Professor James W. Ellis

Contact Information

Ph.: 505-277-4830
Fax: 505-277-1597
Office: 3216

James Ellis

Distinguished Professor of Law
A.B. 1968, Occidental College
J.D. 1974, University of California, Berkeley
Member of the District of Columbia Bar

Profile

Since joining the UNM law faculty in 1976, Jim Ellis has worked on behalf of people with mental disabilities in the civil and criminal justice system. He has filed briefs in 18 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and in 2002 argued Atkins v. Virginia, in which the high court held that the execution of individuals with mental retardation violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

Ellis, who teaches Constitutional Rights, Introduction to Constitutional Law, and Rights of Children, along with Mental Health and Retardation Law and Mental Disability in Criminal Cases, has spent his career writing articles, amicus briefs and appearing before congressional committees and state legislative committees across the country arguing for the rights of people with disabilities. UNM students have frequently been invited to participate in this work, including each of the briefs to the Supreme Court.

For this work, Ellis has received numerous national awards, including the National Law Journal's "Lawyer of the Year" honor in 2002. Other honors include the Paul Hearne Award for Disability Advocacy from the American Bar Association, the Call to Action Award by the ARC of the United States, the Champion of Justice Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and recognition by the National Historic Trust on Mental Retardation as one of 36 significant individuals in the field of mental retardation in the 20th Century.

He has served as law reporter for the A.B.A. Criminal Justice Standards project and president of the American Association on Mental Retardation (now known as the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.)

Ellis' interest in mental disability dates to his service at the Yale Psychiatric Institute as a conscientious objector. After law school at the University of California (Boalt Hall), he worked at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C., before joining the UNM law faculty.

Courses

Advanced Constitutional Rights

Advanced Constitutional Rights

Course Description

Advanced Constutional Rights is the continuation of my section's Constitutional Rights course, and focuses on First Amendment issues involving the speech, press, and religion clauses.

Constitutional Rights

Constitutional Rights

This course involves an in-depth inquiry into the building blocks of civil rights law; freedom of expression (speech and press), equal protection, due process, and religious freedom. There will be discussion of litigation strategy and the decision-making processes of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Criminal Law I

Criminal Law I

This course considers the general principles of substantive criminal law and evaluates them in terms of the various purposes that justify a system of criminal punishment. It will include an analysis of the doctrines of mens rea attempt, complicity, and conspiracy as well as certain crimes such as homicide and certain defenses such as self-defense.

Introduction to Constitutional Law

Introduction to Constitutional Law

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the study of Constitutional Law. The focus will be on the structural framework established by the Constitution, including principles of federalism and the role of the Supreme Court in policing the constitutional order. Among other things, we will study the doctrine of judicial review, the reach of federal legislative power, limits on the reach of state power, the workings of the Supreme Court, and separation of powers and limits on the exercise of federal judicial power.

Mental Disability in Criminal Cases

Mental Disability in Criminal Cases

Course Description

The seminar will explore the implications of mental disabilities (primarily mental illness and mental retardation) to both substantive and procedural issues at every stage of the criminal justice process, including interrogation of suspects with disabilities, competence to waive constitutional rights, competence to stand trial, criminal responsibility (including the insanity defense), and sentencing. Course materials will include statutes, appellate cases, standards propounded by professional organizations, and clinical materials. Discussion will also focus on videotaped excerpts, which allow consideration of the actual functioning of defendants with disabilities.

Mental Disability & Criminal Law

Mental Health & Retardation Law

Mental Health and Retardation Law

Course Description

The seminar will explore issues encountered by people with mental disabilities in the civil justice system. Topics will include guardianship and competence, substitute decision making, civil commitment, right to treatment and habilitation, and discrimination based on disabilities. The primary focus will be on constitutional issues, although there will be some discussion of statutory matters as well.

Practicum

Practicum

One-hour Practicum Course accompanying the Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law Courses

The Practicum Course is not really a separate course; rather, it is a hands-on, practice-based extension of the Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law courses. Students explore the theoretical connections among the three courses in the context of resolving simulated but realistic client problems. The course stresses practical and analytical skills through writing exercises while also exploring substantive law questions that are addressed in other first semester courses.

