Lia Epperson

Associate Professor of Law
Director, SJD Program

Lia Epperson, Associate Professor of Law and Director of the SJD Program at American University Washington College of Law, is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights, constitutional law, and education policy. Her scholarship centers on the constitutional dialogue between federal courts and the political branches, and its implications for educational equity. Her scholarship, published in leading journals, also explores the role of public schools, colleges, and universities in creating equal opportunity. Prior to her appointment at American University, she served on the law faculties of the University of Maryland and Santa Clara University. She has also served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, focusing on federal civil rights enforcement of educational policies and practices. Professor Epperson's research interests are informed by her experiences litigating education cases throughout the country, and lobbying for the maintenance and enforcement of civil rights protections.

Prior to becoming a law professor in 2005, Professor Epperson directed the education law and policy group of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF). While there, she litigated in federal and state courts, advocated for federal administrative and legislative reforms, and co-authored multiple amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court in the areas of education and affirmative action. In addition, she represented LDF in several national civil rights leadership coalitions, including serving as chair of the Education Task Force for the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, a coalition of nearly 200 national organizations.

Prior to her time at LDF, Professor Epperson was an attorney with Morrison & Foerster in Palo Alto, CA, and a law clerk to the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She received her law degree from Stanford University, where she served as an editor of the Stanford Law Review as well as the Stanford Law and Policy Review. She earned her bachelor's degree in sociology, magna cum laude, from Harvard University.



Areas of Specialization

  • Civil Rights
  • Constitutional Law
  • Education Law

Degrees & Universities

  • B.A., Harvard University (magna cum laude)
  • J.D., Stanford Law School

  • Selected Publications

    • Lia Epperson, The Promise and Pitfalls of Empiricism in Educational Equality Jurisprudence, 48 Wake Forest. L. Rev. 101 (forthcoming 2013).
    • Lia Epperson, Legislating Inclusion, 6 Harv. L. & Pol. Rev. 801 (2012).
    • Lia Epperson, Bringing the Market to Students? School Choice and Vocational Education in the 21st Century, 87 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1861 (2012).
    • Lia Epperson, Equality Dissonance, 7 Stan. J. Civ. Rights & Civ. Liberties 101 (2011).
    • Lia Epperson, New Legal Perspectives: Implications for Diversity in the Post-Grutter Era, in Diversity in American Higher Education: Toward a More Comprehensive Approach (Lisa M. Stulberg & Sharon L. Weinberg, eds., Routledge Press 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Undercover Power: Examining the Role of the Executive Branch in Determining the Meaning and Scope of School Integration Jurisprudence, 10 American Law & Policy 10 Berkeley J. African-Am. L. & Policy 146 (2008).
    • Lia Epperson, True Integration: Advancing Brown’s Goal of Educational Equity in the Wake of Grutter, 67 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 175 (2005).
    • + More Publications...

    • Lia Epperson, Racial Discrimination in Education, in The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion (Richard A. Shweder ed., U. Chi. Press 2009).
    • Lia Epperson, The Rehnquist Court, the Resurrection of Plessy and the Elusive Definition of “Societal Discrimination, in Awakening From the Dream: Pursuing Civil Rights in a Conservative Era (Denise C. Morgan et al. eds, Carolina Acad. Press 2006).
    • Lia Epperson, Resisting Retreat: A Trench-Level View of the Struggle for Equity in Educational Opportunity in the Post-Brown Era, 66 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 131 (2005).
    • Lia Epperson, Biography of Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, in African American Lives (Henry Louis Gates & Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham eds., Oxford U. Press 2004).
    • Lia Epperson et al., Brief for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents, Grutter v. Bollinger, 5 Rutgers Race & L. Rev. 149 (2003).
  • + Selected Presentations

