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Josephine (Jo) R. Potuto

Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law

232 LAW UNL 68583-0902
(402)472-1252 | Email

Areas of Expertise
  • Federal Jurisdiction
  • Sports Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • J.D., 1974, Rutgers University Law School; Editor in Chief, Rutgers Law Review; Order of the Barrister
  • M.A., English Literature, 1971, Seton Hall University
  • B.A., Journalism, 1967, Douglass College

Major Appointments

  • Assistant Professor of Law, 1974
  • Project Director and Co-Reporter, Model Sentencing and Corrections Act, National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, 1975-1978
  • Associate Professor of Law, 1978
  • Professor of Law, 1981
  • Reporter, Nebraska Criminal Jury Instructions, Nebraska Supreme Court Committee on Practice and Pattern Jury Instructions Committee on Practice and Procedure, 1985-1992
  • Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law, 1988
  • Faculty Athletics Representative, University of Nebraska, 1997
  • Cline Williams Research Chair, 2005-06


Professor Potuto joined the faculty in 1974. She currently teaches Federal Jurisdiction, Constitutional Law, Sports Law, and Criminal Procedure. She also maintains a special interest in Conflict of Laws and Appellate Advocacy and, among other courses, has taught Mass Communications, Civil Procedure, Contract and Criminal Law. In 2003 Potuto received the Nebraska Alumni Outstanding Faculty Award.

Professor Potuto is the author of three books – Prisoner Collateral Attacks: Habeas Corpus and Federal Prisoner Motion Practice; Winning Appeals; and Federal Criminal Jury Instructions (co-authored with Perlman and Saltzburg). She has authored numerous articles focused on issues in criminal procedure, federal jurisdiction, and intercollegiate athletics. She is a member of the American Law Institute, the Nebraska State Bar Foundation (and a recipient of its Shining Light Award), and the Douglass Society, the College's "highest honor for its most distinguished graduates." In Spring 2012, Potuto delivered the Chancellor's Distinguished Lecture. Selection as the Chancellor's Distinguished Lecturer is the "highest recognition the Research Council can bestow on an individual faculty member." Lectures are "high profile public events that celebrate significant achievements and contributions made by faculty."

Professor Potuto is a past member of the Federal Practice Committee of the Federal District Court, District of Nebraska; the Nebraska Crime Commission; and the Robert Van Pelt American Inns of Court (Master in the Brandeis Inn). She has been a visiting professor at the law colleges of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Oregon, Arizona, Seton Hall, Rutgers, and Cardozo. In 1994 she was a consultant to the Nebraska Racing Commission. She also has prosecuted criminal cases.

Professor Potuto is the Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the president of the 1A Faculty Athletics Representatives. She represents the University on NCAA committees and is a member of the governance groups of the Big Ten Conference. Professor Potuto is one of three FARs on the NCAA-wide Student-Athlete Affairs Group Advisory Committee. She served three terms on the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions (chair 2006-2008) and currently substitutes on the Committee when a current member is unable to sit. She also is one of two former members of the DI Infractions Committee on an NCAA project to make the NCAA enforcement/infractions processes more accessible to media representatives. Professor Potuto represented the Big 12 Conference on the Division I Management Council and also served on the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Championship Committee and the Region 5 Postgraduate Scholarship Committee. In 2002 she was named Outstanding Faculty Athletics Representative by the All-American Football Foundation. In Summer 2011 she was one of two FARs to participate in the NCAA Division I Presidential Retreat. In April 2011 Professor Potuto gave the keynote address and also was a presenter at the University of Washington's Executive Masters Program, Evans School of Public Affairs. In October 2011 she presented at the University of Maryland Law College focused on the issue of the legality of the Bowl Championship Series.

Professor Potuto has a B.A. in Journalism from Douglass College, an M.A. in English Literature from Seton Hall University, and a J.D. from the Rutgers University Law College where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Rutgers Law Review, Best Oralist in the Rutgers Intramural Moot Court Competition, and Captain of the Rutgers National Moot Court Team. She is licensed to practice in Nebraska and New Jersey and is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Federal Jurisdiction

Law 754/G (1-4 cr) Advanced study of United States constitutional law in the litigational context and focused on the power, history, and development of the federal judicial system and the distribution of power between the federal and state systems.