U.S. Supreme Court Briefs

Hall v. Florida, Amicus Curiae Brief for The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, The Arc of the United States, The National Disability Rights Network, Disability Rights Florida, and The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in support of Petitioner (co-counsel with Ann M. Delpha, April Land, Carol Suzuki, and Steven K. Homer) (U.S. Supreme Court No. 12-10882 Filed December, 2013).

Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman, 550 U.S. 233 (2007); BREWER V. QUARTERMAN, 550 U.S. 286 (2007). Amicus Curiae Brief for The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, The Arc of the United States, Mental Health America, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in support of Petitioner (co-counsel with Carol M. Suzuki, Norman C. Bay, Steven K. Homer, and April Land) (U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-11284 and 05-11287, Filed August, 2006).

Clark v. Arizona, 548 U.S. 735 (2006). Amicus Curiae Brief for The American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc of the United States, The National Disability Rights Network, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in support of Petitioner (Co-counsel with Norman C. Bay, Michael B. Browde, Steven K. Homer, and Carol M. Suzuki) (U.S. Supreme Court No. 05-5966, Filed January, 2006).

United States v. Georgia, 546 U.S. 151, (2006). Amicus Curiae Brief for The American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc of the United States, The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, The National Mental Health Association, The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and The American Psychological Association in support of petitioner (Co-Counsel with Michael B. Browde, April Land, Steven K. Homer, and Carol Suzuki) (U. S. Supreme Court Nos. 04-1203 and 04-1236, filed July 29, 2005).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc of the United States, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, The Arc of Georgia, and the Georgia Advocacy Office, in support of Petitioner, Stripling v. Head, No. 03-1392, cert. granted, Oct. 14, 2003 (co-counsel with Carol M. Suzuki, Norman Bay, Christian G. Fritz).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and TASH, Tennard v. Dretke, No. 02-10038, cert. granted, Oct. 14, 2003 (consolidated for oral arguments with Smith v. Dretke, No. 02-11309) (co-counsel with Norman C. Bay, Michael B. Browde, Christian G. Fritz, April Land & Robert L. Schwartz, of counsel).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, American Orthopsychiatric Association, The Arc, and the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Penry v. Johnson (Penry II), 121 S.Ct. 1910 (2001) (No. 00-6677) (co-counsel with Michael B. Browde & Jeffrey J. Pokorak).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc, the Brain Injury Association, the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and International Association for Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services, Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356 (2001) (No. 99-1240) (co-counsel with Michael B. Browde).

Respondent's Brief, Kansas v Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997) (No. 95-1649) (co-counsel with Thomas J. Weilert).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc, American Orthopsychiatric Association, American Network of Community Options and Resources, and American Association of University Affiliated Programs in Developmental Disabilities, Cooper v. Oklahoma, 517 U.S. 348 (1996) (No. 95-5207) (co-counsel with Barbara Bergman).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, American Orthopsychiatric Association, The Arc, National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, and American Network of Community Options and Resources, Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996) (No. 94-1039) (co-counsel with Maureen Sanders).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Psychiatric Association, American Orthopsychiatric Association, American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc, Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, National Association of Private Residential Resources, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, and National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389 (1993) (No. 92-725) (co-counsel with Barbara Bergman).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, The Arc, The Arc of Kentucky, Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH), TASH of Kentucky, American Association of University Affiliated Programs for the Developmentally Disabled, American Orthopsychiatric Association, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation, and American Civil Liberties Union, Heller v. Doe, 509 U.S. 312 (1993) (No. 92-351) (co-counsel with Maureen A. Sanders).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Orthopsychiatric Association, National Mental Health Association, American Association on Mental Retardation, National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of Louisiana, Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71 (1992) (No. 90-5844) (co-counsel with Barbara Bergman).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Retardation, American Psychological Association, Association for Retarded Citizens of the U.S., Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, American Association of University Affiliated Programs for the Developmentally Disabled, American Orthopsychiatric Association, New York State Association for Retarded Children, National Association of Private Residential Resources, National Association of Superintendents of Public Residential Facilities for the Mentally Retarded, Mental Health Law Project, and National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, Penry v. Lynaugh (Penry I), 492 U.S. 302 (1989) (No. 87-6177) (co-counsel with Ruth Luckasson), reprinted in 12 Mental & Physical Disability L. Rep. 475-80 (1988), and in The Criminal Justice System And Mental Retardation: Defendants And Victims 245-78 (R. Conley, R. Luckasson & G. Bouthilet eds., Paul H. Brookes Pub. Co. 1992), and in 3 Capital Punishment: Litigating Capital Cases 59-78 (M. Koosed ed., Garland Pub. Co. 1996).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Deficiency, Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, American Association of University Affiliated Programs for the Developmentally Disabled, and National Rehabilitation Association, Heckler v. Am. Hosp. Ass'n., 476 U.S. 610 (1986) (No. 84-1529) (co-counsel with Ruth Luckasson).

