Professor Curtis was one of the pioneers of clinical education in the 1970s. In the programs that he created, faculty supervise students who represent indigent clients in a variety of contexts. Some of the clients are in settings such as prisons and mental hospitals. By working within institutions, students learn an area of substantive law in an administrative-regulatory context. His students were also active in a variety of legal service programs on behalf of aliens, the elderly, the homeless, the developmentally disabled, and clients of legal aid societies, representing clients in legal settings ranging from negotiations and administrative hearings to appellate arguments in the federal circuit courts. Students often engaged in research that resulted in law review articles and monographs -- illustrating the relationship between becoming lawyers and understanding substantive legal regimes.
In 1997, Professor Curtis developed a new clinical offering in which students appeared in hearings before the Statewide Grievance Committee, the agency charged with administering the lawyer disciplinary process in Connecticut. Under this model, students worked to prosecute cases alleging violations of Connecticut’s Code of Professional Responsibility.
Professor Curtis has written several essays on clinical education and the legal profession and has joined sitting federal judges and other law professors in shaping courses on the law of sentencing. Currently, the sentencing class at Yale Law School that he teaches with the Honorable Nancy Gertner and Professor Kate Stith focuses on sentencing guidelines in the United States as well as methods of sentencing in states and in countries around the world.
He has testified before congressional and judicial committees on sentencing, parole, and post-conviction remedies. From 1990 to 1995, he served as the first President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, created when the voters in Los Angeles approved a change in the City Charter. The jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission included campaign finance laws and regulations and governmental ethics, and the Commission distributed millions of dollars in matching campaign funds to eligible candidates for city elections.
In 2007, Professor Curtis was appointed to serve on the Democracy Fund Board, which is the government entity in New Haven charged with distributing public funds for campaigns. He is a member of the American Law Institute and serves as a consultant for law schools through the Association of American Law Schools. He also chaired the AALS’s Committee on Clinical Legal Education and served as a director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.