Paula M. Mitchell

Executive Director Alarcón Advocacy Center

Executive Director Alarcón Advocacy Center & Legal Director Loyola Project for the  Innocent, Adjunct Professor BA, cum laude, University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA, The London School of Economics & Political Science JD, Loyola Law School


In August 2015, Paula Mitchell ’02 joined Loyola Law School as the Executive Director of the Alarcón Advocacy Center and Legal Director of its Project for the Innocent.  Prior to joining Loyola full-time, Professor Mitchell taught Habeas Corpus and Prisoner Civil Rights Litigation as an adjunct professor.  Professor Mitchell has also taught overseas on the topics of federalism, judicial review, restorative justice, the death penalty worldwide, most recently as the distinguished visiting professor at KIIT University School of Law, Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, India.  

She has written and lectured extensively on the subject of the death penalty in California.  She co-authored with former Senior Ninth Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcón two groundbreaking articles,  Executing the Will of the Voters?: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion Dollar Death Penalty Debacle, 44 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. S41 (2011), and Costs of Capital Punishment in California: Will Voters Choose Reform this November?, 46 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. S1 (2012). 

Professor Mitchell served as Judge Alarcón’s judicial law clerk for six years, during which time she traveled extensively with him as he visited other federal circuits across the country by designation and assisted him in resolving over 500 federal appeals.  Professor Mitchell’s scholarship, with Judge Alarcón’s collaboration, is credited with prompting a voter initiative to repeal the death penalty in California, a measure that was narrowly defeated in the November 2012 election. 

Paula is Vice Chair of the State Bar of California, Committee on Appellate Courts and hold seats on several boards, including the California Appellate Project, the Women Lawyers of Los Angeles Foundation Board, and the board of Death Penalty Focus.  She is admitted to practice in New York, California, and the District of Columbia and is admitted to numerous courts, including several federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Professor Mitchell has practiced in major law firms in New York and Los Angeles focusing on high-stakes litigation and appeals, in both federal and state courts.

Selected Scholarship

Crime, Culture & Rape: A Comparative Analysis of How the Crime of Rape is Investigated, Charged and Prosecuted in India & California (publication pending)

Frivolity & The Death Penalty, November 9, 2015. (cited by SCOTUSblog at

Of Bottlenecks and Tipping Points:  The Fundamental Problems With California's Death Penalty System Are Now Before The Ninth Circuit, Aug 28, 2015 

Curious Clerks and the Case of the Yellow Hat, California Litigation, Vol. 28, No. 2 (2015)

A Practitioner’s Guide to Appellate Advocacy, Chap. 17, Ninth Circuit Variations, ABA Section of Litigation (publication pending).

Book Review.  Murder at the Supreme Court: Lethal Crimes and Landmark Cases, by Martin Clancy and Tim O’Brien. Federal Lawyer, Vol. 62 Issue Six, March 2014.

California’s Death Penalty: A Year in Review, Verdict, November 18, 2013

The Weight of Capital Punishment on Jurors, Justices, Governors, & Executioners, Verdict, October 25, 2013

Are Trial Courts Even-Handed in Excusing Jurors Based on their Views on the Death Penalty? Verdict, October 9, 2013

Ripe for Resolution: Ending Taxpayer Expenditures on Pointless Litigation, Verdict, September 24, 2013

California Voters’ Shifting Views on the Death Penalty, Verdict, September 11, 2013

Book Review.  Life Without Parole: America’s New Death Penalty?, edited by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., and Austin Sarat. Federal Lawyer, Vol. 60, Issue Six, with Tara Lundstrom, July 2013.

An Educated Electorate:  Essential to a Robust Democracy, Verdict, October 1, 2012

Costs of Capital Punishment in California; Will Voters Choose Reform This November? 46 LOY. L.A. L. Rev. S1 (2012).  

Executing the Will of the Voters?: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion Dollar Death Penalty Debacle, 44 LOY. L.A. L.Rev. S41 (2011)

Professor Mitchell was also instrumental in compiling and analyzing data which provided the foundation for Remedies for California’s Death Row Deadlock, 80 U.S.C. L. Rev. 697 (2007), and A Prescription for California’s Ailing Inmate Treatment System: An Independent Corrections Ombudsman, 58 Hastings L.J. 591 (2007), other articles authored by Judge Alarcón.

In the News

Professor Mitchell is featured in major media outlets including New York Times, L.A. Times, The Atlantic, CNN Money, BBC World Service Radio, BBC News Magazine, KCRW Which Way LA?, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian.  She has contributed opinion pieces to Justia’s Verdict, Case Text, and the Daily Journal.

Public Service

Brief Amicus Curiae of Public Counsel, Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent, and Death Penalty Focus Bishop v. Humphrey (U.S. June 6, 2014) (No. 13-1345)

Brief Amicus Curiae of Members of Congress Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Farr (D-CA), United States v. Charles Lynch (Ninth Cir. May 5, 2015) (No. 10-50219, 10-50264)

Brief Amicus Curiae of Loyola Law School, Alarcon Advocacy Center, Jones v. Davis (Ninth Cir. March 6, 2015) (No. 14-56373)

Testimony Before the Assemb. Appropriations Comm., Death Penalty: Hearing on SB 490, 2011 Leg., 2011–12 Sess. (Cal. 2011), August 17, 2011.