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Richard Briffault

Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation

Richard Briffault

Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation

Richard Briffault is the Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School. His research, writing, and teaching focus on state and local government law, legislation, the law of the political process, government ethics, and property.

He is co-author of the textbook, State and Local Government Law, 2016, (8th edition); principal author of “Dollars and Democracy: A Blueprint for Campaign Finance Reform,” (a report of the New York City Bar Association’s commission on campaign finance reform), 2000; and author of Balancing Acts: The Reality Behind State Balanced Budget Requirements, Twentieth Century Fund Press, 1996. He has also written more than 75 law review articles.

In 2014, Briffault was appointed chair of the Conflicts of Interest Board of New York City. He was a member of New York StateĀ’’s Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Public Corruption from 2013 to 2014, and served as a member of, or consultant to, several city and state commissions in New York dealing with state and local governance, including the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness (2007-2008); the Temporary New York Commission on Constitutional Revision (1993-1995); the New York City Real Property Tax Reform Commission (1993); and the New York City Charter Revision Commission (1987-1989).

He is currently the reporter for the American Law Institute's project on principles of government ethics. He is also vice-chair of Citizens Union of the City of New York.

He was law clerk to the Honorable Shirley M. Hufstedler of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and was assistant counsel to New York Gov. Hugh L. Carey.

Briffault joined the Law School faculty in 1983. He received his J.D. from Harvard University and his B.A. from Columbia University.

  • J.D., Harvard University, 1977
  • B.A., Columbia University, 1974
  • "Local Autonomy and Constitutional Law: An Uncertain Relationship," in Law Between Buildings: Emergent Global Perspectives in Urban Law (Nisha Mistry and Nestor M. Davidson, eds., Routledge  2017)
  • “CON: Resolved, Congress should remove the caps on the amount that individuals can contribute to candidates for federal office,” in Debating Reform: Conflicting Perspectives on How to Fix the American Political System (Richard J. Ellis & Michael Nelson, eds., Sage CQ Press 2017)
  • "'Mind the Gap’: The Promise and Limits of Home Rule in New York,” in New York’s Broken Constitution: The Governance Crisis and the Path to Renewed Greatness (Peter J. Galie, Christopher Bopst, and Gerald Benjamin, eds., SUNY Press 2016)
  • “Constitutional Revision in New York: The Democracy Agenda,” in Making a Modern Constitution: The Prospects for Constitutional Reform in New York (Rose Mary Bailly & Scott N. Fein, eds., NYS Bar Ass’n 2016)
  • “The United States,” in Checkbook Elections? Political Finance in Comparative Perspective (Pippa Norris & Andrea Abel van Es, eds., Oxford Univ. Press 2016)
  • “'More Speech’ as a First Amendment Violation: Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett and the Challenge to Public Funding” in Election Law Stories (Joshua A. Douglas & Eugene D. Mazo, eds., Foundation Press 2016)
  • State and Local Government Law, 8th Edition, with Laurie Reynolds (West 2016) 
  • Of Constituents and Contributors, 2015 University Chicago Legal Forum 29
  • “The Uncertain Future of the Corporate Contribution Ban,” 49 Valparaiso Law Review 397, 2015
  • “The Anxiety of Influence: The Evolving Regulation of Lobbying,” 13 Elec. L. J. 160, 2014
  • “Coordination Reconsidered,” 113 Columbia Law Review Sidebar 88, 2013
  • “The Future of Public Funding,” 49 Willamette Law Review 521, 2013
  • “Nonprofits and Disclosure in the Wake of Citizens United,” 10 Elec. L.J. 337, 2011
  • “Super PACs,” 96 Minnesota Law Review 1644, 2012
  • “Updating Disclosure for the New Era of Independent Spending,” 27 J. L. & Pol. 683, 2012
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Professional Experience
  • Chair, Conflicts of Interest Board of the City of New York, 2014-
  • Commisioner, Moreland Act Commision to Investigate Public Corruption, New York State, 2013-2014
  • Reporter, Project on Principles of Government Ethics American Law Institute, 2010-
  • Consultant, New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness, 2007-2008
  • Princeton University, Fellow, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, 2005-2006
  • Harvard University, Visiting Scholar, A. Alfred Taubman Center for State and Local Government, John F. Kennedy School of Government, 1996-1997
  • Consultant, Temporary New York State Commission on Constitutional Revision, 1993-1995
  • Assistant Counsel to Governor Hugh L. Carey, State of New York, 1980-1982
  • Associate, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York, NY, 1978-1980
  • Law Clerk to Honorable Shirley M. Hufstedler, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 1977-1978


Remarks and Testimony
  • Federal Election Commission, Forum on Corporate Political Spending and Foreign Influence, June 23, 2016
  • Federal Election Commission, Public Hearing on the McCutcheon v. FEC Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, February 11, 2015
  • Hearing on New York Attorney General's Proposed Charity Disclosure Regulations, January 15, 2013
  • Hearing of New York State Senate Committe on Investigations and Government Operations Concerning the State’s Authority to Tax the Sale of Cigarettes on Tribal Lands, January 26, 2010
  • Hearing on Prevention of Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation in Federal Elections: S. 453, United States Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, June 7, 2007
  • Hearing of New York City Council Committee on Governmental Operations Concerning Campaign Finance Reform, December 11, 2003
  • Hearing on the Authority of Congress to Regulate Federal Election Campaigns, United States House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, May 5, 1999
Areas of Expertise
  • Campaign Finance Regulation
  • Government Ethics
  • Law of the Political Process 
  • Legislation
  • State and Local Government Law  
Law of the Political Process
Legal Methods
Legislation and Regulation
State and Local Government Law