monitors to visit the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in 2004. In addition to developing impact litigation strategies and preparing multiple briefs amicus curiae to the U.S. Supreme Court, Pearlstein co-authored a series of reports on the human rights impact of U.S. national security policy, including Command’s Responsibility, which provided the first comprehensive accounting of detainee deaths in U.S. military custody and received extensive media attention worldwide. Throughout her tenure, Professor Pearlstein worked closely with members of the defense and intelligence communities, including in helping to bring together retired military leaders to address key policy challenges in U.S. counterterrorism operations.

Before embarking on a career in law, Pearlstein served in the White House from 1993 to 1995 as a Senior Editor and Speechwriter for President Clinton.