2022 Witkin Awards: Mary Jo Wiggins

Professor Mary Jo Wiggins was named a Witkin Award winner in 2022 for Excellence in Legal Education. Mary Jo Wiggins is Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law. A member of the faculty since 1990, she has made substantial and distinguished contributions to the law school as a scholar, teacher, and faculty leader. In 2016, USD named her a University Professor, USD’s highest faculty academic honor. The law school twice named her the Herzog Endowed Scholar, and the law school named her the Class of 1975 Endowed Professor. Law students voted to award her the Thorsnes Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Professor Wiggins teaches and writes in the areas of property, remedies, land use, bankruptcy, and debtor-creditor law. A nationally recognized scholar, she is an elected member of the American Law Institute. In 1998, the United States Supreme Court appointed her to the U. S. Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, where she served two consecutive terms.

Professor Wiggins is most recently the author of “The Scholar, The Harmonizer, and the Institutionalist” in The Jurisprudential Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, New York University Press (2022). She is also a contributing author to the authoritative legal treatise, Collier on Bankruptcy. Professor Wiggins publishes her scholarship in the nation’s leading law reviews and journals. Select publications include: “Access Anxiety” (Real Property Trust & Estate Law Journal), “Conservative Economics and Optimal Consumer Bankruptcy Policy” (Theoretical Inquiries in Law), “Race, Class, and Suburbia: The Modern Black Suburb as a Race-Making Situation” (Michigan Journal of Legal Reform), “Finance and Factionalism: The Uneasy Present (and Future) of Special Interest Committees in Corporate Reorganization Law” (San Diego Law Review), “A Statute of Disbelief? Clashing Ethical Imperatives in Fraudulent Transfer Law” (South Carolina Law Review), “The New Rawlsian Theory of Bankruptcy Ethics” (Cardozo Law Review). Professor Wiggins is a frequent public commentator on issues related to her teaching and research.

Professor Wiggins served as the law school’s associate dean for academic affairs from 2006-2011. In 2011, USD promoted her to vice dean (the first vice dean in the university’s history), and she served in that position until 2016. As associate dean and then vice dean, Professor Wiggins improved the relevancy, vibrancy, and responsiveness of the law school’s academic programs during a time of unprecedented change in legal education. Professor Wiggins currently serves as chair of the law school’s faculty hiring committee.

Professor Wiggins has been honored for her broad and sustained legal reform work and her exemplary commitment to improving legal education. Among other outstanding contributions throughout the course of her career, she is actively involved in programs that seek to promote access to the legal profession for historically underrepresented groups. Professor Wiggins was selected as a Fellow of the American Bankruptcy Law Journal Fellowship Program, and she was awarded the Asa S. Herzog Award from Matthew Bender. She was named a “Woman of Vision in the Law” by the San Diego Chapter of the League of Women Voters. During the course of her career, Professor Wiggins has served as: Chair of the American Association of Law Schools’ Section on Debtors’ and Creditors’ Rights; Reporter for the Ninth Circuit Judicial Council’s Committee for Review of Local Bankruptcy Rules of Procedure; Chair of the California State Bar Insolvency Law’s Bankruptcy Rules Review Project; Chair of the California State Bar Insolvency Law’s Publication Committee; Member of the Advisory Board of the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review; Faculty Member for the American Board of Certification for Business and Consumer Bankruptcy; Faculty Member for the Study of Corporate Law at USD School of Law; Consultant for Rand Corporation Research Studies on the U.S. Bankruptcy System; Of Counsel, Procopio, LLP; Consultant to the Access Lex Institute; Faculty Founder of the USD School of Law Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Team. Professor Wiggins received the “Distinguished Alumni Award” from Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Professor Wiggins received her undergraduate degree with highest departmental honors from Smith College. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan, where she was Associate Editor and Notes Editor of the Michigan Law Review and the recipient of both the Howard B. Coblentz Prize and the Richard K. Dykema Prize for outstanding contributions to the law review. Before entering law teaching, Professor Wiggins practiced law with the firm of Ice, Miller, Donadio, & Ryan in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Professor Wiggins has been happily married for twenty-eight years.  She and her husband, Donald Wiggins, are proud parents of Nathan Wiggins and Meredith Wiggins.