Michael P. O’Connor received his B.A. from Pennsylvania State University, graduating summa cum laude with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Upon graduation, he was named an Evan Pugh Scholar, a recognition awarded only to those graduating in the top 0.5% of the graduating class. Professor O’Connor received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as Student Director of both the Jerome N. Frank Prison Legal Services and the Green Haven Prison Project. While at Yale, O’Connor co-authored a paper that was awarded the Raphael Lemkin Prize for Outstanding Work in International Human Rights. This paper was later published in book form by Beacon Press as Plowshares and Swords: the Economics of Occupation in the West Bank, Drury and Winn (Boston, 1992).
As a practicing lawyer, O’Connor represented death-sentenced prisoners across the U.S. for almost two decades. He also served as counsel for the Government of Mexico, asserting the treaty rights of Mexican nationals charged with capital offenses in the U.S. In 1993, O’Connor was a co-finalist for Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, for his work in the case of State of Alabama v. Walter McMillian. O’Connor and Bryan Stevenson represented Mr. McMillian and won his freedom from death row, where he had been sentenced for a crime he did not commit.
Professor O’Connor has fifteen years teaching experience at various schools in the U.S. and abroad. He has taught a wide range of doctrinal and skills courses, including Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law, Terrorism Law, Humanitarian Law, Civil Rights Litigation and Legal Writing, among others. His scholarship ranges across disciplines but focuses on the intersection of human rights, civil liberties and efforts to combat terrorism. His comparative scholarship (with co-author Celia Rumann) on efforts to combat terrorism has been cited in official U.S. and British government documents, in white papers produced by Harvard, Yale and Columbia Universities, and in pleadings filed before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Professor O’Connor has presented his scholarship in Europe, Asia and Africa, in addition to the United States.
O’Connor and his partner (and wife), Celia Rumann, also make documentary films centering on human rights issues.
- YALE LAW SCHOOL, JD, 1990.
Student Director, Green Haven Prison Project, 1988-89.
Student Director, Jerome N. Frank Prison Legal Services, 1988-89.
- PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, BA, PRELAW WITH HONORS IN HISTORY, 1987.
Summa Cum Laude; Phi Beta Kappa; Evan Pugh Scholar (top 0.5% of graduating class);
Golden Key National Honor Society Outstanding Senior Award.
- Michael O’Connor, Race, Religion and the Rhetoric of Violence, Work in Progress.
- Michael O’Connor, Citizens United to Occupy Wall Street: Will First Amendment Jurisprudence
- Undermine Participatory Democracy? Work in progress.
- Michael O’Connor & Celia Rumann, Customary International Law and The Arc of History in
- Retrograde. Work in progress.
- Michael O’Connor, Arab Spring to American Winter: The Need to Embrace “Structured Spontaneous Disorder” in 21st Century Social Rebellions, peer-reviewed article, Frenkel, D.A.(ed.), 2013, Public Law and Social Human Rights, Athens Institute for Education and Research(ATINER), Athens, Greece.
- Michael O’Connor, The Neo-Federalist Threat to National Security, Accepted for Publication,
- Embry-Riddle National Aeronautical University, National Security Conference, Symposium Collection.
- Michael O’Connor & Celia Rumann, The Accidental Film to Support Academic Freedom in
- Malawi, University Values Bulletin, Scholars at Risk, New York University, June 2011.
- Michael O’Connor & Celia Rumann, Market Solutions to Global Narcotics Trafficking and Addiction, 5 Phoenix L. Rev. 123 (2011)
- Michael O’Connor, Perish the Thought of Publication? Scholarship’s Critical Role in Effective Teaching, 3 Phoenix L. Rev. 47 (2010).
- Michael O’Connor & Celia Rumann, Fanning the Flames of Hatred: Torture, Targeting and Support for Terrorism, Symposium Issue on the Rule of Law and the Global War on Terrorism, 48 Washburn L.J. 633 (Spring 2009).
- Michael O’Connor, Time Out of Mind: Our Collective Amnesia About the History of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, 93 Ky. L. J. 659 (2005).
- Michael O’Connor & Celia Rumann, Going, Going, Gone: Sealing the Fate of the Fourth Amendment, 26 Fordham Int’l L. J. 1234 (2003).
