Sara Rankin

Associate Professor of Law
Curriculum Vitae


Sullivan Hall 461
(206) 398-4393


J.D., New York University
M.Ed., Harvard Graduate School of Education


Legal Writing
Homeless Rights Advocacy


Professor Rankin currently teaches lawyering skills, including applied legal analysis, legal research and writing, general principles of trial and appellate procedure and advocacy, and homeless rights advocacy. She is also the founder and Director of the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project (HRAP) at the Korematsu Center.

Through HRAP, Professor Rankin oversees various projects to advance the civil, constitutional, and human rights of visibly poor people. HRAP also builds partnerships across a broad range of disciplines with community members, advocates, academic institutions, and other stakeholders. Each year, HRAP releases a series of new reports that continue the group's groundbreaking research into laws that unfairly target the visibly poor. HRAP's reports examine the impacts of increasingly popular laws and policies that criminalize homelessness, such as prohibitions on sitting, standing and sleeping in public; living in vehicles; sweeps of tent encampments; pet ownership standards; and barriers to access at emergency shelters. HRAP's research not only identifies problematic laws and policies, but also offers effective, legally sound alternatives. HRAP's award-winning work has been praised by legal aid organizations, services providers, non-profits, city officials, and street activist organizations for its impact.

Professor Rankin has nearly a decade of experience in private practice at major law firms such as Kirkland & Ellis, LLP and Sidley Austin, LLP, where she specialized in complex litigation. She also gained an in-house perspective, serving as assistant general counsel for a national accounting firm.

Prior to her legal career, Professor Rankin received her M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Professor Rankin's teaching and scholarship interests include the social and political aspects of legal education reform, lawyering skills, legal and policy issues relating to people experiencing homelessness, and policy advocacy.



Punishing Homelessness, 22 New Crim. L. Rev. 99 (January 2019) (invited).

The Influence of Exile, 76 Md. L. Rev. 4 (2016) (reviewed in Jotwell, October 26, 2016; response piece from Professor Bill Quigley, The Influence of Exile: Three Stories, 76 Md. L. Rev. 47 (2017)). 

A Homeless Bill of Rights (Revolution), 45 Seton Hall L. Rev. 383 (2015).

Invidious Deliberation: The Problem of Congressional Bias in Federal Hate Crime Legislation, 66 Rutgers L. Rev. 563 (2014).

Books, Symposia, Professional Publications & Other Works

Legal Writing Sourcebook (3d ed. 2019) (invited). Co-author of chapter entitled, Innovation and Activities Beyond the Classroom with Mary Bowman and Heather Baxter.

The New 1L: Teaching First- Year Students To Be Lawyers Through Actual Practice (Carolina Academic Press, April 2015) (co-editor and contributing author). Other contributors include Erwin Chemerinsky (Irvine), Michael Wishnie (Yale), Michael Millemann (Maryland), Stephen Schwinn (John Marshall), Nantiya Ruan (Denver).

Homeless Rights Advocacy Project Report Series (editor of annual reports). Available at

Homeless Bills of Rights: An Advocate’s Guide (co-authored report with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty) (released April 2014).

The Fully Formed Lawyer: Why Law Schools Should Require Public Service to Better Prepare Students for Private Practice, 17 Chapman L. Rev. 17 (2013) (invited symposium submission).

We Have a Dream: Integrating Skills Courses in the First Year of Law School (and Beyond), 17 Chapman L. Rev. 89 (2013) (with others) (invited symposium submission).

Tired of Talking: A Call for Clear Strategies for Legal Education Reform- Moving Beyond the Discussion of Good Ideas to the Real Transformation of Law Schools, 10 Seattle J. Soc. Just. 11 (2011).

Rethinking Neutrality: Race and ADR, Dispute Res. J. 40 (August 1999). 

Online Publications 

Opinion: Seattle must invest in housing to solve chronic homelessness, November 19, 2018 | Puget Sound Business Journal

Criminalizing homelessness is not just cruel: it's costly, too, July 25, 2018 | CityMetric

Criminalizing Homelessness Doesn’t Work, June 20, 2018 | City Lab

Why turning homelessness into a crime is cruel and costly, June 20, 2018 | The Conversation

America’s Love Affair with Property Fails to Appreciate Its Troubling Origins, April 11, 2018 | Real Change

Criminalizing Visual Poverty—the Effects of Making Homelessness a Crime, November 21, 2016 | Jurist 

Should Homelessness Be a Crime? Our State Grapples with Its Answer, August 27, 2004 | Firesteel

Recent Activity

In the News

Motel eviction exposes gaps in Seattle's low-income housing options

August 18, 2020 | Crosscut

Professor Sara Rankin says Seattle's low-income housing plans are a drop in the bucket.

Will defunding Seattle's Navigation Team stop the removal of homeless camps?

August 06, 2020 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says the sweeps will likely evolve rather than end.

King County’s plan to fix homelessness put power in the hands of those who’ve been homeless. But who gets to choose them?

July 31, 2020 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin said people who have lived experience with homelessness should have authority in deciding policy.

After appearing to drop, homelessness rose last year in King County, estimate says

July 01, 2020 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says the yearly count of homelessness is a haphazard process.

