The Catholic University of America

Catholic University Experts

Cara Drinan

Cara H. Drinan, J.D.

Associate Professor of Law

Phone: 202-319-5508

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• Criminal Justice
• Juvenile Justice and Sentencing
• Indigent and Public Defense
• Access to Counsel
• Mass Incarceration

School: Columbus School of Law

Media Appearances

  • May 12, 2016

    Catholic News Agency

    “It’s really more of a scenario where states have never honored the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a way that the Supreme Court envisioned,” Cara Drinan, a law professor at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, told CNA in an interview.

  • May 12, 2016

    Catholic News Agency

    When poor people are accused of a crime and are unable to secure adequate legal assistance, it is absolutely a social justice issue that Catholics should be concerned about, Mary Leary, another law professor at Catholic University, said. “This speaks to the Catholic social justice issues of dignity and the common good,” she told CNA. “And neither of those are advanced when we have ill-funded public defenders, or public defenders working under impossible conditions.” ...

  • September 27, 2015

    Catholic News Service

    Cara Drinan, associate professor, law, was interviewed by Catholic News Service about Pope Francis's visit to a Philadelphia correctional facility.

  • May 21, 2015

    Huffington Post

    Drinan published a blog on Red Noses For Kids day. "Even if there are some spoiled children in America, there are millions in need of assistance. And when children suffer from poverty and neglect, society ultimately pays the price. So let's all don our red noses - because childhood poverty is no laughing matter."

  • April 13, 2015

    Huffington Post

    On juvenile justice: "These are not practices befitting the nation that invented the juvenile court a little more than a century ago. If we are to remain the land of the free we can and we must do better by our children."

  • January 5, 2015

    New Orleans Advocate

    Drinan commented in a story on a 30-year-old case heading to the Supreme Court.

  • July 25, 2014

    National Catholic Register

    Drinan was quoted in a story on the death penalty.

  • May 5, 2014

    National Catholic Register

    Drinan was interviewed about the Church's view of the death penalty.

  • January 25, 2014


    Drinan was interviewed about whether young criminal offenders convicted of murder and other serious crimes should be spared mandatory life sentences.

  • January 20, 2014

    The New York Times

    In an article by Erik Eckholm headlined "Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings," Drinan criticizes states that have implemented the Supreme Court's decisions restricting life sentences for juvenile offenders in a way that "flouts the spirit of the decisions."


  • 2013

    Misconstruing Graham & Miller

    In this Washington University Law Review, Drinan analyzes the response to recent rulings by the Supreme Court striking down a majority of the states’ juvenile sentencing laws, outlawing life without parole for juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses and mandating individualized sentencing for those children who commit even the most serious crimes. She concludes that state actors have failed to comply with the Court’s mandate, and maps out a path for future compliance that relies heavily upon the strength and agility of the executive branch.

  • 2011

    Graham on the Ground

    In Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to sentence a non-homicide juvenile offender to life in prison without parole. In this Washington Law Review article, Drinan answers several key questions about the ruling, including: To whom does the Graham decision apply? What is the appropriate remedy for those inmates? What affirmative obligations does the Graham decision impose upon the states?

  • 2008

    The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation

    For years, scholars have documented the national crisis in indigent defense and its many tragic implications, and yet the crisis persists. In this NYU Review of Law and Social Change article, Drinan distills from the recent body of suits a model for indigent defense litigation that emphasizes empirical grounding, extensive alliances of support, and requests for sweeping reform.

Educational Background
Drinan holds a B.A., summa cum laude, from Bowdoin College, an M.A. from Oxford University in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She was a 1995 recipient of a Truman Scholarship and a 1997 recipient of a Marshall Scholarship.

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