- Michael O’Connor & Celia Rumann, Into the Fire: How to Avoid Getting Burned by the Same Mistakes Made Fighting Terrorism in Northern Ireland, 24 Cardozo Law Rev. 1657 (2003).
- Michael O’Connor, Review of ACTUAL INNOCENCE: FIVE DAYS TO EXECUTION AND OTHER DISPATCHES FROM THE WRONGLY CONVICTED, by Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld and Jim Dwyer, 42 JURIMETRICS J. 221, Winter 2002.
- Michael O’Connor, Unbalancing the Separation of Powers: Clinton v. Jones, IN LEADING CASES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, (Sweet & Maxwell, Dublin, 2000).
- Michael O’Connor & Celia Rumann, The Death of Advocacy in Reentry After Deportation Cases, (The Defender, July 1998, Reprinted in The Champion, 1999).
- Richard Drury and Robert Winn with Michael O’Connor, PLOWSHARES AND SWORDS: THE ECONOMICS OF OCCUPATION IN THE WEST BANK, (BEACON PRESS, BOSTON, MA, 1992); Awarded
- Raphael Lemkin Prize for Outstanding Work in International Human Rights.
Sample Pleadings, ALABAMA CAPITAL POSTCONVICTION MANUAL, SECOND EDITION (Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center, 1991).
- Sample Pleadings, ALABAMA CAPITAL DEFENSE TRIAL MANUAL, SECOND EDITION (Alabama Capital Representation Resource Center, 1992).
- Michael O’Connor, Challenging Unreliable “Judicial” Fact finding in State Postconviction Proceedings, ALABAMA CAPITAL REPORTER, Vol. 2, Number 3, Page 18, 1991.
Awards / Honors
- PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, OUTSTANDING ALUMNI AWARD, 2009.
- UST SCHOOL OF LAW SERVICE AND COMMUNITY AWARD, 2005.
Presented by University of St. Thomas Community.
- AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL O’CONNOR-RUMANN HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD, AI STUDENT CHAPTER, 2004-2005.
- First recipient of annual award named in honor of Professor Rumann and myself.
- BISHOP CONWELL-EGAN CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL WALL OF FAME, 2003.
- Inducted by my high school to the school’s “Wall of Fame.”
- FACULTY MEMBER OF THE YEAR, BLACK LAW STUDENTS ASSOCIATION, 2002-2003.
Presented by University of St. Thomas NBLSA chapter.
- THE SAINT THOMAS MORE AWARD, THE SAINT THOMAS MORE SOCIETY, 1996.
In recognition of work on behalf of death-sentenced prisoners in Arizona.
- TRIAL LAWYER OF THE YEAR, CO-FINALIST, TRIAL LAWYERS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE, 1993.
Nominated for work as co-counsel in case of Alabama v. Walter McMillian.
- GRANT RECIPIENT, INITIATIVE FOR PUBLIC INTEREST LAW AT YALE, YALE LAW SCHOOL.
Project: Limiting Racial Bias in Jury Selection Procedures in Alabama, 1992.
- GRANT RECIPIENT, ORVILLE H. SCHELL, JR. CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS AT YALE LAW SCHOOL.
- Project: Study Controls Placed on Agriculture in the Occupied West Bank. 1988.
- SOLO PRACTITIONER / MEXICAN CAPITAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM, TEMPE, AZ,
Represented indigent persons under sentence of death (1996-2009); retained to provide
expert assistance to Capital Habeas Unit of Federal Public Defender (1996-97);
represented Government of Mexico asserting consular rights of Mexican Nationals
charged with capital crimes (2005-07).
- DEPUTY FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, CAPITAL HABEAS UNIT, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL
PUBLIC DEFENDER, LOS ANGELES, CA, 1997-98.
Represented death-sentenced inmates in federal habeas corpus proceedings.
- SENIOR LITIGATOR, ARIZONA CAPITAL REPRESENTATION PROJECT, TEMPE, AZ, 1994-96
Represented persons under sentence of death in all stages of appeals, clemency and postconviction
proceedings; supervised staff attorneys; provided consultation and assisted
attorneys representing death-sentenced prisoners.
- TRIAL ATTORNEY, FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF SAN DIEGO, INC., SAN DIEGO, CA, 1993-94.
