Professor Jessica Shoemaker

Jessica A. Shoemaker Steinhart Foundation Distinguished Professor of Law

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Jessica Shoemaker joined the law faculty in 2012 and is currently Professor of Law at the University of Nebraska College of Law. She has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her work on adaptive change in pluralistic land-tenure systems, as well as property law’s power to shape the contours of human communities and natural environments. Her work focuses specifically on issues of racial justice and agricultural sustainability in the American countryside and on systems of Indigenous land tenure and land governance in the United States and Canada. Her most recent law-review articles, including Re-Placing Property, Fee Simple Failures: Rural Landscapes and Race, and Transforming Property: Reclaiming Modern Indigenous Land Tenures, have been placed in top journals, including the University of Chicago Law Review, Michigan Law Review and the California Law Review.  Her work has been reviewed four times in JOTWELL, an online journal that highlights important and notable recent legal scholarship, and she is cited widely by interdisciplinary and international scholars. 

Beginning in Fall 2021, Professor Shoemaker has been awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to analyze how property law has shaped who owns agricultural land in America and why, as well as what might come next. From 2018-2019, she also served as the Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Legal and Resource Rights at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law in Edmonton, Alberta.

Prior to becoming a legal scholar, Professor Shoemaker worked as an agricultural writer, a VISTA volunteer, a rural community outreach worker, and a public-interest attorney for diverse, smallholder farmers across the United States as a Skadden Fellow with Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. During her Skadden Fellowship, Professor Shoemaker focused particularly on access and equity issues for BIPOC farmers and ranchers and on strategies for community ownership of new renewable energy developments. Professor Shoemaker also clerked for the Honorable David M. Ebel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and has experience interning for both the Crow Nation Court of Appeals and Indian Probate Judge George Tah-Bone with the Department of the Interior, helping with federal probate proceedings across reservations in North and South Dakota. As a practicing litigator for five years at Arnold & Porter LLP in Denver, Colorado, Professor Shoemaker has also worked on all aspects of complex litigation in several different courts, including amicus work before the United States Supreme Court and significant roles in several important cases involving Indigenous land and religious rights. Professor Shoemaker graduated first in her class from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

At Nebraska, Professor Shoemaker teaches Property I and II, Native American Law, Wills and Trusts, and a seminar in rural development and energy law. She has supervised numerous law student externships, including student opportunities with tribal governments and the Center for Rural Affairs. She also advises the College’s Equal Justice Society.

She is a Founding Fellow of the Rural Futures Institute, a Fellow and former Governor of the Center for Great Plains Studies, and the current Program Chair for the Association of Law, Property, and Society. A product of a chore farm in Iowa and generations of Wisconsin farmers who grew everything from strawberries to ginseng, she is also currently working to establish and co-direct The Rural Reconciliation Project at the University of Nebraska.

Watch how Professor Shoemaker is defining a rural landscape through property law. 


Native American Law Law 796/G (3 cr hr)
Investigation of the federal statutory, decisional, and constitutional law that shapes the interactions of Indian tribes, the states, and the federal government. The course includes an overview of the history of federal Indian policy and emphasizes the unique legal principles that inform the modern federal trust responsibility, tribal sovereignty, and complex civil and criminal jurisdictional issues that arise in Indian Country. Current topics including tribal water rights, tribal justice systems, reservation economic development, and tribal religious rights will also be addressed. Students who have previously taken Native American Law Seminar (Law 797) may not enroll in this course.

Property I & II Law 505/G & 506/G (6 cr hr; 3 each semester)
Depending upon the section, the course may include problems in possession, gifts of personal property, bona fide purchasers of personal property including recording and priorities, estates in land, landlord and tenant, the modern land transaction, controlling the use of land, easements, licenses and equitable servitudes and constitutional limitations on the power of government to restrict individual economic liberties.

