Health Law Faculty Spotlight: Sara Gordon

March 08, 2018

Sara Gordon is an Associate Professor at the UNLV Boyd School of Law and a charter member of the UNLV Health Law Program. Her research centers on the experiences of individuals with mental illness and addiction who enter the criminal justice system. In particular, Prof. Gordon’s recent research examines drug and other specialty courts, which were originally intended as a way to divert people with criminal charges out of the criminal justice system and allow them to instead receive treatment for the mental illness or addiction that led to their arrest.


Her recent piece in the Illinois Law Review found that instead of receiving evidence-based treatment, most drug court participants are referred to programs based largely or entirely on the kind of 12-step principles utilized in Alcoholics Anonymous. In this paper, Prof. Gordon argued that if individuals are to be compelled by drug courts to seek treatment for addiction, that treatment should be evidence-based and provided by trained and qualified medical and mental health professionals. Similarly, in a forthcoming piece in the UNC Law Review, Prof. Gordon examines the structure of specialty courts, which often segregate defendants into drug court or mental health court based on the crime that led to their arrest. This segregated model often fails to provide integrated treatment for the multiple disorders a defendant might present, and further stigmatizes drug and alcohol use disorders, which are two of the many types of mental illness recognized by the medical community.

Professor Gordon teaches courses in Mental Health Law, Criminal Law, and Evidence. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Pitzer College and her J.D. from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.