Sara Rankin

Curriculum Vitae


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

Opioid Overdoses, Hidden Homeless Crisis, and Teen Trials

April 01, 2021 | COVID NoiseFilter

This COVID-19 podcast mentions Professor Sara Rankin's comments on the increase in vehicle residency.

Looking to get around court rulings on homelessness, Washington cities may offer shelter, then crack down

February 20, 2021 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says public health concerns provide a loophole the "size of the grand canyon" for homeless camp sweeps.

COVID crisis: After losing jobs and homes, more people are living in cars and RVs and it's getting worse

February 19, 2021 | USA Today

Professor Sara Rankin said vehicle residency is one of the fastest growing forms of homelessness.

Concern for US homeless population as street counts cancelled amid pandemic

January 21, 2021 | The Guardian

Tallies help politicians pay attention to homelessness issues, says Professor Sara Rankin.

Project Homeless FAQ: We've answered your questions on Seattle's Navigation Team

December 26, 2020 | The Seattle Times

Sweeps won't end even if the Navigation Team is gone, Professor Sara Rankin says.

Councilmember Lewis proposes exceptions to build permanent supportive housing

December 23, 2020 | Real Change News

Professor Sara Rankin says the region should be creative and nimble in making such housing a reality.

Homelessness Authority Weighs In On Battle Over Future of Renton Shelter (and Shelters in Renton)

December 03, 2020 | PubliCola

Renton's actions undercut the spirit of a regional approach to homelessness, says Professor Sara Rankin.

County officials discuss future of Renton hotel being used as temporary homeless shelter

December 03, 2020 | KOMO

Professor Sara Rankin called on the regional board to act to protect access to shelter.

Where Housing, Not Jails, Is the Answer to Homelessness

November 08, 2020 | 70 Million

Professor Sara Rankin explains how minor tickets can lead to serious legal problems for unsheltered people.