Rural Development & Energy Law Seminar Law 706 (3 cr hr)
This course will cover specific laws and regulations, as well as business and policy considerations, that inform efforts to develop rural infrastructure, stimulate jobs, establish community-based financial and non-profit institutions, and encourage rural entrepreneurship. Particular emphasis will be placed on how energy law and policy may be shaping the rural future. This course will also include a comparative element, with literature from the Law and Development movement, international development, and the affordable housing and urban renewal contexts considered in conjunction with current rural development concerns.

Selected Topics in Property and Natural Resources Law Law 779/G (3 cr)
This seminar covers advanced topics in property and natural resources law. Students will consider legal and interdisciplinary approaches to solving some of our most pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges. Representative topics, subject to instructor discretion, will consider how property and natural resource laws relate to modern food systems, energy infrastructure, housing provision, climate change, public land access and management, and further issues of environmental, economic, and racial justice. Students will complete a significant writing requirement. In Spring 2023, the seminar topic was Agriculture, Race and Connections to Place (description at

Wills and Trusts Law 639/G (3 cr hr)
Intestate succession and related matters, execution of wills, revocation of wills, problems created by the time gap in wills, limitations on the power to devise, construction of wills (mistake and ambiguity), "living wills", durable powers of attorney, health care directives, the elements of trust, formalities in the creation of a trust, the interest of the beneficiary, charitable trusts and problems of trust administration.


Re-Placing Property,  90 U. Chi. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2024). [Reviewed in Ann E. Tweedy, Reorienting American Real Property to its Egalitarian Goals, JOTWELL: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots) (December 13, 2023)]

Land Reform in the Fifth World,  52 Sw. L. Rev. 239 (2023) (symposium).

The Truth About Property,  120 Mich. L. Rev. 1143 (2022).

Fee Simple Failures: Rural Landscapes and Race,   119 Mich. L. Rev. 1695 (2021). [Reviewed in Sarah Schindler, Rethinking the Fee Simple in Rural America, JOTWELL: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots) (October 21, 2021)]

Embracing Disruption and Other Lessons from Canada,  The Regulatory Review (Mar 29, 2021).

Pipelines, Protest, and Property,  Great Plains Research, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 69-81 (Article, Invited Essay) (2017).

Complexity’s Shadow: American Indian Property, Sovereignty, and the Future,  115 Mich. L. Rev. 487 (2017) [Reviewed in Ezra Rosser, Land Tenure Complications and Development Challenges on Indian Reservations, JOTWELL: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots) (March 9, 2017)][also Reviewed in Shelby D. Green, Teaching Property Through Indian Land Law, JOTWELL: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots) (January 22, 2018)]

Emulsified Property,  43 Pepp. L. Rev. 945 (2016) [Noted in Donald Kochan, Keeping Current—Property, 30 Probate & Property 26 (2016)]

Called to Justice: The Life of a Federal Trial Judge,  Great Plains Research vol. 4, no. 2 (2014)


Farmers’ Guide to Wind Energy: Legal Issues in Farming the Wind, (FLAG, 2007)

Community Wind: A Review of Select State and Federal Policy Incentives, (FLAG, 2007)

Book Chapters

Papering Over Place: When Land Becomes Asset Class in RESEARCH AGENDA IN PROPERTY LAW (Edward Elgar) (Bram Akkermans, ed.) (forthcoming 2024).

Property Rights and Power Across Rural Landscapes, in Handbook of Property, Law, and Society (Margaret Davies, Lee Godden, and Nicole Graham eds., Routledge Press 2022). Co-authored by Nicole G. Graham.

