Mary Beth Basile Chopas

Senior Lecturing Fellow


Mary Beth Basile Chopas is a scholar of military, legal, and 20th-century U.S. history, with a focus on the balancing of national security interests with the protection of civil liberties.  In addition to her appointment at Duke Law School, she is an Adjunct Professor of Law at UNC Law School where she teaches National Security Law.

Chopas received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013. Her dissertation, titled “Law, Security, and Ethnic Profiling: Italians in the United States during World War II,” examines how the federal government created restrictions on Italian aliens residing in the United States, including internment for certain individuals, and how and why those policies changed during the course of the war.  She also raises broader questions about the present-day problem of assessing the intentions of individuals living in this country with ties to nations or non-state actors at war with the United States.

After law school, she served as a law clerk at the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  She then worked in private practice in Boston where she focused on commercial litigation.  She served as an assistant attorney general in the Government Bureau/Trial Division of the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, specializing in employment discrimination and contract disputes.

Chopas began her teaching career at Harvard Law School where she was a Climenko-Thayer Lecturer on Law, and later went on to teach Civil Procedure and Legal Ethics at Boston University School of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law, and most recently, UNC School of Law. 

Chopas received her BA magna cum laude from Dartmouth College, after which she served as a research fellow in Renaissance literature at Cambridge University, where she focused on the works of John Milton. She received her JD at Boston College Law School.