School Directory

Debra Stark

Debra  Stark

Director, Domestic Violence Clinical Advocacy Program
The John Marshall Law School
315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Phone: 312.360.2650
Office: Room 929
Office Hours: Mon. & Weds. 4-5:45 p.m. or by appointment

BA, summa cum laude, Brandeis University, Phi Beta Kappa
JD, cum laude, Northwestern University School of Law

Scholarship | Full-Text Publications | SSRN Publications | Presentations

Professor Stark proudly joined the faculty of The John Marshall Law School in 1994 after eight years in private practice with Katten Muchin. She currently focuses her activities as a law professor on: (i) engaging in empirical research, scholarship, and advocacy on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and victims of predatory lending and (ii) training students to provide superior legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence. She is the Director of the law school's Domestic Violence Clinical Advocacy Program ("DVCAP").

Professor Stark created the innovative Domestic Violence Law & Practicum course in 2008. The course addresses the numerous barriers that survivors face to becoming safe and covers the key laws in place to help survivors overcome these barriers. The course includes a clinical component where students represent survivors of domestic violence seeking an emergency order of protection, and students also work on community outreach and legal advocacy projects (such as court monitoring, preparing form legal documents for survivors to use, researching and formulating reform proposals, and creating educational materials). Professor Stark created in 2013 the Family Law Advocacy for Survivors of Domestic Violence course. In this unique course students learn about the nature and dynamics of domestic violence and the impact of this violence on survivors and their children. The students are then trained, through simulation exercises (drafting a petition for dissolution of marriage and petition for temporary relief, a mock negotiation of contested terms, drafting a marital settlement agreement and parenting agreement, and a simulated prove-up hearing and contested hearing) on how to handle divorce or parentage actions for survivors of DV employing a trauma informed and empowerment model of representation. Students in this course will also have the opportunity to provide legal information to survivors of DV on family law matters they are facing including divorce, allocation of marital assets and debts, custody, visitation and support. The course can lead, in a subsequent semester, to an internship with Beeermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove LLP and other project partners with DVCAP where students assist in the pro bono representation of survivors of domestic violence on divorce and/or parentage matters.

Professor Stark completed in 2012, two empirical studies that collected data on judicial application of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act and reported on the results of these studies to the Presiding Judge of the court monitored, along with recommended steps to address the problems noted from the data. Her law review article, which reports on the results of these studies with an analysis of policy implications here in Illinois and in other jurisdictions, is scheduled to be published in the Northwestern Journal of Law & Social Policy. Professor Stark is a member of two work groups created by the Presiding Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Division of Domestic Violence that focus on improving the operations of the domestic violence court in Cook County and is a member of the Metropolitan Battered Women's Network.

Among her efforts to combat the problem of predatory lending, Professor Stark has engaged in interdisciplinary and empirical research exploring why so many consumers entered into overpriced and unaffordable home loans and developing strategies to improve home loan decision-making. She is the author of numerous articles (published in law reviews such as the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal and the Yale Law Journal Online and peer edited psychology journals) and a book chapter related to this topic and was awarded in June 2010 (with colleague Dr. Jessica Choplin) a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Law and Social Sciences Division relating to this work. She was appointed in 2010 to the State of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's Residential Mortgage Board, a group tasked with making recommendations to address the home loan crisis here in Illinois, and served as Chair of the Residential Mortgage from 2012-2013.

Professor Stark has also been appointed to various national leadership positions in the field of real estate law. She served as Chair of the Real Estate Transactions Section of the Association of American Law Schools in 2012, after serving on its Executive Committee (2008), as Treasurer (2009), as Secretary (2010), and as Vice-Chair (2011). She also served as the Chair of the American Bar Association, Real Property Section's Foreclosure and Related Remedies Committee between1994-1997 and Vice-Chair of the Real Property Section's Pro Bono Committee between 2003-2005. Professor Stark is also the author of two innovative textbooks on real estate law (they are both based on a project and skills oriented approach), one of which has been adopted by over 30 law schools in the U.S.

