Criminal Procedure Scholar and Public Defender Jonathan Abel Joins UC Law SF Faculty

Photo of Jon Abel

Professor Jon Abel

Public defender and criminal procedure scholar Jonathan Abel will join the UC Law SF faculty as a tenure-track associate professor on July 1. He will teach Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure starting in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Abel is currently an assistant federal public defender in San Francisco, where he works primarily on appeals. Previously, he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at UC Irvine Law in 2019, and worked for four years as an attorney at the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco. Before that, Abel served as a fellow at Stanford’s Constitutional Law Center.

Abel’s scholarly research focuses on informational asymmetries in the criminal justice system and the structural injustices these asymmetries produce. His research on police misconduct records and their availability to criminal defendants has been widely cited in scholarly journals, newspapers, and court cases. Abel has also written about the unexpected role police officers play in plea bargaining, the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges, and the retroactive sealing of public records, among other topics. His articles have appeared in the Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, and Stanford Law Review.

“Our many students who are contemplating criminal justice careers can learn a lot from Jon’s appellate experience and will surely draw inspiration from his commitment to criminal justice reform that actually improves–and saves–lives on the ground,” said Professor Hadar Aviram. “I look forward to working with him and learning from him.

Asked why he chose UC Law SF, Abel cited his great admiration for the faculty and his desire to help launch the careers of the many UC Law SF students who go on to practice criminal law.

“As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve worked with so many impressive UC Law SF graduates. It’s an institution that turns out highly trained practitioners poised to be the next generation of California criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors,” Abel said. “I was drawn to the challenge and excitement of shaping the way these future leaders think about the justice system.”

“I want my students to understand the injustices, challenges, and opportunities for reform that the criminal justice system presents,” Abel said. “We have these important constitutional rights that override everything else and are supposed to guarantee a fair process, but they too often are not vigorously enforced by the courts.”

Abel graduated from Stanford Law School in 2012, and was president of the Stanford Law Review. Following graduation, he clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to law school, Abel worked as a newspaper reporter for the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. He reported on the criminal justice and local government beats, including investigative reporting on corruption in the local jail. Abel said this experience taught him “how the justice system works on the ground” and fueled his interest in law school.

Abel lives with his wife and two young children in Oakland.


Batson’s Appellate Appeal and Trial Tribulations,” Columbia Law Review, 2018

Cops and Pleas: Police Officers’ Influence on Plea Bargaining,” The Yale Law Journal, 2017

Brady’s Blind Spot: Impeachment Evidence in Police Personnel Files and the Battle Splitting the Prosecution Team,” Stanford Law Review, 2015

Do You Have to Keep the Government’s Secrets?: Retroactively Classified Documents, the First Amendment, and the Power to Make Secrets Out of the Public Record,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 2014

Ineffective Assistance of Libraries: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries,” Georgetown Law Journal, 2012