Professor Allen teaches property, civil procedure, legal ethics and civil rights. Her scholarship examines traditional legal structures and procedures from new perspectives. Much of her work considers what constructive roles formal legal doctrine and practices may play, other than determining substantive legal outcomes. For example, a recent article, Doctrine and Impartiality, argues that the structure of doctrinal reasoning may help judges distance themselves from their usual subjective outlooks. In another recent essay, she defends international human rights tribunals against the charge that they are merely show courts by arguing that the international tribunals simply enact a more obviously theatrical version of the role-based, conventionally structured performance all courts must use to trigger enforcement.
Professor Allen’s writing and teaching is informed by her experience as a litigator and civil rights advocate, mainly in federal courts. Before coming to Pitt, Professor Allen worked for several national public interest organizations and at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she was a Bristow Fellow in the Office of the Solicitor General, the branch of DOJ that handles the federal government’s cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. She spent the 2008 election cycle litigating voting rights cases in swing states as a senior attorney for Advancement Project, a racial justice organization. Before that, she was for several years a staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where her practice focused on class-action challenges to states’ criminal disenfranchisement laws.
She is the author of the blog BlackstoneWeekly linking contemporary legal and cultural issues to the famous 18thcentury legal treatise, Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.