Professor Deborah Jones Merritt graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude in 1977 and from Columbia Law School in 1980. While at Columbia, she was managing editor of the Columbia Law Review and won the Robert Noxon Toppan Prize.
After graduation, Professor Merritt clerked for Judge (now Justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court of the United States.
Professor Merritt practiced law in Atlanta and joined the law faculty at the University of Illinois in 1985. She served there as professor of law, professor of women’s studies, advisor to the Joint JD/MD Program, and associate dean for academic affairs before moving to Ohio State, where she accepted the Drinko Chair in 1995.
Professor Merritt has published widely on issues of equality, affirmative action, federalism, health and technology, legal education, tort reform, and law and social science. Much of her work has focused on public policy issues, and she has made numerous presentations to judges, legislators, and other policymakers. In 2009, the United States Supreme Court invited her to defend the lower-court judgment in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, a prominent copyright class action. Professor Merritt also has co-taught courses in Europe with both Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor.
In December 2008, Professor Merritt and her Moritz colleague Professor Ric Simmons published Learning Evidence: From the Federal Rules to the Courtroom, a text that offers a new pedagogy for teaching the basic Evidence course. A comprehensive teacher’s manual and website, www.merrittevidence.com, complement the book. The book is now in its fourth edition, and West has created a full series, the Learning Series, based on the Merritt and Simmons model.
Professor Merritt has been honored as an Ohio State University Distinguished Lecturer (1999), University Distinguished Scholar (2002), and Distinguished Teacher (2009). She has also won university-wide awards for Distinguished Diversity Enhancement (2004) and Distinguished Faculty Service (2013). In addition, she served as the university’s general commencement speaker for the Autumn 2004 commencement. In 2019, the Board of Trustees capped these awards by naming her a Distinguished University Professor.
From 2017—2019, Professor Merritt served on the ABA’s Commission on the Future of Legal Education. Her current research focuses on identifying the knowledge and skills that new lawyers need to serve clients effectively in practice, as well as on the pedagogies and workplace structures needed to develop that competence. She is the co-principal investigator on a nationwide empirical study of new lawyers’ work, Building a Better Bar.