Sullivan Hall 461
(206) 398-4393


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


Legal Writing
Homeless Rights Advocacy

Sara Rankin

Professor of Lawyering Skills

Curriculum VitaePDF


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 http://ssrn.com/author=1572922.

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

Vehicle Residency and Homelessness

June 21, 2017
Professor Sara Rankin spoke about laws criminalizing homelessness on The Record.

A new place for Seattle's homeless: In my backyard

May 11, 2017
Professor Sara Rankin says backyard homes eliminate the problem of social distance from homelessness.

Murray opening Emergency Operations Center to combat homelessness in city

February 22, 2017
Professor Sara Rankin says the mayor's action on homelessness is too little, too late. (Click "more video.")

Minneapolis needs its own Homeless Bill of Rights

December 22, 2016
An op-ed cites Professor Sara Rankin's 2015 Homeless Bill of Rights research.

Forum addresses solutions to homelessness in Boise

November 10, 2016
Professor Sara Rankin shares her thoughts on confronting homelessness with compassion.

City Club Speaker Rips Boise 'Anti Camping' Law, Says 'We Are All Complicit'

November 10, 2016
Professor Sara Rankin urges Boise residents to fight homelessness on several fronts.

The Influence of Exile: Human Consequences of Homelessness

November 10, 2016
Audio recording of Professor Sara Rankin's remarks to the City Club of Boise.

When helping homeless people hurts more than helps

November 06, 2016
Professor Sara Rankin explains the psychology behind anti-homelessness laws.

Fear of our own desperation gets in the way of homelessness solutions

May 22, 2016
Professor Sara Rankin says our instincts make us want to turn away from homeless people instead of helping.

Parking Violation

May 18, 2016
Research by our Homeless Rights Advocacy Project is featured in this story about vehicle residency.

The thin tin line

May 11, 2016
Professor Sara Rankin says vehicle impoundment is devastating for people experiencing homelessness.

New reports debunk common myths about homelessness

May 09, 2016
Six new reports examine the impacts of increasingly popular laws and policies that criminalize homelessness, such as prohibitions on living in vehicles, sweeps of tent encampments, pet ownership standards, and barriers to access at emergency shelters.

Queer + Young + Homeless = Screwed

May 09, 2016
Our policy brief on LGBTQ youth and homelessness is featured in this news story.

Conference activates academics to fight poverty

February 18, 2016
A conference at Seattle University School of Law this weekend aims to take academics out of the ivory tower and into the streets.

Seattle Experiments With New Solutions to Ease Homelessness

February 18, 2016
Professor Sara Rankin comments on the growing problem of homelessness in Seattle and the progressive efforts underway to reduce it.

Two years in, homeless feel targeted by sit-lie law

December 13, 2015
This story about nuisance laws in Spokane cites research by our Homeless Rights Advocacy Project and quotes student Justin Olson.

Too Little, Too Late? Seattle Declares State of Emergency Over Homelessness

November 11, 2015
The SU Spectator reports on the city of Seattle's declaration of a state of emergency for homelessness, quoting Professor Sara Rankin's concerns that too little funding has been allocated.

Why Governments Declare a Homeless State of Emergency

November 10, 2015
Governing magazine quotes Professor Sara Rankin on whether declaring a state of emergency for homelessness is just a symbolic gesture.

Homeless Rights Project welcomes state of emergency for homelessness

November 02, 2015
Professor Sara Rankin responds to declaration of state of emergency for homelessness in Seattle, King County.

Use panhandling law to help

October 30, 2015
An editorial in the Everett Herald cautions residents that a panhandling law must be accompanied by compassionate support for programs that help homeless people.

Everett passes measure against 'aggressive panhandling'

October 28, 2015
Despite opposition from the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, Everett has passed an ordinance to criminalize "aggressive panhandling."

Everett passes measure against "aggressive panhandling"

October 28, 2015
Despite opposition from the Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, Everett has passed an ordinance to criminalize "aggressive panhandling."

Everett May Expand "Aggressive Begging" Law

October 16, 2015
This Seattle Weekly story cites our HRAP research in its discussion of a proposed Everett bill that would crack down on panhandlers.

Boise Homeless Case Dismissed, What Happens Next?

October 02, 2015
Professor Sara Rankin says the city must protect the constitutional rights of its homeless citizens.

Criminalizing Homelessness Can Now Cost Cities Federal Money

September 22, 2015
Research by our Homeless Rights Advocacy Project is cited in this story about HUD grants.

Homeless advocates praise action by HUD

September 18, 2015
For the first time, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is asking public and private agencies that receive federal homelessness grants to describe how their efforts help combat the criminalization of homelessness.

DoJ Joins Homeless Advocates Against Anti-Camping Laws

August 20, 2015
The Department of Justice is a new ally in the fight against municipal laws that unfairly punish the homeless.

Seattle Can't Prosecute Homeless For Sleeping Outside, Advocates Warn

August 20, 2015
Our Homeless Rights Advocacy Project has notified cities throughout Washington that their anti-homeless laws could be unconstitutional.

Homeless Bus Ticket Programs Across The Nation Offer Little Accountability, Poor Housing Solutions, Activists Say

July 24, 2015
One-way bus tickets are just another way for cities to avoid meaningful solutions to the problem of homelessness, Professor Sara Rankin told International Business Times.

Helping homeless less costly than criminalizing them

June 28, 2015
In an op-ed column, Kristina Jorgensen discusses our report on criminalization of the homeless from the perspective of someone who used to be homeless.

Tent cities: Seattle's unique approach to homelessness

June 10, 2015
Tent cities are one way to protect homeless people from criminalized activities but they don't solve homelessness, Professor Sara Rankin says.

Dealing with Homelessness: Criminalizing It Is Not the Answer, Says Law School Prof. Sara Rankin

May 27, 2015
Professor Sara Rankin describes the research work done by our Homeless Rights Advocacy Project.

Are We Hiding the Homeless When We Should Be Housing Them?

May 26, 2015
"When it costs money to obey the law, the poorest among us necessarily become criminals." More great coverage of our Homeless Rights Advocacy Project.

SU report shows Seattle criminalizing life-sustaining behaviors

May 20, 2015
This follow-up Real Change story on our Homeless Rights Advocacy Project describes how the work has been received in the community and how our students are motivated to keep up the fight.

Stop policies that lead to cycle of homelessness

May 14, 2015
An editorial praises our students' homeless rights advocacy, and calls on cities to be more thoughtful in their policy-making

A New Study Shows Exactly How Washington Cities Have Turned Being Homeless Into a Crime

May 06, 2015
"Cities are relying on criminalization to make this uncomfortable, visible poverty go away." Our students' homeless rights advocacy work is featured.

When Survival Becomes A Crime: How City Laws Affect The Homeless

May 06, 2015
Marcie Sillman talks to Professor Sara Rankin about how city ordinances and laws affect the homeless in Washington cities.

Parks’ smoking ban: Will homeless be the targets?

April 15, 2015
Homeless rights advocate Professor Sara Rankin expresses concern that smoking bans will be used as a way to prosecute the homeless in Seattle city parks.

Seattle U law students target anti-homeless laws

March 06, 2015
In an effort to protect the rights of homeless people, a group of Seattle University School of Law students are creating a comprehensive analysis of nuisance laws and other municipal measures that effectively make it a crime to be homeless.