Meet Paul Butler, the Albert Brick Professor in Law at Georgetown University Law Center and a legal analyst on MSNBC. In this Black History Month Alumni Identity Spotlight, Butler shares how his time at Yale was marked by powerful experiences

This feature is part of a series focused on amplifying the voices of alumni who are making an impact today and illuminating how the identities we bring to Yale transform both our community and the world. 

What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale?

Davenport College by Jack Devlin
Photo: Jack Devlin

There are too many to choose one. Lunches and dinner in Davenport dining hall; doing children's theater; taking "Daily Themes;" and the Black Church at Yale all stand out.

How has your identity shaped your Yale experience?

I proudly sat at the Black table, where I made lifelong friends. I recall protesting the part of Pierson College that was then called the “slave quarters” and protesting outside the New Haven police headquarters until they removed an officer who had used racial slurs — this all forged my Yale experience.

What is your hope for the future of the Yale alumni community?

My hope is that it grows ever welcoming and inclusive, even in the face of a Supreme Court and reactionary politics that is hostile to diversity.

What advice would you give to fellow or future Yalies? 

My advice? Do you.


Paul Butler is the Albert Brick Professor in Law at Georgetown University Law Center, and a legal analyst on MSNBC. He is a contributing opinion writer for The Washington Post. During the 2017-18 academic year he was the Bennett Boskey Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. He holds an honorary Doctor of Law Degree from City University of New York.

Professor Butler is a frequently consulted scholar on issues of race and criminal justice. His work has been profiled on 60 Minutes, Nightline, and The ABC, CBS and NBC Evening News. He lectures regularly at colleges, law schools, and community organizations throughout the United States and around the world. He served on the District of Columbia Code Revision Commission as an appointee of the D.C. City Council.

Professor Butler’s scholarship has been published in many leading scholarly journals, including the Georgetown Law Journal, Yale Law Journal, Harvard Law Review, Stanford Law Review, and the UCLA Law Review. He was named the Professor of the Year award three times by the GW graduating class. At Georgetown he received the 2021-22 Frank F. Flagel Teaching Award, the law school’s top teaching honor. Professor Butler was elected to the American Law Institute in 2003.

Professor Butler’s book “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice” received the Harry Chapin Media award. His book “Chokehold: Policing Black Men” was published in July 2017. The Washington Post named it one of the 50 best non-fiction books of 2017. Chokehold was also named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The New York Times described Chokehold as the best book on criminal justice reform since The New Jim Crow. It was a finalist for the 2018 NAACP Image Award for best non-fiction.

Professor Butler served as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where his specialty was public corruption. His prosecutions included a United States Senator, three FBI agents, and several other law enforcement officials.

Professor Butler is a graduate of Yale University, cum laude, and Harvard Law School, cum laude.