Federal Jurisdiction

Eric Berger

Eric Berger Earl Dunlap Distinguished Professor of Law

Professor Eric Berger joined the faculty in 2007. He received his B.A. with Honors in History from Brown University, and his J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a Kent Scholar and an Articles Editor on the Columbia Law Review. After law school, Professor Berger clerked for the Honorable Merrick B. Garland on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He then practiced in Jenner & Block's Washington, D.C. office, where he worked on litigation in several state and federal trial and appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Professor Berger's matters there included cases involving lethal injection, same-sex marriage, the detention of foreign nationals at Guantanamo Bay, and internet obscenity.

Professor Berger teaches Constitutional Law I (structure), Constitutional Law II (rights), Constitutional History, Federal Courts, First Amendment, and Statutory Interpretation. He also teaches a class for undergraduates on Legislation and Regulation. He has been voted Professor of the Year by the upperclass law students six times. He has also received the College Distinguished Teaching Award (in 2010), the Law Alumni Council Distinguished Faculty Award (in 2018), and the John H. Binning Award for Excellence (in 2019). 

Professor Berger's scholarship focuses on constitutional law.  Much of his work explores judicial decision making in constitutional cases, with special attention to deference, fact finding, rhetorical strategies, and other under-theorized factors that help shape judicial opinions in constitutional cases.  His article Individual Rights, Judicial Deference, and Administrative Law Norms in Constitutional Decision Making, 91 B.U. L. REV. 2029 (2011), was named the 2011 winner of the American Constitution Society's Richard D. Cudahy Writing Competition on Regulatory and Administrative Law.  Professor Berger has also written extensively about lethal injection litigation.   

Professor Berger has testified in the Nebraska legislature about a variety of constitutional issues, including free speech, lethal injection, and the process for amending the U.S. Constitution.  He is also the faculty advisor to the Law College's chapter of the American Constitution Society and to the Community Legal Education Project, which sends law students into Lincoln public schools to teach about the Constitution.

Professor Berger has also published two video lecture courses about constitutional law with Wondrium (also known as The Great Courses).  The first, Law School for Everyone: Constitutional Law (2019), is a twelve lecture course introducing some of the topics and questions students would encounter in an introductory class on constitutional law.  The second, The Constitution Through U.S. History (2022), is a twenty-four lecture course tracing the history of constitutional debate and thought in the United States from the founding to the present. 

Professor Berger served as Associate Dean for Faculty from 2016 to 2020.

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David Dirgo Adjunct Law Professor

David Dirgo is a Career Law Clerk at the Nebraska Supreme Court, U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska.

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Professor Danielle Jefferis

Danielle C. Jefferis Assistant Professor of Law

Professor Jefferis’s research focuses on theories of punishment and the law and policy governing prison and detention, with an emphasis on the for-profit prison industry and immigration-related confinement. She takes both critical and comparative approaches to her work, looking at carceral systems, practices, and theories around the world. Professor Jefferis has presented her research at Harvard Law School, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Denver College of Law, Loyola University School of Law, Louisiana State University Law, the Australian National University, London University, Amsterdam Law School, the University of Lisbon, and Leiden University, among others. She has provided expert commentary on prison and detention issues for national and international media outlets, including VICE, Mother Jones, and NowThis, and has been solicited as an amicus curiae for cases involving prison law and prisoners’ rights in courts around the country.

Professor Jefferis’s scholarship is informed by her unique teaching and practice experience, which lie at the intersection of constitutional law and prisoners’ rights, immigration law, and federal courts. She has extensive civil rights litigation experience and has represented plaintiffs in federal courts across the country, including in the United States Supreme Court. She has taken several cases to trial and successfully litigated numerous appeals. In 2018, she was a member of a team of clinic faculty and student attorneys that successfully challenged the constitutionality of a federal prisoner’s convictions, resulting in his release from prison. One of her most memorable moments as an attorney and teacher was witnessing her client reunite with his family after being separated from them for more than a decade. 

Prior to joining the Nebraska Law faculty, Professor Jefferis taught at California Western School of Law in San Diego and in the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Denver College of Law. Before entering academia, she was the Nadine Strossen Fellow with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project in New York and an associate attorney with a boutique civil rights firm in Colorado. Professor Jefferis also clerked for the now-retired Honorable Gale T. Miller of the Colorado Court of Appeals.

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Josephine (Jo) R. Potuto Richard H. Larson Professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus

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. She was the project director and a reporter for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) Model Sentencing and Corrections Act.  She was the reporter for the Nebraska Supreme Court project to create model jury instructions for cases.   She was an advisor on the NCCUSL Uniform Collegiate Agents Act.   She was a consultant and hearing officer for the Nebraska Racing Commission.

Professor Potuto is the Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the immediate past president of the 1A Faculty Athletics Representatives.  She currently serves on the 1A FAR executive committee. She represents the University on NCAA committees and is a member of the governance groups of the Big Ten Conference. Professor Potuto is the sole FAR serving on the NCAA Interpretations Committee.   She served three terms on the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions (chair 2006 to 2008). She is one of two members of the DI Infractions Committee who worked  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. Potuto  consults on sports issues and is a regular presenter on panels dealing with sports law issues, including at the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors, NCAA Regional Rules Seminars, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, and at, among others, law schools at Maryland, Marquette, LSU, Arizona State, Santa Clara, and Mississippi.  Potuto is on the editorial board of the Journal of NCAA Compliance.

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.

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