Brief of Amici Curiae American Association on Mental Deficiency, Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Orthopsychiatric Association, American Association of University Affiliated Programs for the Developmentally Disabled, and Council for Exceptional Children, City Of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., Inc., 473 U.S. 432 (1985) (No. 84-468) (co-counsel with Ruth Luckasson).

Statutes

New Mexico Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code, 1977 N.M. Laws ch. 279, codified at N.M. Stat. Ann. 43-1-2 to 43-1-25 (1978) (Repl. 1984) (principal drafter).

Books

The Least Restrictive Alternative: Principles And Practices (American Association on Mental Deficiency 1981) (co-authored with H. R. Turnbull, E. Boggs, P. Brooks & D. Biklen).

Consent Handbook (American Association on Mental Deficiency 1977) (co-authored with H. R. Turnbull, D. Biklen, E. Boggs, C. Keeran, & G. Siedor).

Articles

Ellis, "The Law's Understanding of Intellectual Disability as a Disability," 51 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 102-107, (2013)

Ellis, “Disability Advocacy and Atkins,” 57 Depaul Law Review 653-666 (2008)

Ellis, "Mental Retardation and the Death Penalty: A Guide to State Legislative Issues," 27 Mental and Physical Disability Law Reporter 11-24, (2003)

Ellis, “Disability Advocacy and the Death Penalty: The Road from Penry to Atkins,” 33 New Mexico Law Review 173-181 (2003)

Some Observations on the Juvenile Commitment Cases: Reconceptualizing What The Child Has At Stake, 31 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 929 (1998).

Voluntary Admission and Involuntary Hospitalization of Minors, in Law, Mental Health, And Mental Disorder 487-502 (B. Sales & D. Shuman eds., 1996).

Due Process to Adolescents, in Debating Children's Lives 278 (M. Mason & E. Gambrill eds., 1994).

Decisions by and for People with Mental Retardation: Balancing Considerations of Autonomy and Protection, 37 Vill. L. Rev. 1779 (1992).

Limits on the State's Power to Confine 'Dangerous' Persons: Constitutional Implications of Foucha v. Louisiana, 15 U. Puget Sound L. Rev. 635 (1992).

Introduction to Symposium, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 22 N.M. L. Rev. 7 (1992).

Presidential Address 1990: Mental Retardation at the Close of the 20th Century: A New Realism, 28 Mental Retardation 263 (1990).

Competence and Confessions, in 1989 A.B.A. Sec. Crim. Just. Mental Health Standards 303.

Competence and Capital Punishment, in 1989 A.B.A. Sec. Crim. Just. Mental Health Standards 284.

Commitment of Nonresponsibility Acquitees, in 1989 A.B.A. Crim. Just. Mental Health Standards 395.

Should Members Feel Guilty about the Flag Amendment?, Roll Call, July 24-30, 1989, at 5 (guest editorial).

If Your Client is Mentally Retarded, Crim. Just., Winter 1988, at 12 (co-authored with R. Luckasson).

Residential Placement of 'Dual Diagnosis' Clients: Emerging Legal Issues, in Mental Retardation And Mental Health: Classification, Diagnosis, Treatment, Services 326 (J. Stark, F. Menolascino, M. Albarelli & V. Gray eds., 1988).

The Rights of People with Mental Retardation and the Future of Residential Institutions, 7 Superintendents' Dig. 106 (1988).

On the 'Usefulness' of Suspect Classifications, 3 Const. Comment. 375 (1986).

Denying Treatment to Infants with Handicaps: A Comment on Bowen v. American Hospital Association, 24 Mental Retardation 237 (1986) (co-authored with R. Luckasson).

The Consequences of the Insanity Defense: Proposals to Reform Post-Acquittal Commitment Laws, 35 Cath. U. L. Rev. 961(1986).