Sports Law

Law 694/G (1-4 cr) Selected legal issues affecting amateur and professional sports. May include applicability of antitrust, communications, contract, labor, and tax laws to professional sports; the ethical and professional aspects of player representation; the extra-governmental regulation of amateur athletics; and the internal organization of the professional sports leagues.

Constitutional Law I

Law 609/G (EDAD *870) (1-4 cr) Structure of the federal government, including the history and judicial interpretation of the Constitution, federalism, interstate commerce, due process, equal protection, and separation of powers.

Constitutional Law II

Law 732/G (EDAD *871) (1-4 cr) Emphasizes protected individual civil liberties. The origin and modern applicability of the state action concept in constitutional litigation; the scope of congressional power to enforce the post Civil War amendments; freedom of speech, association, and press; and constitutional principles enforcing the first amendment's command that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Criminal Procedure

Law 631/G (1-4 cr) Basic problems of criminal procedure with emphasis on the fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments to the United States Constitution and their impact on the criminal justice system.

Conflict of Laws

Law 642/G (1-4 cr) Legal and constitutional concepts involved in choosing the applicable law when the essential facts of a case are not confined to one state or national sovereignty.

Appellate Advocacy

Law 610/G (3 cr) Appellate practice and procedure; exploring the federal and Nebraska appellate practice, including the mechanics and timing of appeals, with emphasis on written and oral advocacy. Students draft appellate briefs, prepare other appeal-related documents, and participate in an oral argument.

Selected Journal Articles

  • The NCAA State Actor Controversy; Much Ado About Nothing, forthcoming, Marquette Sports Law Review
  • They Take Classes, Don't They?: Structuring A College Football Post Season, 7 Maryland Journal of Business & Technology Law 311 (2012)
  • If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It: An Examination of the NCAA Division I Infractions Committee's Composition and Decision-Making Process, 89 Neb. L. Rev. 101 (2011) (with Parkinson)
  • The NCAA Rules Adoption, Interpretation, Enforcement and Infractions Processes: The Laws that Regulate Them and the Scope of Court Review, 12 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law (2010)
  • The Federal Income Tax and Reform of College Athletics: Response to Professor Colombo and An Independent Critique, 2 Journal of Intercollegiate Sport (2010) (with Lyons)
  • National Study of Student-Athletes Regarding their Experiences as College Students, 41 College Student Journal 947 (2007) (with O'Hanlon)
  • Academic Misconduct, Academic Support Services, and the NCAA, 95 Ky.L.J. 447 (2007)
  • Constitutional Litigation, 78 Neb. L. Rev. 550 (1999)
  • Interstate Transfers of Water: State Options After Sporhase, 70 Neb. L. Rev. 754 (1991) (with Harnsberger and Thorson), republished by the National Agricultural Law center at 
  • The Federal Prisoner Collateral Attack: Requiescat in Pace, 1988 B.Y.U.L. Rev. 38
  • Stanley and Ferber = Constitutional Crime of At-Home Child Pornography Possession, 76 Ky. L.J. 15 (1988)
  • An Operational Plan for Realistic Prison Employment, 1980 Wis. L. Rev. 291
  • And Mussolini Had the Trains Running on Time: A Review of The Bad Check Offense and the Law Enforcement Debt Collector, 65 Neb. L. Rev. 242 (1986)
  • Prison Disciplinary Procedures and Judicial Review under the Nebraska Administrative Procedure Act, 61 Neb. L. Rev. 1 (1982)
  • A Model Proposal to Avoid Ex-offender Employment Discrimination, 41 Ohio State L.J. 77 (1980)
  • The Right of Prisoner Access: Does Bounds have Bounds?, 53 Inc. L.J. 207 (1978)


  • Winning Appeals (1992)
  • Federal Criminal Jury Instructions (2d ed. 1991)(with Perlman and Saltzberg) and 1993 Supplement
  • Prisoner Collateral Attacks: Federal Habeas corpus and Section 2255 Motions (1991) and 1992 and 1993 supplements