The Challenges of American Indian Land Tenure and the Vastness of Entrepreneurial Potential, in Private Sector Economies for Native America: Entrepreneurship for the Seventh Generation (Robert Miller, Miriam Jorgensen, & Dan Stewart, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2019)


Food, Land and Water in Iowa and Nebraska presented at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Great Plains Center Symposium: Plant to Table (April 20, 2023) (co-presented by Professor Anthony Schutz)

Property and Place: Calibrating Commodification, presented at the American Association of Geographer's Annual Meeting as part of a session on Geographies of Real Property Across the Urban/Rural Divide (March 23, 2023)

Re-Placing Property, presented at faculty workshop at Washington University Law School in St. Louis (February 22, 2023)

Hot Topics in Indian Law Symposium, panelist on Tribal Sovereignty and Economic Development in Indian Country at the University of Idaho College of Law (February 17, 2023)

Transforming Property: Reclaiming a Modern Indigenous Land Tenure, Rural Sociology Society Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon (July 27, 2018)

Transformational Property: Reclaiming a Modern Indigenous Land Tenure, Real Property Law Schmooze: Bridging the Urban Versus Rural Divide Invitation-Only Faculty Workshop, Texas A&M University School of Law, Fort Worth, Texas (February 3, 2018) (invited)

Transformational Property: Consistency vs. Flexibility in American Indian Land Tenure, Legal Reforms for Indigenous Economic Growth Workshop, University of Saskatoon College of Law, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (October 20, 2017) (invited)

Pipelines, Protest, and Property, Southeastern Association of Law Schools Annual Conference, Boca Raton, Florida (August 1, 2017)

Transforming Property: Pipelines, Protest, and Community-Driven Change, presented at Association for Law, Property, and Society Annual Meeting at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan (May 20, 2017)

The Public Parts of Private Property, presentation at the Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska (February 6, 2017) (invited)

Economic Justice and American Indian Property Law, presentation at inaugural Shaping Justice Conference at University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia (February 3, 2017) (invited)

Farm Land Tenure: Development Challenges and Opportunities in Indian Country, presentation at the Association of American Law Schools Agriculture and Food Law Section meeting in San Francisco, California (January 6, 2017) (invited)

Property, Community, & Justice, presented as S.T.I.R. Talk at University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln, Nebraska (October 4, 2016).

Native Lands and the Law, presented at the Pawnee Art Center in Dannebrog, Nebraska (September 18, 2016) (public lecture, invited)

Creating Sustainable Futures Through Food and Agriculture, presented at the Indian Land Working Group Symposium at Oneida Nation, Green Bay, Wisconsin (August 15-16, 2016) (with Janie Simms Hipp) (invited)

Transformational Property, presented at Association for Law, Property, and Society Annual Meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland (May 21, 2016)

Complexity's Shadow: American Indian Property, Sovereignty, and the Future, presented at the American Society of International Law's Rights of Indigenous Peoples Interest Group Works-In-Progress Workshop at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey (May 12, 2016) (invited)

American Indian Land Tenure and the Path Ahead, presented at Just Food? Forum on Land Use, Rights, and Ecology at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts (March 26, 2016) (selected after proposal submission)

Beyond Consolidation: Rethinking Property and Sovereignty in Indian Country, presented at Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Center and University of Arizona's 4th Annual Tribal Lands Conference in Tucson, Arizona (January 15, 2016) (invited)

The Complexity Problem in American Indian Land Tenure, presented at the Association of American Law Schools Property Section Breakfast in New York City, New York (January 7, 2016)

The Complexity Problem in American Indian Law Tenure, faculty colloquium presented at the University of South Dakota College of Law in Vermillion, South Dakota (November 18, 2015)

Private Property, Access, and Justice, presented at Sheldon Art Museum Law + Social Justice Event in Lincoln, Nebraska (October 27, 2015)

Discovering the Future: Charting the Rural Research Path, presented at Rural Futures Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska (October 23, 2015) (panelist and session co-organizer)

The Public Parts of Private Property: Community Engagement and Rural Design, presented as Envision Rural Talk at Rural Futures Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska (October 22, 2015)

Returning Lands for Repatriation and Cultural Empowerment, moderator and session leader, 2015 Great Plains Symposium: Standing Bear and the Trail Ahead, co-hosted by the Center for Great Plains Studies and the Nebraska Indian Affairs Commission (May 2015) (invited)