It's Time to Change AAMD's Name, 24 Mental Retardation 319 (1986) (guest editorial).

The New AAMD Constitution, 24 Mental Retardation 128 (1986) (guest editorial).

Discrimination Against People with Mental Retardation: A Comment on the Cleburne Decision, 23 Mental Retardation 249 (1985) (co-authored with R. Luckasson).

Mentally Retarded Criminal Defendants, 53 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 414 (1985) (co-authored with R. Luckasson).

Hospice and the Devaluation of Human Life: A Response, 22 Mental Retardation 163 (1984) (co-authored with R. Luckasson).

Representing Institutionalized Mentally Retarded Persons, 7 Mental Disability L. Rep. 40 (1983) (co-authored with R. Luckasson).

The Supreme Court and Institutions: A Comment on Youngberg v. Romeo, 20 Mental Retardation 197 (1982).

Model Statute: An Act to Guarantee the Right of Developmentally Disabled Persons to Receive Appropriate Services and to Establish Consent Procedures to Allow the Provision of those Services, in (B. Sales et al. eds., 1982).

Tort Responsibility of Mentally Disabled Persons, 1981 Am. B. Found. Res. J. 1079.

Commitment Proceedings for Mentally Ill and Mentally Retarded Children, in Child Psychiatry And The Law 235 (D. Schetky & E. Benedek eds., 1980).

Treating Children Under the Mental Health and Developmental Disability Code, 10 N.M. L. Rev. 279 (1980) (co-authored with D. Carter).

The Liberty Interest of Children: Due Process Rights and Their Application, 12 Fam. L.Q. 153 (1978), reprinted in 2 Mental Disability L. Rep. 582 (1978) (co-authored with L. Teitelbaum).

Model Statute: Mental Health Treatment for Minors, Legal Issues in State Mental Health Care: Proposals for Change, 2 Mental Disability L. Rep. 459 (1978) (principal drafter).

Patients' Rights in Program Evaluation, in Program Evaluation For Mental Health: Methods, Strategies, Participants 313 (R. Coursey ed., 1977).

Volunteering Children: Parental Commitment of Minors to Mental Institutions, 62 Cal. L. Rev. 840 (1974).

Essays

Dixon case, in Mental Hygiene, Fall 1976, at 18.

Bartley case, in Mental Hygiene, Spring 1976, at 20.

Donaldson case, in Mental Hygiene, Summer 1975, at 18.

Regulation of Electro-convulsive Therapy, in Mental Hygiene, Spring 1975, at 18.

Book Reviews

Book Review, 39 Int'l Dig. Health Leg. 300 (1988) (reviewing A. Carmi, S. Schneider, & A. Hefez, Psychiatry-Law And Ethics).

Chronicling a Movement for Civil Rights, 22 Law & Soc'y Rev. 1027 (1988) (reviewing S. Brakel, J. Parry & B. Weiner, The Mentally Disabled And The Law (3d ed. 1985)).

Book Review, 36 Int'l Dig. Health Leg. 846 (1985) (reviewing S. Herr, S. Arons, & R. Wallace, Legal Rights And Mental Health Care (1983) and S. Herr, Rights And Advocacy For Retarded People (1983)).

Book Review, 1983 Am. B. Found. Res. J. 277 (reviewing D. Wexler, Mental Health Law: Major Issues (1981)).

Book Review, 34 Int'l Dig. Health Leg. 703 (1983) (reviewing S. Hayes & R. Hayes, Mental Retardation: Law, Policy And Administration (1982)).

Judges and Politics: Accountability and Independence in an Election Year, 12 N.M. L. Rev. 873 (1982) (reviewing Preble Stolz, Judging Judges: The Investigation of Rose Bird and the California Supreme Court (1981) and Philip L. Dubois, From Ballot to Bench: Judicial Elections and the Quest for Accountability (1980)).

Book Review, Child. Today, Mar.-Apr. 1976, at 31 (reviewing S. Katz, The Youngest Minority: Lawyers In Defense Of Children (1974)).

Works in Progress

Biography Of Otis Smiley

Privatization of Government Services: The Public Function Doctrine Reconsidered

Mental Retardation and the Death Penalty

Mentally Disabled Citizens, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Burger Court

The Newer Substantive Due Process: Looking for Rights in All the Wrong Places