Pamela R. Metzger

Headshot of Pamela R. Metzger, faculty member at SMU Dedman School of Law.

Executive Director of the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center and Professor of Law

Full-time faculty


Pamela Metzger is the Executive Director of the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law. She is a nationally recognized expert on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, public defense, and criminal legal ethics, and her research focuses on combining theory and practice to improve our criminal legal system.

Professor Metzger came to SMU in 2017 from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans, where she taught for 16 years. From 2001 to 2008 she directed Tulane’s Criminal Litigation Clinic, becoming a leading voice in reforming the criminal justice system in Louisiana. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, she fought tirelessly to help 8,000 indigent defendants left incarcerated without legal representation.

Professor Metzger oversees the Deason Center’s independent research on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, criminal legal systems in small, tribal, and rural (STAR) communities, prosecutorial discretion, and early-stage criminal procedure. She has helped secure millions of dollars in funding for the Deason Center to conduct innovative research and amplify compelling stories that promote criminal legal reform.

Professor Metzger’s work has appeared in publications such as the Yale Law Journal, George Washington Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, and Southern California Law Review, and has been cited by leading authorities and by the United States Supreme Court.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth and her J.D. from New York University School of Law, Professor Metzger served as an Assistant Federal Defender in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and worked in private criminal practice in New York City. She was also a visiting law professor at Washington and Lee University, where she directed the Alderson Legal Clinic for Women in Prison.

Area of expertise

  • Criminal Law
  • Family Law


B.A., Dartmouth College
J.D.,  cum laude, New York University School of Law


Professional Responsibility
Criminal Law
Criminal Justice Policy Practicum (EL)





Constitutional Outcomes as Measure of Quality in Indigent Defense Systems (in progress)

An Empirical Comparison of Outcomes in Vertical and Horizontal Public Defender Structures (research-in-progress with the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice; funded by The Laura and John Arnold Foundation)

Charging Time, 108 Iowa Law Review (forthcoming) (with Janet C. Hoeffel)
SSRN | SMU Repository 

Criminal (Dis)Appearance, 88 George Washington Law Review 392 (2020) (with Janet Hoeffel)
SSRN | SMU Repository

COVID-19 and the Ruralization of U.S. Criminal Court Systems, 2020 University of Chicago Law Review Online 70 (2020) (with Gregory J. Guggenmos)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Confrontation as a Rule of Production, 24 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 994 (2016)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Defending Data, 88 Southern California Law Review 1057 (2015) (with Andrew Ferguson)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Me and Mr. Jones: A Systems Approach to an Indigent Defense Catastrophe, 78 Albany Law Review 1261 (2015)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Fear of Adversariness: Using Gideon to Restrict Defendants’ Invocation of Adversary Procedures, 122 Yale Law Journal 2550 (2013)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Confrontation Control, 45 Texas Tech Law Review 83 (2012)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Doing Katrina Time, 81 Tulane Law Review 1175 (2007)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Cheating the Constitution, 59 Vanderbilt Law Review 475 (2006)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Beyond the Bright Line: A Contemporary Right To Counsel Doctrine, 97 Northwestern University Law Review 1635 (2003)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Other publications

How to Solve the Initial Appearance Crisis, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (May 2023) (with Malia N. Brink and Jiacheng Yu) (Report)
SMU Repository

Getting Gideon RightDeason Criminal Justice Reform Center (April 2022) (with Andrew L.B. Davies et al.) (Report)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Fewer, Not Fairer, The DALLAS ProjectDeason Criminal Justice Reform Center (November 2021) (with Victoria M. Smiegocki, et al.) (Report)
SMU Repository

Ending Injustice: Solving the Initial Appearance CrisisDeason Criminal Justice Reform Center (October 2021) (with Janet C. Hoeffel et al.) (Report)
SSRN | SMU Repository

Budding Change: Marijuana Prosecution Policies and Police Practices in Dallas County, 2019, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (July 2021) (with Victoria M. Smiegocki, et al.) (Report)
SMU Repository

The ABCs of Racial Disparity: Enforcement of Low-Level Drug Crimes in Dallas County in 2018, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (July 2021) (with Kristin Meeks, et al.) (Report)
SMU Repository

The Rural Texas Sheriff: A Study of Law Enforcement in Texas’s Rural Places Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (April 2021) (with Andrew L.B. Davies et al.) (Report)
SMU Repository

Greening the Desert: Strategies and Innovations to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (September 2020) (with Kristin Meeks, et al.) (Report)
SMU Repository

What This Law Prof Has Learned About Rural Justice, ABA Journal Online (February 2020)

Trustees’ Confidential Report Concerning Health Care Fraud: Investigation, Detection and Solutions (Report of internal investigation) (1999)

AIDS and the Federal Criminal Defendant, THE DEFENDER, Vol. XIII, No. 1, (1993)

A Beginner’s Guide To Feminist Theory, Senior Fellowship project, Dartmouth College (1987)