Beth A. Colgan

Professor of Law

  • B.A. Stanford University, 1995
  • J.D. Northwestern University School of Law, 2000
  • UCLA Faculty Since 2014

Beth Colgan is a Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law.  Her primary research and teaching interests are in criminal law and procedure and juvenile justice.  Prior to joining the Law School, she was a Thomas C. Grey Fellow and Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. Colgan served as vice dean for faculty and intellectual life from 2021 to 2023.

Professor Colgan is one of the country’s leading experts on constitutional and policy issues related to the use of economic sanctions as punishment and particularly on the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause. In addition to her interest in the intersection between criminal legal systems and poverty, Professor Colgan’s research also investigates the treatment of juveniles in juvenile and adult criminal contexts and indigent defense representation. Her recent scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in the California Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Iowa Law Review, New York Law Review Online, UCLA Law Review, Vanderbilt  Law Review, William and Mary Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal Forum, among others. Professor Colgan received the Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching (2019) and the 2019 graduating class selected her as Professor of the Year.

Professor Colgan earned her B.A. from Stanford University and her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law.  After law school, she worked as an associate for Perkins Coie LLP (2000-05), litigating a variety of matters in federal and state court and engaging in extensive pro bono work focusing primarily on access to competent indigent defense counsel and post-conviction representation of juveniles tried in adult criminal courts.  From 2006-2011, Professor Colgan served as the Managing Attorney of the Institutions Project at Columbia Legal Services, representing juveniles and adults confined in prisons, jails, and mental health facilities in civil rights litigation, collateral appeals, and legislative advocacy. Professor Colgan has been recognized for her work, including as the recipient of the Washington State Bar Association Thomas Neville Pro Bono Award, the Northwestern University Children & Family Justice Center Alumni Award, and the Stanford Law School Pro Bono Distinction Award. She continues to serve as a consultant on issues related to punishment, juvenile justice, and access to counsel.


  • Articles And Chapters
    • The Failed Promise of Installment Fines, 172 U. Pa. L. Rev. 989 (2024). Full Text
    • Revenue, Race, and the Potential Unintended Consequences of Traffic Enforcement Reform, 101 NCLR 889 (2023). Full Text
    • Illegality in a World of Predation, 98 NYULRON 246. Full Text
    • The Burdens of the Excessive Fines Clause, 63 William and Mary Law Review 407 (2021).
    • Revisiting Hate Crimes Enhancements in the Shadow of Mass Incarceration (with Shirin Sinnar), 95 NYU Law Review Online 149 (2020). Full Text
    • Beyond Graduation: Economic Sanctions and Structural Reform, 69 Duke Law Journal 1529 (2020). Full Text
    • Economic Liberty and Equal Justice, 43 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 31 (2020). Full Text
    • Financial Hardship and the Excessive Fines Clause: Assessing the Severity of Property Forfeitures After Timbs (with Nicholas M. McLean), 129 Yale Law Journal Forum 430 (2020). Full Text
    • Wealth-Based Penal Disenfranchisement, 72 Vanderbilt Law Review 55 (2019). Full Text
    • The Excessive Fines Clause: Challenging the Modern Debtors' Prison, 65 UCLA Law Review 2 (2018). Full Text
    • Graduating Economic Sanctions According to Ability to Pay, 103 Iowa Law Review 53 (2017).
    • Fines, Fees, and Forfeitures, in Academy For Justice: A Report on Scholarship and Criminal Justice Reform (Erik Luna, ed., 2017). Full Text
    • Lessons from Ferguson on Individual Defense Representation as a Tool of Systemic Reform, 58 William and Mary Law Review 1171 (2017). Full Text
    • Paying for Gideon, 99 Iowa Law Review 1929 (2014). Full Text
    • Reviving the Excessive Fines Clause, 102 (2) California Law Review 277 (2014). Full Text
    • Alleyne v. United States, Age as an Element, and the Retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama, 61 UCLA Law Review Discourse 262 (2013). Full Text
    • Constitutional Line Drawing at the Intersection of Childhood and Crime, 9 Stanford Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Journal 79 (2013). Full Text
    • Public Health and Safety Consequences of Denying Access to Justice for Victims of Prison Staff Sexual Misconduct, 18 UCLA Women's Law Journal 195 (2012). Full Text
    • Justice Deserts: Spatial Inequality and Local Funding of Indigent Defense (with Lisa R. Pruitt), 52 Arizona Law Review 219 (2010). Full Text
    • The Presidential Politics of Prisoner Reentry Reform, 20 Federal Sentencing Reporter 110 (2007). Full Text
    • Teaching a Prisoner to Fish: Getting Tough on Crime by Preparing Prisoners to Reenter Society, 5 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 219 (2006). Full Text
    • Tales from the Juvenile Confession Front: A Guide to How Standard Police Interrogation Tactics Can Produce Coerced and False Confessions from Juvenile Suspects (with Steven A. Drizin), in Perspectives in Law & Psychology #20: Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment, 127 (edited by G. Daniel Lassiter, Springer, 2004).
    • Street Children in Tanzania: Effects of Economy and Education (with Daniella Mayer, et al), 20 Children's Legal Rights Journal 2 (2000-2001).
    • Let the Cameras Roll: Mandatory Videotaping of Interrogations Is the Solution to Illinois’ Problem of False Confessions (with Steven A. Drizin), 32 Loyola University Chicago Law Journal 337 (2001).
  • Other Publications
    • Honoring My Teachers, 67 UCLA Law Review Discourse 122 (2019). Full Text
    • A Just Alternative to Sentencing Youth to Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole (with Jody Kent), American Constitution Society Advance (2010).
    • A Reexamination of Youth Involvement in the Adult Criminal Justice System in Washington: Implications of New Findings About Juvenile Recidivism and Adolescent Brain Development (2009).
    • New Study Reveals Collateral Consequences of, and Disparities in, the Assessment of Legal Financial Obligations, Washington Criminal Defense (Feb. 2009).
    • Treating Juveniles as Adults and Life Without Parole Sentences for Juveniles: Where Do We Go From Here?, Washington St. Bar Association Course Book (2008).
    • A Well-Grounded Fear: Civil Reform of Criminal Justice, 41 Clearinghouse Review 232 (2007).
    • Prisoner Reentry Reform Takes Spotlight in 2007 Legislature (with Bruce Neas), 21 Washington Criminal Defense (Aug. 2007).
    • Making Gideon Real: Washington Counties and the Duty to Provide Effective Assistance of Counsel (with David F. Taylor & Donald B. Scaramastra), Washington St. Bar News (Feb. 2007).