Full Curriculum Vitae


What's Law Got To Do With It? Confronting Judicial Nullification of Domestic Violence Remedies, 10 Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol'y 130 (2015)

Dodd-Frank 2.0: Creating Interactive Home-Loan Disclosures to Enable Shrewd Consumer Decision-Making, 27 Loy. Consumer L. Rev. 95 (2014) (with Jessica M. Choplin, Mark A. LeBoeuf, & Andrew Pizor)

Complex Decision Making and Cognitive Aging Call for Enhanced Protection of Seniors Contemplating Reverse Mortgages, 46 Ariz. St. L. J. 299 (2014) (with Jessica Choplin, Joseph Mikels, and Amber McDonnell)

Ineffective In Any Form: How Confirmation Biases and Distraction Undermine Improved Home Loan Disclosures, 122 Yale L.J. Online 377 (2013) (with Jessica M. Choplin and Mark A. LeBoeuf)

Doomed to Fail: A Psychological Analysis of Mortgage Loan Disclosures and Policy Implications, 10 Banking & Fin. Services Pol'y Rep. 11 (2013)

Dysfunctional Contracts and the Laws and Practices That Enable Them: An Empirical Analysis, 46 Ind. L. Rev. 797 (2013) (with Jessica M. Choplin and Eileen Linnabery)

"Cognitive Barriers to Rational Home Loan Decision-Making: Implications for Mortgage Counselors," Psychology of Counseling (Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 2013) (with Jessica Choplin and Joseph Mikels)

A Psychological Investigation of Consumer Vulnerability to Fraud: Legal and Policy Implications, 35 Law & Psychol. Rev. 61 (2011) (with Jessica M. Choplin and Jasmine N. Ahmad)

Consumer Protection Initiatives in the E.U. Mortgage Market: A Behavioral Economics Analysis and Proposal, 25 Temp. Int'l and Comp. L.J. 1 (2011) (with Jessica M. Choplin)

A Cognitive and Social Psychological Analysis of Disclosure Laws and Call for Mortgage Counseling To Prevent Predatory Lending, 16 Psychol. Pub. Pol'y & L. 85 (2010) (with Jessica Choplin)

Commercial Real Estate Transactions: A Project and Skills Oriented Approach (Lexis Law 2d ed. 2010)

More Publications


Speaker: HUIC Conference of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, "Confirmation Biases and the Dual Tasking Undermine Effectiveness of Home Loan Disclosures" (January 2014)

Speaker: Illinois State Bar Association, "Dysfunctional Contracts and the Laws and Practices that Enable Them," Chicago, IL (December 2013)

Speaker: Illinois Real Estate Lawyers Association Annual Meeting, "Dysfunctional Contracts and the Laws and Practices that Enable Them," Chicago, IL (November 2013)

Speaker: JMLS Faculty Works in Progress Series (CLE), "Legislative Promise Half Fulfilled: Addressing Judicial Nullification and Other Challenges Facing Survivors of Domestic Violence (November 2013)

Moderator: First Annual Domestic Violence Awareness Program, "Why She Doesn't 'Just Leave': Understanding Domestic Violence and Illinois Measures to Empower Survivors," The John Marshall Law School (October 2013)

Speaker: 6th Annual Midwest Family Law Consortium Workshop, "Legislative Promise Only Half Fulfilled: An Empirical Analysis of a Specialized Domestic Violence Court," Madison, WI (April 2013)

Speaker: American Psychological Association Psychology-Law Society Division Annual Meeting, "Confirmation Biases and Dual Tasks Undermine the Effectiveness of HUD-1 and other Home Loan Disclosures," Portland, Oregon (March 2013)

Speaker: JMLS Faculty Works in Progress Series, "Dysfunctional Contracts and the Laws and Practices That Enable Them: An Empirical Analysis," (February 2013)

Moderator: AALS Real Estate Section 2013 Program Annual Meeting, "Keeping It Real: Lessons in the Structuring, Handling, and Teaching of Real Estate Transactions in the Wake of the Great Real Estate Recession," New Orleans, LA (January 2013)

Speaker: Arkansas Law Review Symposium, "How Confirmation Biases and Distraction Enable Predatory Lending" University of Arkansas Law School, Fayetteville, AK (November 2012)

Speaker: "Psychological Phenomena That Cause Consumers to be Vulnerable to Predatory Loans," Northern Illinois University (April 2012)

Speaker: "The Inspiration and Development of Law Related Publications," The John Marshall Law School (April 2012)

Speaker: JMLS Faculty-in-Works Series, "Complex Decision Making and Cognitive Aging Call for Enhanced Protection of Seniors Contemplating Reverse Mortgages" The John Marshall Law School (April 2012)

More Presentations

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