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From the Courtroom to the Classroom Janet Moore Focuses on Policy Reform


Originally from Midland, Michigan, Professor Janet Moore had no expectation of attending law school and later teaching law.  “People had told me that I should go to law school, but I thought it would be boring,” said Moore.  But as she contemplated career paths she followed the Bork hearings.  Robert Bork was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court in 1987, but his nomination was ultimately shot down in the Senate.  The fierceness of the debates opened Moore’s eyes to the immense importance of the U.S. legal system.  She attended law school at Duke University, graduating with not only a JD, but also a MA in Philosophy.  There she was the editor-in- chief of the Law and Contemporary Problems law review, the nation’s first interdisciplinary law journal. 

Professor Moore first became interested in criminal law during her criminal procedure course.  “I was astonished at how easy it was, and is, for the government to get its teeth in people’s hides, and not let go,” she shared.  During this time, she saw a friend’s husband go through the horrifying experience of being wrongly accused of child abuse.  “It was a strange time,” she said.  There was a hysteria that gripped the country around that time where such accusations were abundant.  Professor  Moore did not discount the seriousness of the crime of child abuse, but seeing a friend go through the experience of being wrongfully accused left a big impression on her as she was in the midst of her legal studies. 

After graduating she clerked with Judge James Dickson Phillips, Jr. on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  During her clerkship, she saw a case come through the court on a man’s second habeas petition (essentially his last chance to get his conviction reviewed).  It was a case where there were some serious concerns about his competence to stand trial, his confession, and—ultimately—his guilt.  Moore emotionally recalled the moment where she found out the court would not vote for the petitioner, and she shared that it was at this point that she knew she did not want to be involved with the side of the system sentencing people to death.

Taking a Hiatus from Legal Work

Following her clerkship, Moore and her family spent a few years in France, near Paris.  This period was a hiatus from any legal work, during which she immersed herself in the taking care of her children as well as the French culture.  During this same period, the habeas petitioner mentioned above was exonerated and freed from prison. The example set by lawyers in that case and other death penalty cases led to Moore’s involvement with capital litigation. When Moore and her family returned to the US, she passed the bar and began looking for work, which she found at the Office of the Appellate Defender in Durham and Asheville, North Carolina.  She was immediately assigned defense appeals in death penalty cases.  As Moore began winning the cases, it turned into a career.  The experience she had with various cases she worked on while in North Carolina is something Moore is able to utilize in the classroom in her courses, including Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence.

After seven years working in North Carolina, Professor Moore and her family moved to Ohio, where she began working with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center concentrating on evidence-based criminal justice policy reform.  Her work focused on diverting the school-to-prison pipeline and other strategies to prevent criminal justice involvement at the front end rather than on appeals or post-conviction.  She also worked on matters regarding prison condition issues, including a class-action lawsuit focused on juvenile detention systems.  During this time she continued her own appellate and post-conviction defense practice.  After five years in Ohio, Professor Moore found herself at UC College of Law, first by helping to found the Indigent Defense Clinic, and later by becoming a professor at the College.

Empirical Research is the Foundation

Professor Moore is currently involved in numerous research projects.  One project involves co-chairing a task force on national discovery reform and drafting a model bill.  Additionally, she  is working to expanding the empirical research that she did with the assistance of some criminal justice researchers at Washington State University, using the Indigent Defense Clinic as a way to further that research.  “Every client that comes into the clinic is handed this ‘client’s bill of rights’,” explained Moore.  The “client’s bill of rights” explains what the clients can and should expect from their attorneys. 

Complementary research uses a client feedback survey, which was initially tested in Hamilton County, and may be expanded for use in Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Washington.   In addition to her research, Professor Moore works closely with her students and is involved with the Criminal Law Society, a student organization at the College of Law for students interested in criminal law practice.