    • Lia Epperson, Invited Panelist, Forty Years since Keyes v. School District No. 1: Equality of Educational Opportunity and the Legal Construction of Modern Metropolitan America (Denver University Law Review Symposium, Denver, Colo., Feb. 2013).
    • Lia Epperson, Invited Moderator, Advancing the Legacy of Mendez and Brown (National Conference on School Diversity, D.C., May 2012).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, The Loving Story (The White House, D.C., Apr. 2012).
    • Lia Epperson, Invited Panelist, The Future of Diversity in Higher Education: Obama, the Supreme Court and Admissions (New York University, N.Y.C., N.Y., Mar. 2012).
    • Lia Epperson, Invited Panelist, A Seat at the Table: Considering African American Women, Law, and Policy (American Constitution Society, D.C., Feb. 2012).
    • Lia Epperson, Invited Moderator, A New Frontier of Civil Rights (American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Feb. 2012).
    • Lia Epperson, Invited Presenter, Educational Innovation and the Law (University of Notre Dame Law School, South Bend, Ind., Nov. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Diversity in American Higher Education (Legal Education in China and the United States: Past, Present, and Future, American University Washington College of Law Faculty Colloquium, D.C., Nov. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Lecturer, Community Activism and Minority Rights (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of International Visitors, D.C., Aug. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Supreme Court Review and Preview (NAACP Annual Convention, L.A., Cal., July 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Lecturer, America's Multi-Ethnic Society and the Role of the Successor Generation (U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of International Visitors, D.C., May 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, New Legal Perspectives: Implications for Diversity in the Post-Grutter Era (Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Good, American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, La., Apr. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Legislating Inclusion (Wake Forest University School of Law Faculty Workshop, Winston-Salem, N.C., Mar. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Discussant, Urban Policy and the New Civil Rights Agenda (Wake Forest University School of Law Roundtable, Winston-Salem, N.C., Mar. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Minority Majority: The Social and Legal Implications of a Post-White America (The Modern American Symposium, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., 03-01-11).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, The American Constitutional Landscape and Avenues for Diversity in Higher Education (Monash University School of Law Faculty Workshop, Melbourne, Austrl., Mar. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Keynote Address, Challenges and Choices: Advocating for Equal Education in Our 21st Century Democracy (Beyond Bias, Beyond Courts: New Strategies for Racial Justice,” Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, Cal., Feb. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Keynote Address, Defining Patriotism in the 21st Century: Lessons From Our Leaders (12th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration, American University Washington College of Law, D.C., Jan. 2011).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Educational Advancement and Fair Opportunities in Higher Education (The Unfinished Work: Advancing New Strategies for Civil Rights, University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill, N.C., Nov. 2010).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Impact of Obama Election on Race Relations (S.E. Assn. L. Sch. Annual Meeting, Palm Beach, Fla., Aug. 2010).
    • Lia Epperson, Keynote Address, Challenges and Choices in the Quest for Equality in Educational Opportunity (Women of Excellence Conf., N. C. St. Conf. of the NAACP, Winston-Salem, N. C., May 2010).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Progress and the Legal Profession (Stan. L. Sch., Palo Alto, Cal., Apr. 2010).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Legislating Inclusion: Congressional Avenues for Racially Integrated Public Education (Ariz. St. U. Sch. L. Faculty Workshop, Phoenix, Ariz., Mar. 2010).
    • Lia Epperson, Moderator, Federal Policies to Promote K-12 Integration (Reaffirming the Role of Sch. Integration in Pub. Educ. Policy: A Conversation among Policymakers, Advoc. & Educators, How. U. Sch. L., D.C., Nov. 2009).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Educational Equity and the NAACP (S.E. Assn. L. Sch. Annual Meeting, Palm Beach, Fla., Aug. 2009).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Congress, Courts, and a New Model for Racially Inclusive Public Education (U. Pitt. Sch. L. Faculty Workshop, Pitt., Pa., Apr. 2009).
    • Lia Epperson, Keynote Address, Civil Rights Legislation Strategies in the Obama Era (U. Cal. at Irvine, Jan. 2009).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Congress, Courts, and a New Model for Racially Inclusive Public Education in Conservative Times (Lutie A. Lytle Writers’ Workshop, U. Denver, Sturm C. L., Denver, Colo., June 2008).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Congress, Courts, and a New Model for Racially Inclusive Public Education in Conservative Times (The Sch. Desegregation Cases & the Uncertain Future of Racial Equal., 2007-2008 Ohio St. L. J. Symposium, Ohio St. U. Moritz C. L., Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 2008).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Brown Undone? The Future of School Integration in Seattle after PICS v. Seattle School District (Seattle U. Sch. L., Seattle, Wash., Feb. 2008).