In Shadow of Complexity: American Indian Property and Justice, Association for Law, Property, and Society Annual Meeting (May 2015)

Reflections on Transdisciplinary Research, Transdisciplinary Conversation co-hosted by University of Nebraska Rural Futures Institute and Robert B. Daughtery Water for Food Institute (April 2015) (invited)

Indigenous Land Tenure and Emulsified Property, Birmingham City University (April 2015) (invited)

Lessons on Public Engagement in U.S. Land Use Planning and Applications of the Plainsopoly Simulation Tool, presented at two international, transdisciplinary workshops in Birmingham, England, and Aberystwyth, Wales (April 2015) (invited, funded grant project)

Emulsified Property, Washington University School of Law Junior Faculty Workshop (December 2014)

Urban Growth - Rural Resilience, panel moderator and plenary session leader, 2014 Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance Summit (November 2014)

Emulsified Property, Central States Law Schools Association Annual Meeting (October 2014)

The Land Tenure We Inhabit, Association for Law, Property, and Society Annual Meeting (May 2014)

Governing the Land: Maximizing Rural Places Locally and Globally, panel moderator and session organizer, 2013 Rural Futures Conference (November 2014)

No Sticks in My Bundle: Rethinking the Indian Law Tenure Problem, Junior Faculty Works-in-Progress Workshop, University of Marquette College of Law (September 2014)

Emulsified Property, Tulane Law School and Tulane University Murphy Institute Property Roundtable: Regulating Private and Public Property (March 2014)(one of eight invited scholars)

No Sticks in My Bundle: The Indian Law Tenure Problem, S.T.I.R. Talk, University of Nebraska College of Law (March 2013)

Diversity Leadership Symposium, panelist, University of Nebraska College of Law (November 2012)

Preventing Heir Property Loss, presented at annual meeting of Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation in Brinkley, Arkansas (November 2006) (invited speaker)

Native Strategic Land Planning: Update on Indian Land Consolidation Act Amendments of 2000 and the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004, presented at Indian Land Working Group’s 16th Annual Indian Land Consolidation Symposium in Cabazon, California (October 2006) (invited speaker)

AIPRA Consolidation Options, presented at Indian Land Working Group’s 16th Annual Indian Land Consolidation Symposium in Cabazon, California (October 2006) (invited speaker)

Farm and Ranch Issues in Indian Country, presented at This is Not Your Grandpa’s Farm Law, continuing legal education seminar in Saint Paul, Minnesota (June 2006) (invited speaker)

Federal Disaster Assistance for Farmers and Rural Landowners following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, presented at grassroots meetings in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana coordinated by Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Rural Advancement Foundation International, and Farm Aid (October 2005 to February 2006) (invited speaker)

Probate Reform and the Problem of Indian Land Ownership, presented at Who Owns America? VI, national conference at the University of Wisconsin (May 2004) (invited speaker)

Book Review, Indigenous Economics: Sustaining Peoples and Their Lands by Ronald L. Trosper, in WESTERN HISTORY QUARTERLY Vol. 2, No. 2 (2023).
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Rural and Racialized: How Property Law Perpetuates Racial Disparities, The LAW AND POLITICAL ECONOMY PROJECT (LPE BLOG) (2023) (with Emily Prifogle) (part of LPE and Rural America online symposium).
Friday, September 22, 2023

Distinguished Faculty Award  University of Nebraska College of Law, 2023


Maximizing the Impact of Games as Effective Participative Tools: The Rufopoly Resource Kit  Economic Social Resource Council, Knowledge Exchange Opportunities Grant (2014)


J.D., summa cum laude, 2004, University of Wisconsin Law School
B.A., summa cum laude, 1999, University of Iowa

Areas of Expertise


Professor of Law, 2020
Associate Professor of Law, 2017
Assistant Professor of Law, 2012