Former Labor Secretary Reich joins Councilmember Lewis to discuss capital gains tax

June 30, 2020 | The Seattle Channel

Professor Sara Rankin discusses the need for permanent supportive housing.

Seattle to create 500 new units of permanent supportive housing to serve homeless residents

June 16, 2020 | Seattle P-I

Professor Sara Rankin says chronic homelessness "can be solved."

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda unveils her own proposal for taxing Seattle’s big businesses

June 09, 2020 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says it makes sense to use tax money for affordable housing.

A new $1.6B proposal to house thousands experiencing homelessness in King County

May 20, 2020 | KUOW

Professor Sara Rankin says it's clear that a public-private partnership is required to solve the problem.

Businesses, advocates and academics unite to end chronic homelessness

May 20, 2020 | Real Change News

Ending homelessness is "our collective responsibility," says Professor Sara Rankin.

Local "unlikely alliance" proposes plan to solve chronic homelessness — and this one could work.

May 20, 2020 | SCC Insight

A coalition led by Professor Sara Rankin proposes a solid plan for supportive housing.

Businesses and homeless advocates offer plan to create housing for Seattle's chronically homeless

May 19, 2020 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin, co-founder of the Third Door Coalition, unveils $1.67 billion plan to create permanent supportive housing in King County.

Third Door Coalition crafts plan to solve chronic homelessness emergency

May 19, 2020 | Puget Sound Business Journal

Professor Sara Rankin found allies in the business community to create a viable plan to reduce homelessness.

Proposal: King County can solve chronic homelessness in 5 years with permanent supportive housing

May 19, 2020 | Seattle PI

Professor Sara Rankin says this proposal will build momentum toward solving all homelessness.

For The Homeless, Virus' Threat Also Brings Hope For Reform

May 03, 2020 | Law360

Professor Sara Rankin predicts a "very interesting suite of legal challenges" relating to homelessness and shelter-in-place orders.

Cities Cut Back Homeless Sweeps During Crisis. Activists Hope They’ll Stop For Good.

April 14, 2020 | HuffPost

Easing up on homeless sweeps is something that should have happened before COVID-19, Professor Sara Rankin says.

Coronavirus will trigger ‘staggering and unprecedented’ increase in number of homeless in US, say experts

April 11, 2020 | The Independent

With COVID-19, society's failure to address homelessness will come home to roost, Professor Sara Rankin says.

Volunteers stay home, meal programs go to-go — and homeless feel the effect of social distancing from coronavirus

March 18, 2020 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin discusses social distancing's effect on people experiencing homeslessness.

Public Space, No Exceptions

February 04, 2020 | Landscape Architecture Magazine

Professor Sara Rankin explains that when cities make it illegal to be homeless, they make it more difficult for people to escape homelessness.

State proposal would let King County tax large businesses to pay for homelessness and housing

January 29, 2020 | Crosscut

Professor Sara Rankin says people are hungry for a solution to chronic homelessness.

How Local and Federal Policies are Criminalizing Homelessness

January 02, 2020 | The Takeaway

Professor Sara Rankin calls these policies "anti-survival laws."

U.S. government is, yet again, unhelpful

December 18, 2019 | Real Change

Editor Timothy Harris quotes Professor Sara Rankin in evaluating the new head of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The Supreme Court won't hear a case on a 'constitutional right to camp.' Here's what that means for homelessness in Washington

December 16, 2019 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says the high court justices "did not buy the hype" from cities.

'No place to go': How Kitsap is responding to a federal court ruling on homeless camping laws

December 08, 2019 | Kitsap Sun

Professor Sara Rankin says cities need to be thoughtful in how they handle homelessness.

When Shelters Are Full, Sleeping Outside Can Be the Only Option

December 06, 2019 | Bloomberg Businessweek

The U.S. Supreme Court's reaction to the Martin v Boise appeal will send a powerful message to cities about handling homelessness, says Professor Sara Rankin.

The Homeless Fund: In Seattle, rapid rehousing with private sector provides 'the normal things people take for granted'

November 28, 2019 | Independent

Professor Sara Rankin says she wants to see more investment in long-term supported housing.

More Seattleites are housing homeless people in their backyards, but it's hard to find the right fit

November 18, 2019 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says the BLOCK Project is a bright light in how society talks about homelessness.

City council candidates are making big promises on homelessness. Can they deliver?

October 30, 2019 | Crosscut

Professor Sara Rankin says the city needs to be more transparent in its spending decisions.

Seattle police increasingly involved in moving homeless people from sidewalks

October 18, 2019 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says she's concerned about using police officers for homeless outreach.

A lot of homeless people referred to shelters in Seattle don’t go. These are some reasons why

October 10, 2019 | Seattle PI

Professor Sara Rankin explains why permanent supportive housing is better than temporary shelter.

Navigation team efficacy

October 09, 2019 | KUOW

Professor Sara Rankin explains that offering services without housing is ineffective at reducing homelessness.

Caffé Vita Employees Say They're Getting Fired for Giving Old Pastries to Homeless People

October 02, 2019 | The Stranger

It's a myth that feeding homeless people encourages homelessness, says Professor Sara Rankin.