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

Homelessness is on the Rise, Despite Efforts at Intervention

August 19, 2019 | The Takeaway

Professor Sara Rankin talks about the factors leading to an increase in homelessness.

America's Homeless Crisis Is Inspiring New Acts Of Cruelty

August 02, 2019 | HuffPost

Nuisance laws are meant to hide poverty, not alleviate it, says Professor Sara Rankin.

Homelessness top of mind for Seattle voters as ballots start dropping

July 24, 2019 | KUOW

Concerned voters should choose candidates who know what works, says Professor Sara Rankin.

The Homelessness Crisis Is Getting So Bad That Cities Are Now Building Their Own Camps

July 16, 2019 | VICE

Professor Sara Rankin says encampments aren't ideal but people have nowhere else to go.

What Pete Buttigieg Has and Hasn't Done About Homelessness in South Bend

June 24, 2019 | The New Yorker

Professor Sara Rankin explains how the city's policies don't do enough to help unsheltered people.

Amazon Led a Tax Rebellion. A Year Later, Seattle Is Gridlocked

June 09, 2019 | Bloomberg

Professor Sara Rankin says Seattle has failed to unite the community around a plan for homelessness.

What is the most humane, cost effective way to end homelessness?

May 30, 2019 | KUOW

Professor Sara Rankin explains how homelessness is deeper than what most people can see.

Ideologically diverse 'Seattle is Dying' panel agrees city's actions not working

May 25, 2019 | MyNorthwest

Professor Sara Rankin says evidence-based strategies, not emotional responses, are the solution to homelessness.

Why America Can't Solve Homelessness

May 19, 2019 | HuffPost

Professor Sara Rankin said public officials are pressured to choose ineffective approaches to homelessness.

Third Door Coalition plans to end chronic homelessness in King County in 5 years

May 13, 2019 | MyNorthwest

Professor Sara Rankin's advocacy on homelessness inspired creation of the Third Door Coalition.

Cruel and Unusual: Martin v. Boise confronts excuses and demands action

April 10, 2019 | Real Change

Professor Sara Rankin debunks the myth that homelessness is a choice.

Lawmakers hear from experts after KOMO special

April 03, 2019 | Real Change

Professor Sara Rankin tells lawmakers that ending homelessness is a shared interest.

Seattle Has the Solution to Chronic Homelessness–We Just Need to Bring It to Scale

April 01, 2019 | The Urbanist

Professor Sara Rankin co-authors an essay calling for more permanent supportive housing.

In Seattle, 1 in 5 people booked into jail are homeless

February 19, 2019 | Crosscut

Social services would be more effective and less costly than jail, says Professor Sara Rankin.

Director's Corner: We care more about optics than homeless people

January 02, 2019 | Real Change News

Professor Sara Rankin is quoted in this editorial criticizing Seattle's strategy to combat homelessness.

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.