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


Homeless Rights Advocacy Practicum (WRIT-415-A)
Legal Writing II: Written and Oral Advocacy (WRIT-200-A)


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 proud to serve as Co-President of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT). 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. Currently, Professor Rankin continues to support innovation in legal education as a member of various boards and committees for entities such as the Legal Writing Institute (LWI). 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.


The Influence of Exile, 76 MD. L. REV. 1 (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).


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).


Criminalizing Visual Poverty-the Effects of Making Homelessness a Crime, Jurist (November 21, 2016).

Should Homelessness Be a Crime? Our State Grapples with Its Answer, firesteel (August 27, 2004).

Recent Activity

In the News

For Californians living in their cars, a church parking lot can briefly be home

November 28, 2018 | The Washington Post

Professor Sara Rankin says many religions focus on ministering to the poor.

The Homeless Crisis Is Getting Worse in America's Richest Cities

November 20, 2018 | Bloomberg Businessweek

Professor Sara Rankin says inaction actually costs more than spending money to solve homelessness.

More Homeless Seattleites Live in Their Vehicles Than Ever Before

November 20, 2018 | Seattle Met

Professor Sara Rankin says the city has failed to create safe, effective policy for allowing vehicle residency.

Opinion: Seattle must invest in housing to solve chronic homelessness

November 19, 2018 | Puget Sound Business Journal

Professor Sara Rankin and business owner Chad Mackay write that Seattle's budget needs more funding for homelessness.

Seattle council eyes $16 million in budget tweaks, but no head tax, no big tent shelter

November 08, 2018 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says the city's budget shows a fear of dealing with homelessness.

King County will open west wing of downtown Seattle jail as shelter

October 11, 2018 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says permanent supportive housing is needed more than temporary shelter.

West coast cities try to skirt judge's ruling preventing them from criminalizing homeless camps

September 14, 2018 | ThinkProgress

City officials say the ruling doesn't affect Seattle, but Professor Sara Rankin begs to differ.

Federal-court ruling on homeless camps won't affect Seattle, city attorney says

September 07, 2018 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin analyzes whether an unconstitutional Boise law is relevant to Seattle.

Sweeping tents illegal without 'practical' alternatives, court rules

September 05, 2018 | KUOW

Would a Boise ruling affect Seattle? Professor Sara Rankin offers her thoughts.

Think Out Loud: Homelessness Ruling

September 05, 2018 | Oregon Public Broadcasting

Cities can no longer pretend sweeps are effective, says Professor Sara Rankin.

Court: Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on streets

September 04, 2018 | The Seattle Times

The appeals court ruling makes common sense, says Professor Sara Rankin.

Supporting homeless individuals: How much do we spend?

August 31, 2018 | Crosscut

Professor Sara Rankin says there's a substantial cost to ignoring homelessness.

Wright on Center: Let's fund and build housing to end homelessness in Seattle and King County

August 24, 2018 | Puget Sound Business Journal

Permanent supportive housing can help end homelessness, says a member of the civic alliance co-founded by Professor Sara Rankin.

In a Growing Crisis, Seattle Uses City Hall as a Homeless Shelter

August 23, 2018 | City Lab

Professor Sara Rankin says the city needs a coherent, effective plan for homelessness.

Seattle increasing removals of homeless encampments

August 22, 2018 | The Seattle Times

Sweeps create the illusion that homelessness is dealt with when it isn't, says Professor Sara Rankin.

Seattle parks volunteers go to repair habitat, and find tent camps

August 08, 2018 | The Seattle Times

The city's lack of shelter options forces residents to camp outdoors, says Professor Sara Rankin.

More Americans are forced to "reside" in their vehicles

July 31, 2018 | CBS News

Professor Sara Rankin says the problem is national in scope, but felt most acutely in urban areas.

Criminalising homelessness is not just cruel: it's costly, too

July 25, 2018 | CityMetric

Professor Sara Rankin says anti-vagrancy laws make homelessness worse.

'It's the New Form of Affordable Housing': More Homeless People Are Living in Their Cars

July 24, 2018 | Governing

Professor Sara Rankin calls on cities to develop effective "safe parking" plans.

Business leaders and service providers form coalition to end chronic homelessness in Seattle

July 23, 2018 | Puget Sound Business Journal

Professor Sara Rankin and business executive Chad Mackay announce effort to tackle chronic homelessness.

New civic alliance aims to end Seattle's chronic homelessness with a focus on single adults

July 19, 2018

After head tax repeal, new group emerges to fight homelessness

July 19, 2018 | Crosscut

Professor Sara Rankin says people need educated, not emotional, responses to homelessness.

Why turning homelessness into a crime is cruel and costly

June 20, 2018 | The Conversation

Professor Sara Rankin co-authors an essay calling on cities to change laws on homelessness.

Judge rules Seattle homeless man's truck is a home

March 03, 2018 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin comments on the city's vehicle impoundment policies.

A Conspicuous Bike Rack Gets Seattle Talking About Its Hostile Architecture

February 15, 2018 | Architectural Digest

This piece includes comments by Professor Sara Rankin on how the racks block homeless encampments.

Seattle is putting fences under its bridges to keep campers out — and some say that's wrong

February 06, 2018 | The Seattle Times

Professor Sara Rankin says people with places to live can't always spot "hostile architecture."

Cary Moon to keynote forum on land use and homelessness

February 01, 2018

For Homeless Seattleites, a Reprieve From the Debilitating Burden of Warrants

January 10, 2018 | Seattle Weekly

Sara Rankin explains that outstanding warrants lead to a "cycle of arrest, detention and default and rearrest" for people who are homeless.

Seattle Uses Bike Racks to Discourage Homeless Camping

December 19, 2017 | The Stranger

Belltown bike racks are "hostile architecture," says homeless rights advocate Sara Rankin.