CU Law Profiles
Faculty Profile

Carolyn Ramsey

Criminal, Legal History, Gender Law & Public Policy

You may also visit my faculty home page.



Anaheim Hills, CA. I have also lived in Northern California (Palo Alto and San Francisco); London, England; Washington, DC; and Santa Fe, NM. I had to list 13 addresses when I filled out my California Bar application.

Hobbies, Sports, or Extracurricular Passions

I love alpine skiing, hiking, and international travel. I also ride horseback competitively in hunter/jumper events.

Favorite Book

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Favorite Movie

There are so many! I recently saw Good Night and Good Luck, which I really enjoyed, but it's not my favorite movie of all time.

What were you doing before you came to the University of Colorado Law School?

I was clerking for Marilyn Hall Patel, then Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. I also clerked for Judge Paul J. Kelly, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

What is one interesting, fun, or offbeat thing you have done in your lifetime?

In 2001, I explored Namibia, which is in Southern Africa, with a friend who was writing a book about water rights along the Namibia-Angola border. In 1995, I traveled solo through Eastern Europe. I guess that?s more than one thing, but I love offbeat travel, so I could go on and on.

What do you consider to be one of your biggest accomplishments?

Balancing teaching, research, and the rest of my life.

About Boulder

What do you like most about Boulder?

Proximity to the gorgeous Rocky Mountains! Where else can you hit the slopes during the day and then come home to sip hot chocolate in front of a warm fire at night? (Okay, I have a gas log. I also have to work a lot. But you get the idea.)

What do you like least about Boulder?

I'm not crazy about the Mexican food in Boulder. I miss New Mexico green chile, which is hot enough to call the fire department but also has a special depth of flavor lacking in the Boulder version. Otherwise, I don't have many complaints. I really love it here.

Favorite Place To Eat Out in Boulder

Brasserie Ten-Ten, Aji, Khow Thai, and don't forget Glacier Ice Cream

About CU Law School

Why did you decide to become a professor?

I decided in college that I wanted to become a professor. I remember getting invited to faculty homes as an undergraduate. My professors always had living rooms lined with books and souvenirs from overseas rambles. I remember sipping tea and sharing ideas. I wanted to maintain that level of intellectual engagement and also to inspire students the way that I remember being inspired. I started out to become a professor by earning a Master?s degree and most of the PhD in History at Stanford University. However, because I craved a more immediate connection to modern public policy, I took a leave of absence to work in Washington, D.C., and then I went to law school.

What do you like most about teaching at CU?

The students here are smart and studious, but they also have extracurricular interests. They?re interesting and fun to teach.

What area of law are you most interested in and why?

I study criminal justice issues from historical and feminist perspectives. I?m interested in both substantive criminal law and constitutional criminal procedure. Criminal law appealed to me early in law school because it poses problems that are very human. Why would someone kill another person? How have societies chosen to punish such heinous crimes? Do female jurors view cases differently than male jurors do? What is the proper balance between the needs of law enforcement and the rights of criminal suspects? Criminal justice also seemed like an area that was ripe for historical study. I was trained as a social historian so I?m very interested in the way that extra-legal factors like gender norms, politics, and socioeconomic pressures affect crime, prosecution and punishment. I will soon finish a series of four law-review articles on public responses to homicide. I then plan to do research on historical and modern aspects of police investigations.

Are you involved with any student organizations?

I have helped out with several Women?s Law Caucus events?choosing fellowship recipients and sharing my experiences at Women-in-Law Day. Women?s Law Caucus helps build community among female lawyers and law students; it provides networking opportunities and other benefits. It is one of many high-quality student organizations that help make the law school such a vibrant place.

What piece of advice would you give a student about surviving being a 1L?

Study hard and use your professors as a resource. Try to avoid getting caught up in 1L hysteria by checking with 2Ls and 3LS, rather than believing 1L rumors. Don?t make the mistake of thinking that your first-year grades define you. You can improve your GPA, and employers will appreciate an upward trajectory.

What piece of advice would you give a student about getting the most out of law school?

Make friends. Take classes that interest you. Work on one of the law journals. Don?t spend more time working and doing externships than you do attending class. You have your whole life to work, but this may be your only opportunity to gain an intellectual appreciation for the law.

What piece of advice would you give a 1L or 2L as they choose their 2L and 3L courses?

I would avoid being overly concerned about career tracking. The main goal of law teaching is to give students the intellectual tools to analyze legal problems. This is much more important than the memorization of black-letter doctrine in specific subject areas. Take courses that sound interesting; take courses from professors whose classes you enjoy; and keep an open mind about your career options. If you do, you may discover a latent interest in the environment or labor or (to plug my own area) criminal justice!

About Choosing A Law School

What are the top three reasons that you think a prospective student should choose CU Law?

1. A relatively low student-faculty ratio and professors who are committed to helping students.

2. Great location in a university town with easy access to some of the most beautiful backcountry in the world and a nearby city (Denver) that offers a few urban delights of its own.

3. Our students are very creative when it comes to finding legal employment. I think that they often make choices that fit their life goals, rather than just following the herd. This is not true of all law schools. As a result, we seem to place a higher percentage of students in government and public interest careers.

What piece of advice would you give a prospective student about choosing a law school?

Go to the most prestigious law school that admits you, if it otherwise fits your needs.

About the Law School Curriculum

Could you describe each of the main classes that you teach, and give your explanation of what those classes are about?

Criminal Law: This required, first-year class analyzes the criminal law from a variety of perspectives. We study the reasons for punishing convicted criminals, as well as the elements of crimes and the defenses that the accused might raise. We also examine tensions between various state statutes, the common law, and the Model Penal Code.

Criminal Procedure?Investigative Phase: This course explores the constitutional limits of police practices at the pretrial stage of a criminal investigation. Our central texts are the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court?s interpretation of these Amendments. This course involves constitutional interpretation and analysis of Supreme Court jurisprudence, rather than simple memorization of rules and statutory provisions.

History of Anglo-American Criminal Justice: This course covers the history of Anglo-American criminal justice from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Some important areas of inquiry include: Colonial American criminal justice and its English roots; the evolution of juries, evidence law, defendant's rights and other aspects of adversarial criminal trial practice; changing theories of punishment; the professionalization of policing and prosecution; and the role of women and ethnic minorities in the criminal process. Most topics are considered with relation to both the United States and England.

Gender, Law, and Public Policy: This seminar examines the relationship between law and gender in such substantive areas as criminal law, education law, and constitutional law. Using feminist theoretical perspectives as an organizing principle for readings and discussion, we consider the strengths and limitations of theory as a tool for changing legal doctrine and public policy.

Domestic Violence: This course covers the law, policy, history, and theory of domestic violence. We examine the limits of legal methods and remedies for holding batterers accountable and keeping victims safe. The class examines such topics as the dynamics of abusive relationships; the history of the criminal justice system?s response to domestic violence; the defenses available to battered persons who kill their abusers; the legal paradigm of the sympathetic victim; psychological and feminist theories about abusive relationships; civil rights and tort liability for batterers and third parties; and the intersection of domestic violence with international human rights.