Okianer Christian Dark

Professor of Law

J.D., 1979, Rutgers University
B.S., magna cum laude, 1975, Upsala College


Okianer Christian Dark served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Howard University School of Law for six years where she was responsible for managing all aspects of the academic program for the Juris Doctor, JD/MBA and LLM programs. As a member of the faculty, Dean Dark specializes in and teaches courses on Torts, Products Liability, Advanced Torts and Health Law. She is a regular lecturer on legal issues in health law in the Health Ethics course at the Howard University Medical School.

She has significant litigation experience having joined the Antitrust Division in the United States Department of Justice through its Honors Program after graduating from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, NJ. As a trial attorney in the Antitrust Division, she worked on mergers, various civil and criminal antitrust cases and was a member of the landmark trial team in U.S. v. AT&T. Dean Dark was a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Special Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia and an Assistant United States Attorney in Portland, Oregon, where she was responsible for all of the affirmative civil rights cases and Supervisor of the Community Relations Unit. This unit developed and carried out initiatives with other governmental agencies, nonprofits and community activist in the district of Oregon on domestic violence, hate crimes and environmental justice. She is the recipient of several Special Achievement Awards for her work at the Department of Justice and also the 1997 Public Service Award to honor her contributions as a federal employee both on and off the job.

Before joining the Howard Law School faculty, she was a tenured full Professor at T.C. Williams School of law, University of Richmond in Richmond, VA where she taught Antitrust, Torts and advanced level Torts courses. At the University of Richmond, she became the first African American tenured at the law school and the first African American woman tenured at the University. She was twice the recipient of the University of Richmond’s Distinguished Educator Award and also received the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Virginia Women Attorneys Association Foundation.

At Howard, she received the Warren Rosmarin Professor Of Law Excellence Award in Teaching and Service and the Graduate Students Award for faculty of the year. Finally, Dean Dark is very active and highly regarded within the legal professional community where she has served twice as a member of the Board of Trustees for the law School Admission Council, as a member or chair of working and standing committees for the Association of American Law Schools, a former member of the Board for the Society of American Law Teachers and as a member of the Diversity Committee for the ABA Section of Legal Education and the Bar. She is listed in Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who in Legal Education, Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

As a scholar, her publications are on the use of tort law to address issues in vulnerable communities as well as on legal pedagogical issues and on other matters related to legal education. She is a frequent presenter at national conferences and many law schools on diversity and teaching methodology.

Dean Dark has been actively involved in Fair housing work since the early 1990s. Her personal story as a victim of housing discrimination is the focus of a video titled “Who Can Ever Get Use to This?” (now on YouTube) and widely used by governmental agencies, fair housing organizations and law schools to illustrate the impact that housing discrimination has on the victim. In 2008, she was a member of the National Commission on Fair Housing and Opportunity, a bipartisan effort, to investigate the state of fair housing nationwide in the 40th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

The Commission published a report titled The Future of Fair Housing: Report of the National Commission on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity with nine recommendations that was submitted to the Obama Administration and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for implementation. For her significant role in the promotion of equal housing opportunity for all, she is the recipient of the National Fair Housing Alliance’s Award for Excellence. In her capacity as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Howard Law School, she helped to establish the Fair Housing Clinic which trains law students for this field of practice.

In the field of health, she was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Northwest Health Foundation in Portland, Oregon, where she served as the Chair of the Grants Committee for that foundation which annually gave about $2 million dollars in grants to nonprofit and governmental organizations to improve the health of Oregon and Southwest Washington residents. When she moved to Montgomery County, she continued her work on health access and disparities issues by serving on the Montgomery County Commission on Health where she was elected the Vice Chair and Chair of the Commission. This Commission is the only citizen commission in Montgomery County concerned with public health.

Presently, she is a member of the Montgomery County Advisory Board for Montgomery Cares Program. The Montgomery Cares program is a unique public/private partnership to provide primary care services to uninsured adults in the county. She is Chair of the Specialty Committee for the Advisory Board which has the goal of expanding specialty care services for the uninsured adult population in Montgomery County. In addition, Dean Dark has helped to develop a series of health law courses at Howard Law school so that law students can prepare for this field of practice.

Dean Dark is always active in the community where she lives. For example, in Portland, Oregon, she established a Saturday School Program for primary school-age children at the Urban League of Portland for which she received an award as the United Way-Multnomah County Volunteer of the Year. She also established a Children’s Book Fair (directed at preschool and school age children up to 8th grade), collaboration between the Urban League and the Multnomah Public Library, to encourage children to read during the summer. This Book Fair continues on an annual basis in the North end of Portland. Presently, in Montgomery County, in addition to her service for the Montgomery Cares program, she is a board member of the Community Foundation for Montgomery; the Domestic Violence Ministry for the Peoples Community Baptist Church and the President of the Silver Spring Chapter of the Links, Inc.

Dean Dark received her Bachelor of Arts Degree Magna Cum Laude from Upsala College, in East Orange, New Jersey and her Juris Doctor from Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, New Jersey, where she was the recipient of the Alumni Senior Prize (graduating senior exhibiting highest achievement in law school and potential for success in the legal profession). Dean Dark is a member of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bars.

Professional Contributions

In the past, Professor Dark has frequently contributed to the profession through service in a variety of ways. She was active in the Virginia State Bar serving on the Judicial Selections Committee and as a lecturer in the mandatory professional responsibility course. While in Oregon, she was a member of the Oregon Supreme Court and Oregon State Bar Task Force on Gender Fairness where she chaired the committees on Intersectionality and Training for the Task Force. The final report of this task force was published in the spring of 1998. This report received national attention from a number of sources including the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women, because of the inclusion of Intersectionality in the study.

In legal education, Professor Dark has served in a number of different capacities. She was Chair of the Minority Affairs Committee of the Law School Admission Council and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Law School Admission Council. The Law School Admission Council is best known for the development and administration of the LSAT. She was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Society of American Law Teachers. Professor Dark was active in the Association of American Law Schools. She served as Chair of the 1994 New Law Teachers Workshop for AALS and Chair of the AALS Standing Committee on Sections and The Annual Meeting for two years. She was Chair of the AALS Section on Women in Legal Education. Most recently, she was a member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Oregon School of Law.

Professor Dark often speaks to groups of students who are interested in the field of law or to law students. For example, while she was in Oregon, she participated in programs directed at minority law students in Oregon law schools that were directed by the Affirmative Action Office of the Oregon State Bar.