H. Jefferson Powell
Professor of Law

H. Jefferson Powell joined the Duke Law faculty in 1989. His academic career has included visiting positions at Columbia, Yale and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he served as a professor of law at the University of Iowa prior to joining the Duke Law faculty, and at the George Washington University Law School in 2010-12.

Powell has served in a variety of positions in federal and state government during his career. He served in the U.S. Department of Justice in various capacities from 1993 to 2000, and again in 2011-12. In 1996, he was the principal deputy solicitor general. He has briefed and argued cases in both federal and state courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. In the early 1990s, he was special counsel to the attorney general of North Carolina.

His scholarship has addressed the history and ethical implications of American constitutional law, the powers of the executive branch, and the role of the Constitution in legislative and judicial decision-making, among other subjects. His recent books include The Practice of American Constitutional Law (2022); Targeting Americans: The Constitutionality of the U.S. Drone War (2016); The President as Commander in Chief: An Essay in Constitutional Vision (2014), Constitutional Conscience: The Moral Dimension of Judicial Decision (2008) and No Law: Intellectual Property in the Image of an Absolute First Amendment (2009), which he co-authored with Duke Law Professor David Lange.

Powell holds a bachelor’s degree from St. David’s University College (now Trinity St. David) of the University of Wales; a master’s degree and PhD from Duke University; and a Master’s of Divinity and JD from Yale University. He was a law clerk to Judge Sam J. Ervin III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He has received numerous awards and honors including, in 2002, Duke University’s Scholar/Teacher Award. Powell currently serves as series editor of the Carolina Academic Press Legal History Series.


H. Jefferson Powell portrait

Recent Courses

Governing Faculty