Michael Tigar

Michael Tigar
Born (1941-01-18) January 18, 1941
Nationality United States
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley (B.A., J.D)
Occupation Lawyer

Michael Edward Tigar (born January 18, 1941; Glendale, California)[1] is an American criminal defense attorney known for representing controversial clients. He is also an emeritus (retired) member of the Duke Law School and American University, Washington College of Law faculties.

Early life and education

Tigar earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley in 1962 and his J.D. from the Berkeley Law in 1966. As an undergraduate, he was elected to the Associated Students board as a SLATE candidate. He also ran unsuccessfully for Student Body President. He interviewed Bertrand Russell during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis for Pacifica Radio. In law school he was a member of Order of the Coif and served as editor-in-chief of the California Law Review.

Career in law

In 1966, he was hired as a law clerk by Justice William J. Brennan of the United States Supreme Court. Brennan, however, fired him the week he began his job, following complaints made by conservative columnists and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, because of Tigar's activist background.[2][3] In 1968, he became the first editor of the Selective Service Law Reporter (Public Law Education Institute, 1968–1973).[4] Tigar was a partner in the firm of Williams & Connolly of Washington, DC (1976–'78), where he worked closely with legendary trial attorney Edward Bennett Williams. He then formed his own firm with partner Samuel J. Buffone.[5] Tigar was a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law from 1983 to 1998, holding the Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law from '87-'98.[6] He helped found the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, where he served as the Clinic's first Executive Director and Supervising Attorney. He was then a professor at American University's Washington College of Law starting in 1998,[7] and later also at Duke Law School.

In his teaching, Tigar has worked with law students in clinical programs where students are counsel or law clerks in significant human rights litigation. He has made several trips to South Africa, working with organizations of African lawyers engaged in the struggle to end apartheid, and after the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, to lecture on human rights issues and to advise the African National Congress on issues in drafting a new constitution. He has been actively involved in efforts to bring to justice members of the Chilean junta, including former President Pinochet. Of Tigar’s career, Justice William J. Brennan has written that his “tireless striving for justice stretches his arms towards perfection.”

In 1999, the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice held a ballot for "Lawyer of the Century." Tigar was third in the balloting, behind Clarence Darrow and Thurgood Marshall. In 2003, the Texas Civil Rights Project named its new building in Austin, Texas, (purchased with a gift from attorney Wayne Reaud) the “Michael Tigar Human Rights Center.” Tigar's return to the courtroom for a last full-blown trial, in 2004-05, was in defense of a fellow left-oriented activist criminal-defense lawyer, Lynne Stewart, which was an exhausting ordeal and ultimately a demoralizing loss.

In retirement, Tigar is professor of the practice of law emeritus at Duke Law School,[8] and research professor emeritus at the American University, Washington College of Law.[9] He has been visiting professor at the law faculty of the Paul Cézanne University, Aix-en-Provence, and has lectured at law schools in several countries.

Notable cases and clients

Tigar has argued seven cases before the United States Supreme Court,[11] and over 100 federal appellate cases. He has tried cases in all parts of the United States. In addition to activist clients, he has represented Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rep. Ronald Dellums, Rep. John M. Murphy (during the Abscam scandal), former Gov. John Connally, Fantasy Films and Mobil Oil.

Personal life

Tigar has been married four times. He has been married to journalist-turned-attorney Jane Blanksteen Tigar since 1996.[3] He has three children by previous marriages,[12] including United States federal judge Jon S. Tigar.[13]



  1. Vile, J.R. (2001). Great American Lawyers: An Encyclopedia. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 663. ISBN 9781576072028. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  2. Bob Woodward, The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court (1979), p. 77.
  3. 1 2 Romano, Lois (1997-09-29). "A Man of Independent Means". Washington Post. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  4. LLMC, Book Preservation. "Military Law". LLMC Central. Law Library Microform Consortium. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  5. BuckleySandler, Professionals. "Samuel J. Buffone". www.buckleysandler.com. BuckleySandler LLP. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  6. "http://www.utexas.edu/student/registrar/gopherfiles/catalog/cat-law/The_Faculty". utexas.edu. Retrieved December 13, 2014. External link in |title= (help)
  7. Association of American Law Schools Directory of Law Teachers 2007-08, p. 1095
  8. "Michael E. Tigar | Duke University School of Law". law.duke.edu. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  9. "Tigar, Michael - Faculty - American University Washington College of Law". wcl.american.edu. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  10. "Judge removes himself in Angela Davis case". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sarasota, Florida. AP. March 18, 1971. p. 5-A.
  11. using search term "Tigar"
  12. Vile, John R. Great American Lawyers. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2001.
  13. Yulico, Nick (December 28, 2001). "Davis Nominates Santa Clara Judge to Sixth District Court of Appeal". Metropolitan News-Enterprise. Retrieved December 22, 2012.


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