McGeorge School of Law

Michael Vitiello

Distinguished Professor of Law
Michael Vitiello
Phone: 916.739.7323
Office Hours
Monday and Wednesday from 10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Tuesday and Friday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and by appointment.


BA, Swarthmore College
JD, University of Pennsylvania


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 12 books and more than 60 law review articles. This year, 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 books, 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.

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 his forty-second year 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, and sentencing reform. 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.


Civil Procedure

Criminal Law

Criminal Procedure

Marijuana Law

Scholarship/Professional Activities


The Victim Impact Statements:  Skewing Criminal Justice Away from First Principles, ___ NYU Annual Survey of the Law ___ (to appear 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. ____ (to appear 2020)

Due Process and the Myth of Sovereignty, ___ U. Pac. L. Rev. ___ (to appear 2019) 

A Healthy Dose of Agnosticism about the Death Penalty, 51 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. 57 (2018)

Reflections on Hoffheimer’s The Stealth Revolution in Personal Jurisdiction, 70 Florida Law Review Forum 31 (2018)

Katz v. United States:  Back to the Future? 52 University of Richmond L. Rev. 425 (2018)

Symposium:  Regulation Marijuana at Home and Abroad, Introduction, 49 U. Pac. L. Rev. 1 (2017)

Joshua Dressler and "The Incident" - More Evidence of Liberal Bias?, Ohio State Cr. L. J. (forthcoming 2018).

Legalizing Marijuana: Lessons from the United States, Studi Senesi (forthcoming 2018).

Adultery: Infidelity and the Law, Criminal Justice Ethics (forthcoming 2017) (review essay of Deborah Rhode's book of that title).

Legalizing Marijuana: A View From Among the Weeds, 69 Hastings L. J. (forthcoming 2017) (co-authored with Rosemary Deck).  

Brock Turner: Sorting Through the Noise, 49 U. Pac. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017) (reprinted in Archivio Penale 2017, n. 2).   

The False Dichotomy between Theory and Skills Training: Why Good Lawyers Need to Pay Attention to Theory, 48 U. Pac. L. Rev. 915 (2017).  

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).  

Legalizing Marijuana and Abating Environmental Harm: An Overblown Promise?, 50 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 773 (2016).

Sentencing Policies and Practices in California, Oxford Handbooks Online, (New York: Oxford University Press 2015).

Mass Incarceration:  Why are solutions so difficult in California? 16 Univ. of Maryland J. of Race, Religion, Gender & Class 229 (2015).

Teaching Oral Advocacy: Creating More Opportunities for an Essential Skill, 45 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1031 (2015).

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). 

Reforming California Sentencing Practice and Policy:  Are We There Yet? 46 McGeorge L. Rev. 685 (2014).

Reflections on an Extraordinary Career: Thoughts about Gerald Caplan's Retirement, 46 McGeorge L. Rev. 459 (2014).

The Expanded Use of Genetic and Psychological Evidence:  Finding Coherence in the Criminal Law? 14 Nev. L. J. 897 (2014).

Making Good Use of a Crisis, 20 The Law Teacher 63 (2013).

Joints or the Joint:  Colorado and Washington Square off against the United States, 91 Or. L. Rev. 1009 (2013).

Michael Vitiello,"Chinese Homicide Law, Irrationality and Incremental Change," 27 Temple Intl & Comp L J 43 (2013) (with Cary Bricker).

Colorado and Washington’s Initiatives: Are They Moving Us Closer to Legalizing Pot? Or. L. Rev. (2013)

Still Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Sentencing Reform in California, Fed. Sent’g Rep. (2013).

Symposium, Why the Initiative Process is the Wrong Way to Go: Lessons We Should Have Learned from Proposition 215, McGeorge L. Rev. (2012)

Addressing the Special Problems of the Mentally Ill: Prisoners: A Small Piece of the Solution to Our Nation’s Prison Crisis, 88 Denv. L. Rev. 57 (2010).

Defining the Reasonable Person in the Criminal Law: Fighting the Lernaean Hydra, 14 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 1435 (2010).

Legalizing Marijuana: California’s Pot of Gold?, 2009 W is. L. Rev. 1349.

A Kiss Is Just a Kiss, or Is It? A Comparative Look at Italian and American Sex Crimes, 40 Seton Hall L. Rev. 191 (2010).

Herring v. United States: Mapp's "Artless" Overruling?, 10 Nev. L.J. 164 (2010).

Lies, Damn Lies and Claims of Judicial Activism, 14 NEXUS 55 (2009).

Punishing Sex Offenders: When Good Intentions Go Bad, 40 Ariz. St. L.J. 651 (2008).

Persuasive Written and Oral Advocacy: In Trial and Appellate Courts (Aspen, 2d. ed. 2007) (with Michael R. Fontham and David W. Miller);

"Liberal Bias in the Legal Academy: Overstated and Undervalued," 77 Miss. L. J. 507 (2007);

"Introduction, Symposium on Sentencing Guidelines and Practice in a Post-Booker World," 37 McGeorge L. Rev. 487-512 (2006);

"Teaching Effective Oral Argument Skills: Forget about the Drama Coach," 75 Miss. L. J. 869 (2006)


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).

Bridge to Practice Series, Criminal Law Simulations (co-authored with Emily Hughes) (West 2015).  

Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Criminal Procedure (Aspen Publishing Co. 2013).  

Bridge to Practice Series, Criminal Procedure Simulations (West 2013) 

Bridge to Practice Series, Civil Procedure Simulations (West 2012)