Sunita Patel

Assistant Professor of Law
Faculty Director, UCLA Veterans Legal Clinic

  • J.D. American University Washington College of Law
  • B.A. Tulane University
  • UCLA Faculty Since 2017

Sunita Patel is an Assistant Professor of Law and the founding Faculty Director of the UCLA Veterans Legal Clinic. Her current scholarship examines the intersection of policing and institutions of care and learning. More generally, her research and teaching interests lie in policing, social movements, race, and inequality.

Professor Patel received the UCLA Community and Service Praxis Award in 2022—an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion honor for faculty with innovative community focused approaches to teaching, service, and scholarship. Under Professor Patel’s leadership, the UCLA Veteran’s Legal Clinic staff and students has supported hundreds of former service members receive disability benefits, remove fines and fees connected to quality of life citations, and obtain housing assistance.

Since joining UCLA, Professor Patel has been a core faculty member for the Critical Race Studies program and Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. Professor Patel is also an affiliated faculty member of the UCLA Law School Promise Institute for Human Rights and the Criminal Justice Program. She is the faculty advisor to the South Asian Law Students Association and UCLA Disability Law Journal. In addition, Professor Patel served on the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools Civil Rights Section from 2020 to 2021.

Prior to joining UCLA, Professor Patel held clinical teaching positions at American University Washington College of Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. An experienced litigator, she has appeared before administrative bodies; state, federal, and appellate courts; and human rights tribunals. Professor Patel’s litigation experience includes cases involving racial and ethnic profiling, criminal justice reform, immigration detention and immigration enforcement, open records challenges, and matters involving prison conditions. Professor Patel has also provided legal counsel to numerous grassroots social justice organizations in the United States and globally.

Professor Patel served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Ivan L. R. Lemelle in the Eastern District of Louisiana and was previously awarded a prestigious Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship. Professor Patel graduated from law school magma cum laude (order of the coif).

Professor Patel’s publications include:

  • Transinstitutional Policing, 136 Harv. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming) (selected for the Yale/Harvard/Stanford Juniors Workshop)
  • Embedded Healthcare Policing, 69 UCLA L. Rev. 808 (2022)
  • Jumping Hurdles to Sue Police, 104 Minn. L. Rev. 2257 (2020) (awarded the AALS Civil Rights Section Junior Scholar recognition and reprinted in Vol. 37 of the Civil Rights Litigation and Attorney’s Fees Handbook)
  • Toward Democratic Police Reform, 51 Wake For. L. Rev. 793 (2017)

Students are welcome to meet with Professor Patel to discuss topics from legal theory to career opportunities. She has counseled students on how to launch a public interest legal career, as well as how to most effectively pursue fellowship opportunities and judicial clerkships.


  • Articles
    • Transinstitutional Policing, 137 Harv. L. Rev. 808 (2024). Full Text
    • Embedded Healthcare Policing, 69 UCLA L. Rev. 808 (2022). Full Text
    • Jumping Hurdles to Sue the Police, 104 Minnesota Law Review 2257 (2020). Full Text
    • Toward Democratic Police Reform: A Vision for Community Engagement Provisions in DOJ Consent Degrees, 51 Wake Forest Law Review 793 (2016). Full Text
    • Performative Aspects of Race: “South Asian, Arab, and Muslim” Racial Formation After September 11, 10 UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal 61 (2005). Full Text