Centre for American Legal Studies

The Centre for American Legal Studies (CALS) was founded in 2010 as a centre of excellence for the study of the law of the USA.

Members of CALS have a variety of interests in US law principally relating to the administration of criminal justice, the nature and role of punishment in the US legal system, the constitution and socio-legal aspects of race, gender and sexual orientation, the role of experts and evidence in the US court system, comparative aspects of environmental protection law in the US, and the implications for human rights in US exceptionalism. 

CALS, which also administers the American Legal Practice programme, is led by Director Dr Anne Richardson-Oakes with support from Julian Killingley, Professor of American Public Law and founder of the American Legal Practice. Other academic and research staff are: Prof Jon Yorke, Sarah Cooper, Hannah Gorman and  Haydn Davies.

They have written extensively in books and journals and are all carrying out a wide range of research activities. These include:

Administration of the death penalty

Professor Julian Killingley, Professor Jon Yorke and Sarah Cooper have a long-standing interest in the administration of the death penalty in the USA and other jurisdictions.

Professor Killingley is the Director of the Academic Panel of Amicus, a charitable organisation set up to provide assistance to those practising in the field of capital defence in the USA, and has filed a number of Amicus Briefs to the US Supreme court in this capacity.

Professor Yorke is a member of Academics for Abolition, a worldwide group dedicated to the abolition of the death penalty. He also advises the Presidency of the EU on death penalty related matters.

Sarah Cooper is a member of the Justice Project at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law.

The US judicial process

Dr Anne Richardson Oakes specialises in the role of the judiciary in desegregation litigation in the USA and the role of expert witnesses in the US trial process.

US Constitutional and Public Law

All members of the centre have expertise in US Constitutional and Public law as it pertains to their specialisms. Dr Davies has a long-standing interest in the legal regulation of environmental protection and the different approached employed on each side of the Atlantic and will soon be undertaking a comparative analysis of US/UK environmental law and policy.


James Kousouros

James Kousouros

CALS prides itself on its quality of speakers and has welcomed such prominent guests as James Kousouros, Michael Edwards and Professor Robert Blecker.

James Kousouros is the founder and principal of the Law Offices of James Kousouros. The criminal defence practice opened for business over 25 years ago and, since then, James has handled well over 1,000 criminal matters in the state and federal courts of the USA. James recently delivered the commencement address for the CALS launch, which covered the impact of new technology on people's expectations of policies.

Michael Edwards is the Circuit Public Defender for the Eastern Judicial Circuit of Georgia (Chatham County). His seminar, Gideon's Trumpet Heard: Judging Georgia's Public Defender System, offered an insider's review of the early successes and failures of Georgia’s Indigent Defense Act of 2003, a long-awaited and historic piece of criminal justice legislation.

Professor Blecker, Professor of Law at the New York Law School, is a prominent advocate of the death penalty for heinous crimes in the USA. His seminar included excerpts from the controversial film of his interviews with Daryl Holton, a resident on Tennessee’s death row convicted of murdering his four young children.

Links on the US Legal System

Anyone interested in the American legal system should find these organisations invaluable for information and latest developments:

We also recommend the Death Penalty on Trial debate that was organised by Amicus and chaired by Lord Woolf. It features Professor Killingley, who discussed the legal status of the death penalty in the US. View a clip of the debate.