School Directory

Debra Stark

Debra  Stark

The John Marshall Law School
315 South Plymouth Court
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Phone: 312.360.2650
Office: Room 929
Office Hours: Mon. & amp; 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 | 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, A special focus of her activities as a law professor has been to engage in empirical research, perform pro bono work, and train students to provide legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence and to victims of predatory lending. She also enjoys teaching students who are interested in real estate law, a systematic, transactional skills approach to representing parties in this practice area.

Professor Stark created the Domestic Violence Law & Practicum course in 2008 that includes a clinical component. Students in this course represent survivors of domestic violence seeking an emergency order of protection and also work on a community outreach project (formulating reform ideas, educational programs, or educational materials). Professor Stark created the Family Law Advocacy for Survivors of Domestic Violence course with Beth McCormack and Bryan Wilson, of Kamerlink, Stark, McCormack and Powers ("KSMP"). This course trains students through simulations on how to handle divorce or parentage actions for survivors of domestic violence. The course can lead, in a subsequent semester, to an internship with KSMP or LAF where students will assist in representing survivors of domestic violence on divorce and/or parentage matters. She completed in 2012, two empirical studies that collected data on how well the judges of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Division of Domestic Violence apply the Illinois Domestic Violence Act when ruling on orders of protection and reported on the results of these studies to the Presiding Judge along with recommended steps to address the problems noted from the data. She also completed a law review article in 2013 that reports on the results of these studies with an analysis of policy implications here in Illinois and in other jurisdictions. She is a member of two work groups created by the Presiding Judge 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 9 articles (published in law reviews or peer edited psychology journals) and 1 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. The focus of the research under the grant is to investigate how prospective homeowners read, assess and recall important information before agreeing to the terms of home loans and devise strategies to reduce predatory lending. Her first law review article on the topic of predatory lending was published in 2005 in the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal and her most recent published law review article on this topic was published in 2013 in the Yale Law Journal Online. 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 was elected Chair of the Residential Mortgage in 2012.

Consistent with her goal of training students to be "practice ready" upon graduation, Professor Stark helped create John Marshall's LLM Program in Real Estate Law in 1994-1995 and has written and published two textbooks that take a project and skills approach to teaching real estate law. Her first book: "Commercial Real Estate Transactions: A Project and Skills Oriented Approach" (2d ed. 2009 Lexis) has been adopted at over thirty law schools since the first edition came out in 2001 and she uses this textbook when teaching the Commercial Real Estate course. Her second textbook, "Residential Real Estate Law: A Transactional Skills Analysis" was published in 2003 by Carolina Academic Press and focuses on how to represent a home buyer or seller in different types of residential real estate deals and includes materials on how to avoid a predatory loan when financing the purchase of a home. She uses this textbook with supplements to teach the Real Estate Transactions course.

Professor Stark has also engaged in leadership roles in the field of real estate. 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 co-founded, with two students, the John Marshall Law School Habitat for Humanity Chapter in 2002. As faculty supervisor of the JMLS HFH Chapter she has organized and worked on with student members several pro bono legal assistance projects relating to real estate matters for the local affiliates and estate planning for new Habitat homeowners.

Full Curriculum Vitae


Ineffective In Any Form: How Confirmation Biases and Distraction Undermine Improved Home Loan Disclosures, Yale Law Journal Online (April 16, 2013)

Doomed to Fail: A Psychological Analysis of Mortgage Loan Disclosures and Policy Implications, __ Banking & Fin. Serv. Rep. __ (forthcoming 2013)

Dysfunctional Contracts and the Laws and Practices That Enable Them: An Empirical Analysis, _ Ind. L. Rev. __ (2013)

Complex Decision Making and Cognitive Aging Call for Enhanced Protection of Seniors Contemplating a Reverse Mortgage (with Dr. Choplin and Mark LeBoeuf), __ Arizona State Law Review __ (2013)

"Cognitive Barriers to Rational Home Loan Decision-Making: Implications for Mortgage Counselors" in Psychology of Counseling (Ed. A. Di Fabio) Nova Science Publishers, Inc. (2013)

A Psychological Investigation of Consumer Vulnerability to Fraud: Legal and Policy Implications (with Dr. Choplin and Ahmad), 35 Law & Psychology Review 61 (2011)

Consumer Protection Initiatives in the E.U. Mortgage Market: A Behavioral Economics Analysis and Proposal, 25 Temple International and Comparative Law Journal 1 (2011)

A Cognitive and Social Psychological Analysis of Disclosure Laws and Call for Mortgage Counseling To Prevent Predatory Lending (with Dr. Choplin), 16 Psychology, Public Policy & Law 85 (2010)

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

A License To Deceive: Enforcing Contractual Myths Despite Consumer Psychological Realities (with Dr. Choplin), 5 NYU Journal of Law & Business 617 (2009)

Does Fraud Pay? An Empirical Analysis of Attorney's Fees Provisions In Consumer Fraud Statues (with Dr. Choplin), 56 Cleveland State Law Review 483 (2008)

How Do You Solve A Problem Like In Kelo?, 40 John Marshall Law Review 609 (2007)

More Publications


Presenter: 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)

Presenter: 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)

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

Chair/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 (Jan. 2013)

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

Speaker: "Psychological Phenomena That Cause Consumers to be Vulnerable to Predatory Loans," Northern Illinois University (April 20, 2012)

Speaker, "The Inspiration and Development of Law Related Publications," The John Marshall Law School (April 11, 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)

Panelist: "Housing Issues Facing Survivors of Domestic Violence," The John Marshall Law School (Aug. 26, 2011)

Panelist: "Domestic Violence in the United States: A Question and Answer Session," The John Marshall Law School (Oct. 25, 2010)

Speaker: 7th Annual Atiner International Conference of Law, "A Psychological and Policy Critique of EU Member State Responses to the Green Paper on Mortgage Credit," Athens, Greece (July 20, 2010)

Speaker: Oxford Round Table, "Sacrificing Consumers on the Alter of 'Market Efficiency': The Need for Mandatory Mortgage Counseling Intervention," Pembroke College, Oxford University (March 24, 2009)

Speaker: "Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence: One Law School's Response," Masyrk University, Brno (March 24, 2009)

Speaker: "Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence: One Law School's Response," Charles University, Prague (March 17, 2009)

Panelist: Annual AALS Meeting, "Pedagogical Techniques to Incorporate GLBT Issues into the Family Law Course," San Diego, California (Jan. 7, 2009)

Panelist: Emory Law School Transactional Skills Conference, "Incorporating Transactional Skills Into The First Year Curriculum: An Example Taken From Property Law" (May 31, 2008)

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