Alumni (National Fellow)

Clara Altman

National Fellow
B.A. Washington University in Saint Louis
J.D. Brooklyn Law School (2007)
Ph.D. Brandeis University (2013)
Professional Sector:
Dream Mentor:
Mary Dudziak
Emory University
Fields of Interest:
Foreign Policy
International Relations
Legal History
Region: Asia-Pacific


Clara Altman has been recently appointed as Deputy Director of the Federal Judicial Center (effective 10/1/18). Prior to this appointment, Clara was director of the Federal Judicial History Office at the Federal Judicial Center, in Washington, D.C., the research and education agency of the federal courts where she was responsible for promoting and coordinating programs related to the history of the judicial branch. Altman earned a B.A. in history and political science from Washington University in St. Louis, a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, and a Ph.D. in American history from Brandeis University. She was previously a visiting assistant professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College. Her scholarly work concerns legal history and the U.S. in the world with a focus on U.S. engagement with foreign legal cultures and institutions from the nineteenth century to the present.

Thesis Description:

Courtroom Colonialism: Philippine Law and U.S. Rule, 1898-1935
Her dissertation, “Courtroom Colonialism: Philippine Law and U.S. Rule, 1898-1935,” is a historical account of the development of the Philippine legal system under U.S. rule between the occupation of the islands and the start of the Philippine Commonwealth. The project was based in archival research in English and Spanish language sources in the Philippines and the United States and was supported by grants from the American Historical Association, Bentley Library at the University of Michigan, and the Mellon Foundation, in addition to the Miller Center. Altman has also written on the state of the field of legal history. In her chapter, “The International Context: An Imperial Perspective on American Legal History,” in “A Companion to American Legal History” (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), Altman proposes a new, global framework for the field, emanating from three categories of analysis: the constitutional order, the international order, and what some scholars have called “legal borderlands.”

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