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About Michael Vitiello

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." — Theodore Roosevelt

Distinguished Professor of Law Michael Vitiello is a nationally-recognized expert on criminal law, sentencing policy, and marijuana law. His work on California's three-strikes law has been cited by the United States Supreme Court and the California Supreme Court. Since 2002, he has been a member of the American Law Institute, a prestigious independent organization committed to improving and modernizing law whose highly selective membership is comprised of the best legal minds in the country. Professor Vitiello is the author of 13 books and over 80 law review articles. In 2019, he and two co-authors from the University of Michigan published Cases and Material on Marijuana Law (West Academic Publishing 2019). One of his most recent book, Animating Civil Procedure, focuses on how the right wing of the Supreme Court has used procedural decisions to close the courthouse door on many prospective plaintiffs, thereby favoring corporate and other powerful interests over injured plaintiffs. His numerous articles on legalizing marijuana take a careful policy-oriented approach to that area of the law, insisting that, because legalization will occur, policy makers need to craft legislation to avoid undue social harm. His articles critical of California’s Three Strikes have been widely cited, including by two Supreme Court Justices in Ewing v. California.

Prior to entering the legal academy in 1977, Professor Vitiello served as a law clerk to a Pennsylvania appellate court judge for three years. Thereafter, he received tenure at Loyola Law School in New Orleans, before visiting at Tulane Law School and the University of Mississippi Law School. He joined the McGeorge faculty in 1990. During his career, he has taught over fifteen different courses, with a special emphasis on Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure and Marijuana Law. He has also created courses in a variety of comparative law areas, most notably using the Amanda Knox case to compare the Italian and American criminal justice systems, and has taught in international programs run by McGeorge in London and Salzburg. In 2007, he received a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant and taught at the University of Parma. During the spring of 2016, he taught a course at the University of Salzburg on "Why European clients want to avoid suit in US courts and how to avoid suit there." In the spring of 2017, he taught a seminar on marijuana and the law and from March through June of 2017, he taught a course on "Recent Developments in American Criminal Law" at the University of Parma.

In his forty-third year of teaching, he shows no signs of slowing down. Several years ago, he became the senior editor for a series of simulation books published by West Academic. That series, "The Bridge to Practice," allows professors to integrate skills training into traditional classrooms. He has published three books in that series, which he uses in his three main courses. He also organized several symposia for the McGeorge community, including symposia on legalizing marijuana, sex offenses, sentencing reform and the Warren Court. If he cannot be found in the classroom or in his office, students can find him in the gym, where they have trouble keeping up with his aerobic workouts. Since 1993, he has been a home-winemaker, often donating wine to various functions on campus.


2006 - Present Distinguished Professor of Law, University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
March 2017 - June 2017 Visiting Professor of Law, University of Parma
2008 - 2014 Director, Center for Advocacy and Dispute Resolution, University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
September 2007 - October 2007 Fulbright Senior Specialist, teaching Comparative Criminal Law, University of Parma
1990 - 2006 Professor of Law, University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
1977 - 1990 Professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago, Law School
August 1974 - July 1977 Judicial Clerk, The Honorable J. Sydney Hoffman, Superior Court of Pennsylvania
June 1973 - April 1974 Law Intern, for Martin Belsky, Chief of Adult Prosecutions, Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

Curriculum Vitae


Research Interests

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Professional Service and Affiliations

2010 - Present Member, American Bar Foundation
2002 - Present Member, American Law Institute
2007 - 2012 Senior Specialist, Fulbright Program
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  • Advanced Criminal Procedure
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Comparative Criminal Procedure
  • Comparative White Collar Crime
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Evidence
  • Federal Courts
  • Law and Medicine
  • Marijuana Law
  • Moot Court
  • Torts
  • White Collar Crime
  • Criminal Law
  • Civil Procedure


1974 JD, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
1969 B.A., Honors English & Philosophy, Swarthmore College ‐ English and Philosophy
1966 - 1967 study abroad, Keele University

Contact Information

University of the Pacific
McGeorge School of Law
3200 Fifth Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
Phone Number: 916.739.7323


Books and Book Chapters (12)

Articles (81)