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Reconciling Federalism, Equality, and Accountability in School Desegregation Jurisprudence: The Jurisprudential Underpinnings of Parents Involved and the Implications for Racial Inclusion in Public Education (U. Iowa C. L. Faculty Writers’ Workshop, Iowa City, Iowa, 2007).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Equal Protection in Education: Implications of the Seattle School District Case for School Integration and Racial Diversity (U. Pitt., Pittsburgh, Pa., 2007).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Supreme Power: Examining the Role of the Executive Branch in Determining the Scope and Meaning of School Integration Jurisprudence (Berkeley J. African-Am. L. & Policy Symposium, U. Cal. at Berkeley Sch. L., 2007).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, The World from Grutter to Parents Involved and the Constitutionality of Race-Conscious Student Assignment Plans (S.E. Assn. L. Sch. Annual Meeting, Amelia Island, Fla., 2007).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Advancing Civil Rights Litigation in the Roberts Court Era (Reclaiming and Reframing the Dialogue on Race & Racism Symposium, Thelton E. Henderson Ctr. for Soc. Just., U. Cal. Berkeley Sch. L., 2007).
    • Lia Epperson, Moderator & Respondent, Roundtable on Women and the Legal Profession (Santa Clara U. Sch. L., Gender & L. Conf.: Examining Women’s Role in L. & the Leg. Sys., Santa Clara, Cal., 2007).
    • Lia Epperson, Moderator, The Impact of High Stakes Testing and Alternatives for Improving Student Achievement (Santa Clara U. L. Rev. Symposium 2007: The Future of High-Stakes Testing in an Era of Educ. Stand. & Accountability, Santa Clara, Cal., 2007).
    • Lia Epperson, Guest Lecturer, Constitutional Interpretations of Educational Equity in the Post-Grutter World (Monterey C. L., Monterey, Cal., 2006).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Awakening From the Dream: Reconsidering the Courts, Congress, and the Protection of the Rights of Belonging (L. & Socy. Annual Meeting, Balt., Md ., 2006).
    • Lia Epperson, Facilitator & Discussant, Supreme Court’s Erosion of Civil Rights Protections (Natl. Campaign to Restore Civ. Rights & the Equal Just. Socy., Berkeley, Cal., 2006).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Supreme Court Preview: A Discussion of the Court’s Upcoming Term (Santa Clara U. Sch. L., Santa Clara, Cal., 2006).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Social Justice and the Business of Law (8th Annual Trina Grillo Pub. Interest & Soc. Just. L. Retreat: Soc. Just.in a Transactional World, Santa Cruz, Cal., 2006).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Looking Back and Moving Forward: Commemorating the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Stan. L. Sch., Stan., Cal., 2005).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Historical Overview of Educational and Housing Inequalities in the United States (U. Rich. T. C. Williams Sch. L., Intl. Conf. on Human Rights & Inequality in Educ., Rich., Va., 2004).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Resisting Retreat: A Trench-Level View of the Struggle for Equity in Educational Opportunity in the Post-Brown Era (U. Pitt. Sch. L., Brown v. Bd. of Educ. 50th Anniversary Symposium, Pitt., Pa ., 2004).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Diversity and Access through the Looking Glass: University of Michigan, the Supreme Court, and Implications for Graduate Schools (Conf. of So. Graduate Sch./Council of Historically Black Graduate Sch., Annual Jt. Sess., Charlotte, N. C., 2004).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Recent Supreme Court Decisions Provide New Energies for Diversity Strategies (Am. Dental Educ. Assn., 81st Annual Sess., Seattle, Wash., 2004).
    • Lia Epperson, Guest Lecturer, Supreme Court Jurisprudence of the 1990s and the Re-Segregation of American Public Education (Geo. U. L. Ctr., Educ. L. & Policy Class, D.C., 2004).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, Special Session on Affirmative Action (U. Md., Inst. on Implementation & Institutionalization, Greenbelt, Md., 2003).
    • Lia Epperson, Guest Lecturer, Accountability and the Pursuit of Equal Education (N. J. Dept. of Educ., Trenton, N. J., 2003).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Affirmative Action Town Hall Meeting (NAACP 94th Annual Natl. Conv., Miami, Fla., 2003).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, The Future of Race: Affirming the Playing Field (Cong. Black Caucus Found., Inc., Annual Legis. Conf., D.C., 2003).
    • Lia Epperson, Panelist, Affirmative Action under Attack: Where Do We Go From Here? (Natl. Coalition on Black Civic Participation, 3rd Annual Black Youth Vote Leadership Conf., D.C., 2003).
    • Lia Epperson, Presenter, A Progressive Future for School Choice (Yale L. Sch., Am. Const. Socy. Panel Discussion, New Haven, Conn., 2003).
    • Lia Epperson, Keynote Address, Impact of Recent Supreme Court Decisions on Minority Serving Institutions (Alliance for Eq. in Higher Educ., Kellogg Minority-Serving Instn. Leadership Fellows Summit, D.C., 2003).
    • Lia Epperson, Guest Lecturer, Education and the Constitution (Am. U. Wash. C. L., D.C., 2003).
  • + Selected Media Appearances

    • CNN Newsroom, "Legal Commentary on Supreme Court Voting Rights Act Decision" (CNN June 25, 2013) (Interview).
    • CNN Newsroom, "Legal Commentary on Supreme Court Affirmative Action Decision" (CNN June 24, 2013) (Interview).
    • Reaffirming the Role of School Integration in Public Education Policy (C-SPAN Nov. 16, 2009) (Interview).
    • Debating the First Latina Supreme Court Nominee (National Public Radio May 27. 2009) (Interview onTell Me More).
    • Ricci v. DeStefano: The Supreme Court Considers Equal Opportunity in Public Employment (C-SPAN Apr. 14, 2009) (Am. Const. Socy. Press Briefing).