Faculty Picture

Christina A. Zawisza

Professor of Clinical Law and Director, Child and Family Litigation Clinic

(901) 678-5201
Law School, Legal Clinic Offices
Office Hours

About Professor Zawisza

Chris Zawisza is a nationally recognized expert and practitioner in the field of children's law. She was a founder and director of Children First (now Florida's Children First), an innovative statewide law reform project to enhance children's legal rights by taking into consideration their medical, educational and social needs. She has represented children at all levels of the court system from administrative levels to the United States Supreme Court and has practiced extensively before the Florida Legislature on behalf of children and families.

Among her achievements are: litigation and settlement of a class action lawsuit, M.E.v. Bush, on behalf of 45,000 dependent and delinquent children in Florida to obtain necessary mental health treatment; representation of foster children in challenging the gay adoption ban in Florida in Lofton v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 157 F.Supp. 2d 1372 (S.D. Fla. 2001), 358 F.3d 804 (11th Cir. 2004), 543 U. S. 1081 (cert. denied 2005); drafting and advocacy to create a funded relative caregiver program in Florida; drafting of the Florida constitutional amendment providing universal pre-kindergarten education to four year olds; and representation of Amici Curiae before the Tennessee Supreme Court in In re A. M. H., 215 S.W. 3d 793 (Tenn. 2007), which resulted in a unanimous decision clarifying termination of parental rights requirements and the concept of substantial harm.

Most recently, Professor Zawisza had developed and delivered a Juvenile Court Practice Series on behalf of the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. Titles in this PowerPoint series include: Trial Skills for Children in the Courtroom; Expert Witnesses in Juvenile Court; Ethics Refresher for Juvenile Court Practice; and Cross- Cultural Competency.

As the faculty advisor for the Public Action Law Society, Professor Zawisza has mentored students in the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Project, which in 2010 sent 15 law students to Miami to assist Haitians caught in Miami after a hurricane to achieve temporary protected status. In 2011, 30 law students from around the country will participate in ASB at Memphis Law and will work on pro se divorce, advanced directives, and non-profit projects.


B.A., magna cum laude, State University of New York at Albany, M. A. in Public Policy, the University of Wisconsin, J.D., the University of Virginia


Tennessee, New York and Florida


Professor of Clinical Law and Director, Child and Family Litigation Clinic, University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, 2009 - present.

Associate Professor of Clinical Law and Director, Child and Family Litigation Clinic, University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, 2004 to 2009.

Over 30 years of legal practice in the area of juvenile and family law in Florida and Tennessee, 19 years as a Legal Services attorney; Director, Children First and Clinic Instructor, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center, 1996

Teaching Interests

Child Advocacy, Clinical Legal Education, Juvenile Law, Disability Law and Practice


Professor Zawisza has presented poster sessions at AALS clinical conferences and has organized and moderated panel discussions at AALS Global Alliance for Justice Education Conferences in Poland and in Argentina. She writes in the area of child welfare law and practice and clinical teaching methodologies; her most recent publication is "Storied Anna Mae He Decision Clarifies Law But Leaves Unanswered Questions," 38 U. Mem. L. Rev. 637 (2008), which tracks the seven year custody battle between Chinese birth parents and American foster parents. She currently serves on the Tennessee Supreme Court Dependency Court Improvement Task Force and the Tennessee Children's Justice Task Force. Professor Zawisza has received numerous honors and awards, including the American Bar Association Young Lawyers National Child Advocacy Award. She has been interviewed and quoted extensively on children's legal issues in print and broadcast media, including The New York Times, Brian Williams, then of MSNBC, and the Associated Press.