Represented indigent defendants in all phases of federal criminal trials and appeals.
- STAFF ATTORNEY, ALABAMA CAPITAL REPRESENTATION RESOURCE CENTER (EJI),
MONTGOMERY, AL, 1990-93.
Represented death-sentenced prisoners in all stages of appeals and post-conviction
proceedings; provided consultation and assisted local and out-of-state counsel.
- HUMAN RIGHTS INTERN, AL-HAQ, LAW IN THE SERVICE OF MAN, RAMALLAH, 1989.
Human rights research and field work in Israeli-occupied West Bank, culminating in
publication of Plowshares and Swords, Beacon Press, 1992, reporting findings.
- LEGAL INTERN, TEAM DEFENSE PROJECT, ATLANTA, GA. 1988.
Assisted in representation of death-sentenced prisoners
Lectures and Addresses
- ATHENS INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATION AND RESEARCH, 9TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON LAW, ATHENS, GREECE, JULY 2012
- “Arab Spring to American Winter: The Need to Embrace “Structured Spontaneous Disorder” in 21st Century Social Rebellions”
- DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, GOVERNMENT OF BOTSWANA, INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION MISSION, GABORONE, BOTSWANA, MARCH 2012
- Presentation on Potential International Partnerships for Education
DEBATE: “ENHANCED INTERROGATION” OR WAR CRIMES? FEDERALIST SOCIETY, PHOENIX SCHOOL OF LAW, PHOENIX, AZ, NOVEMBER 2011
- “War Crimes Committed in the Global War on Terrorism”
CHINA-U.S. CRIMINAL LAW CONFERENCE, PHOENIX SCHOOL OF LAW, PHOENIX, AZ,
- “The Death Penalty in China and the United States,” Moderator and Speaker.
- SOUTHWEST UNIVERSITY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND LAW, CONFERENCE ON JUVENILE JUSTICE AND DRUG REFORM, CHONGQING, CHINA, JUNE 2010
- “Reforming Juvenile Justice and Narcotics Policies” EMBRY-RIDDLE NATIONAL AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY, NATIONAL SECURITY CONFERENCE, APRIL 2010
- “Water Scarcity and the Neo-Federalist Threat to National Security”
RECOGNITION OF SCHOLARLY ACHIEVEMENTS, PHOENIX SCHOOL OF LAW, APRIL 2010
- “The Role of Scholarship in a New Legal Education Paradigm”
INTERNATIONAL LAW DEBATE, FEDERALIST SOCIETY / AMERICAN LAW SOCIETY, FEBRUARY
- “The Proper Role of International Law in U.S. Judicial Decisions – An Historical Perspective”
- EMBRY-RIDDLE NATIONAL AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY, NATIONAL SECURITY CONFERENCE, APRIL 2009
- “Civil Liability for Arbitrary Detention and Abusive Interrogations”
WASHBURN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, CONFERENCE ON THE RULE OF LAW AND THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM, TOPEKA, KS, NOVEMBER 2008
- “The Northern Ireland Experience: Effects of Detention and Interrogation Policies on Terrorism Rates” (with Celia Rumann)
- AMERICAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, CONFERENCE ON RHETORIC AND VIOLENCE, WASHINGTON, DC, NOVEMBER 2008
- “Race, Religion and the Rhetoric of Violence” NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, CONFERENCE ON HUMAN RIGHTS, EVANSTON, IL, MARCH 2007
- “The History of Torture in Western Societies” ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, NOVEMBER 2004
- “The Case for Innocence: The Risk of Wrongful Execution in the United States” LASALLE UNIVERSITY, CATHOLIC STUDIES DEPARTMENT, SEPTEMBER 2004
- “Law, Faith and the War on Terrorism”
SALON, UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS SCHOOL OF LAW, MARCH 2004
- “Faith in Action: For Good or Evil?” UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, SCHOOL OF LAW, MARCH 2004
- “Comparative Analysis of the U.S. and British Efforts to Combat Terrorism” MINORITY STUDENT DAY, UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS SCHOOL OF LAW, FEBRUARY 2004
- “Homeland Security and Liberty: A Comparative View” MINNEAPOLIS COMMUNITY COLLEGE, NOVEMBER 2003
- “Human Rights: A Domestic Perspective” OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF MINNESOTA, NOVEMBER 2003
- “Balancing Homeland Security and Individual Liberties”
WILLIAM MITCHELL COLLEGE OF LAW, ST. PAUL, MN, MARCH 2003
“Can We be Both Free and Secure?”
- UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY CHAPTER, DEATH PENALTY WEEK, OCTOBER 2003
- “Pro-Bono Representation in Death Penalty Cases” AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REGIONAL FORUM, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, OCTOBER 2003
- “The Federal Death Penalty Under Attorney General John Ashcroft”
NORTHERN IRELAND ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL & UNIVERSITY OF ULSTER, EMERGENCY AND ANTI-TERRORISM POWERS IN TRANSITION, DECEMBER 2002
- “American Echoes of the Northern Ireland Past” UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS, OPEN FORUM ON STATE OF OUR NATION ONE YEAR AFTER THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK, ST. PAUL, MN, SEPTEMBER 2002
- “Waging the War on Terror” GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS COLLEGE, TRANSFORMING PRACTICES, ST. PETER, MN, APRIL 2002
- “The Practice of Law as a Vocation” UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS, ST. PAUL, MN, MAY 2002
- “The USA PATRIOT Act: Civil Liberties During a War on Terrorism” UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS, OPEN FORUM ON TERRORISM, ST. PAUL, MN, 2001
- “What Happened? What Next? How Do We Respond to Terrorism?”
ALABAMA CAPITAL CASE TRAINING CONFERENCE, PERDIDO BEACH, ALABAMA, 2000.
- “Litigating Withheld Evidence Claims” IRISH ASSOCIATION OF LAW TEACHERS, KILLARNEY, IRELAND, 1999.
- “Unbalancing the Separation of Powers: Clinton v. Jones”
NEW YORK CAPITAL DEFENDER TRAINING, THORNWOOD, NY, 1995.
- “Overcoming Internal Barriers to Developing Trust with Your Client”
- “Investigation of Mitigation Evidence for Use with Expert Witnesses” NAACP, LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, AIRLIE CONFERENCE, AIRLIE, VA, 1995.
- “Presentation of Cultural Mitigation in a Capital Case” DEFENDING A DEATH PENALTY CASE IN ARIZONA, TEMPE, AZ, 1995.
- “Presentation of Mitigation Witnesses in a Capital Sentencing Proceeding” NATIONAL DEFENDER INVESTIGATOR ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE, PHOENIX, AZ, 1995.
- “Defense Homicide Investigation – Basic Investigative Strategies to Follow in a
- “The Defense Investigator’s Role in Death Penalty Mitigation”
NATIONAL CONFERENCE, U.S. COURTS OF APPEALS, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEYS, PHOENIX, AZ, 1995.
- “Legal Labyrinth: Barriers to Full and Fair Review in Habeas Corpus Proceedings” SERVICE CHAIR, CAPITAL DEFENSE REVIEW COMMITTEE, Phoenix, AZ, 3-year term 2012-15.
- Set standards and review qualifications of counsel seeking appointment in capital trials and appeals in Maricopa Co. AZ Supreme Court recently asked committee to expand role to include all capital Postconviction counsel in the State of Arizona.
- MINNESOTA ADVOCATES FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, DEATH PENALTY STEERING COMMITTEE, Minneapolis, MN, 2002-05.
- INNOCENCE PROJECT OF MINNESOTA, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, Minneapolis, MN, 2002-05.
- LAWYERS HELPING LAWYERS COMMITTEE, Montgomery, AL 1992-1995.
- NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS (NACDL), Authored Amicus Brief in Support of Petitioner in Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 2005 WL 3543085, Dec. 22, 2005.
Law School Committee Service
- Chair: Retention, Promotion and Tenure Committee (PSL); Curriculum (PSL & UST);
Mentoring Committee (PSL); Academic Success Committee (UST).
- Member: Curriculum (UST & PSL); Faculty Development & Evaluation Committee (PSL); Faculty Recruitment (PSL & UST); International Law Committee (PSL); Library & Technology Committee (PSL); Academic Standards Committee (PSL); Library Director Search Committee (PSL).