"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 45+ years 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. Vitiello became the Associate Dean for Scholarship in 2023.
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.
BA, Swarthmore College
JD, University of Pennsylvania
Representative Scholarship and Activities
The Victims’ Rights Movement: What It Gets Right, What It Gets Wrong (New York University Press 2023)
Cases and Material on Marijuana Law (West Academic Press 2019)(co-authored with Howard Bromberg and Mark K. Osbeck).
Persuasive Written and Oral Advocacy: In Trial and Appellate Courts (co-authored with Michael R. Fontham) (4th ed., Aspen Publishing Co. 2019).
Animating Civil Procedure (Carolina Academic Press 2017).
Selected Works on Criminal Law and Procedure
The Victim Impact Statements: Skewing Criminal Justice Away from First Principles, ___ NYU Annual Survey of the Law ___ (2020)(part of a symposium honoring Professor Stephen Schulhofer)
Arnold Loewy, Ernesto Miranda, Earl Warren, and Donald Trump: Confessions and the Fifth Amendment, 52 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. ____ (2020)
A Healthy Dose of Agnosticism about the Death Penalty, 51 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. 57 (2018)
Katz v. United States: Back to the Future? 52 University of Richmond L. Rev. 425 (2018)
Adultery: Infidelity and the Law, Criminal Justice Ethics (forthcoming 2017) (review essay of Deborah Rhode's book of that title).
Brock Turner: Sorting Through the Noise, 49 U. Pac. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017) (reprinted in Archivio Penale 2017, n. 2).
Bargained Justice: Lessons from the Italians, 48 U. Pac. L. Rev. 247 (2017) (reprinted in Archivio Penale 2017, n. 2).
Justice Scalia's Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence: An Unabashed Foe of Criminal Defendants, 50 Akron L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017).
The Expanded Use of Genetic and Psychological Evidence: Finding Coherence in the Criminal Law? 14 Nev. L. J. 897 (2014).
Punishing Sex Offenders: When Good Intentions Go Bad, 40 Ariz. St. L.J. 651 (2008).
Reforming California Sentencing Practice and Policy: Are We There Yet? 46 McGeorge L. Rev. 685 (2014).
Punishment and Democracy: A Hard Look at Three Strikes' Overblown Promises, 90 CAL. L. REV. 257 (2002) (book review).
Three Strikes: Can We Return to Rationality?, 87 J. CRIM. L. & Criminology 395 (1997)(cited Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11, 27-28 (2003)(O'Connor, J., plurality opinion); 538 U.S. 11, 52 (Breyer, J. dissenting).
Reconsidering Rehabilitation, 65 Tulane L. Rev. 1011 (1991).
Selected Works on Marijuana Law
Symposium: Regulation Marijuana at Home and Abroad, Introduction, 49 U. Pac. L. Rev. 1 (2017)
Legalizing Marijuana: Lessons from the United States, Studi Senesi (forthcoming 2018).
Marijuana Legalization, Racial Disparity and the Hope for Reform, 23 Lewis and Clark L. Rev. 789 (2019)
Legalizing Marijuana: A View From Among the Weeds, 69 Hastings L. J. (forthcoming 2017) (co-authored with Rosemary Deck).
Legalizing Marijuana and Abating Environmental Harm: An Overblown Promise?, 50 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 773 (2016).
Legalizing Marijuana: California’s Pot of Gold?, 2009 W is. L. Rev. 1349.
Selected Works on Civil Procedure
Due Process and the Myth of Sovereignty, 50 U. Pac. L. Rev. 513 (2019)
Reflections on Hoffheimer’s The Stealth Revolution in Personal Jurisdiction, 70 Florida Law Review Forum 31 (2018)
Limiting Access to US Courts: The Supreme Court's New Personal Jurisdiction Case Law, 19 U.C. Davis Journal of International Law & Policy 209 (2015).
Professional Leadership Positions
American Law Institute, Consultative Group on reforming Model Penal Code sentencing provisions
American Law Institute, Consultative Group on reforming Model Penal Code sex offenses
American Law Institute, Consultative Group on reforming on policing
American Law Institute, Consultative Group on Sexual and Gender-based Misconduct on Campuses