Cheryl Wattley

Cheryl Wattley

Professor of Law and Director of Experiential Education

Department: 
College of Law
Office: 
115
Biography: 

Professor Cheryl Brown Wattley joined the inaugural faculty of the UNT Dallas College of Law from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where she served on the faculty from 2006 through 2013 and was Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Education. Professor Wattley teaches Criminal Law in the first-year curriculum.  She also teaches the upper level courses, The Trial Process and Courtroom Advocacy.  Professor Wattley serves as the Director of Experiential Education overseeing the law school’s externship program; the Community Lawyering Centers; the Joyce Ann Brown Innocence Clinic; and the law school’s Community Engagement Program. 

Professor Wattley graduated from Smith College, cum laude, with high honors in Sociology. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from Boston University College of Law, where she was a Martin Luther King, Jr. fellow and recipient of the Community Service Award.   

Professor Wattley began her legal career as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Connecticut representing the United States in civil litigation. Through her actions, the United States participated as litigating amicus curiae in Connecticut ARC v. Thorne, the lawsuit that led to the entry of a consent decree overhauling the system for serving persons with mental retardation in Connecticut.  She received a Special Achievement Award from the Department of Justice for her work.

She later transferred to the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas, located in Dallas, where she focused on the prosecution of white-collar crime, serving as Chief of the Economic Crime Unit. During her time in this office, Professor Wattley received another Department of Justice Special Achievement Award, the United States Postal Inspection Service National Award, and commendations from the Department of Treasury, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the Customs Department.

Professor Wattley then went into private litigation practice, where her work included white-collar criminal defense, civil rights litigation, federal and state criminal defense, and post-conviction proceedings. In 1995, Professor Wattley was nominated by President Bill Clinton for a federal judgeship.

Professor Wattley is the author of a "A Step Toward Brown v. Board of Education: Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and Her Fight to End Segregation” published in October 2014, and winner of the 2015 Oklahoma Book Award, Non-Fiction category.  Professor Wattley also authored “Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher: How A ‘Skinny Little Girl’ Took on the University of Oklahoma and Helped Pave the Road to Brown v. Board of Education.” University of Oklahoma Law Review, 62 OULR 449 (2010).  She adapted her research on Sipuel Fisher  into a theatrical presentation entitled “I’ll Do It” integrating original source documents from the University of Oklahoma, the NAACP, court files and newspaper articles.  She contributed a chapter, “Making History: Being a NAACP Plaintiff- Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher”to the book “This Land is Herland: Gendered Activism in Oklahoma, 1870s-2010.”           

Professor Wattley received Honorable Mention in the Clinical Legal Education Association Creative Writing Contest for her essay “The Tough Minded, Tender Hearted Lawyer.”  Professor Wattley created a trial case file that was published by the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, “Marine Rescue Specialists (MRS) vs. Riverboat Queen (RBQ).”  She has also written “Humanizing Legal Education: Bringing Clients Into the Classroom.”

Professor Wattley has served on a variety of civic and professional boards and committees, including the State Bar of Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals; District 6 Grievance Committee; Dallas Bar Foundation; and the Board of Regents for Texas Woman's University. She was appointed to serve on "Dallas Together," a mayoral committee appointed to address racial issues within the City of Dallas and appointed as Vice Chairperson for the 1990 and 2000 City of Dallas Redistricting Commissions.

She is a frequent speaker and panelist participating in presentations with the Dallas Women’s Leadership Symposium; Center for American and International Law; American Board of Trial Advocates; Dallas Bar Association; and other community and legal organizations.  Professor Wattley has been an instructor for National Institute of Trial Advocacy, teaching in trial and deposition programs for over 30 years.

Professor Wattley received the Dallas Bar Association’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award in 1994. She is also the recipient of the DaVinci Institute Fellow Award for Innovative Teaching, the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award, the Association of Black Lawyers’ Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Award, the University of Oklahoma Regents’ Award for Superior Professional and University Service and Public Outreach, the Charlye O. Farris Award, and the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP’s President’s Award.  Professor Wattley has also been included in Who’s Who in Black Dallas.

Professor Wattley continues to work with Centurion Ministries, a non-profit organization based in Princeton, New Jersey, devoted to the vindication and liberation of persons wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Through Centurion, she served as one of the attorneys for Kerry Max Cook, a former Texas death row inmate. Professor Wattley represented Richard Miles in his release from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and ultimate exoneration. She continues to work with Mr. Miles as a board member for his non-profit organization, Miles of Freedom.  She and Centurion Ministries still battle for the exoneration and release of Benjamine Spencer, a high profile wrongful conviction case in Dallas.