Joel Samaha received his B.A. (1958), J.D. (1961), and Ph.D. (1972) from Northwestern University. He teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Introduction to Criminal Justice, and The Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights, 1865-2000. He is a historian whose primary research interest is constitutional and criminal justice history.

He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1962 and briefly practiced law in Chicago.

He  taught one year at the University of California at Los Angeles before coming to the University of Minnesota in 1971. He was Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice Studies from 1974 to 1978. He has taught both television and radio courses in criminal justice, and has co-taught a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar in legal and constitutional history. He was named Distinguished Teacher of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota in 1974.

Professor Samaha has published a number of scholarly works on the history of criminal justice, including a monograph, Law and Order in Historical Perspective: The Case of Elizabethan Essex; and articles in the Historical Journal, American Journal of Legal History, Minnesota Law Review, William Mitchell Law Review, and Journal of Social History.

Professor Samaha has also written three textbooks, Criminal Law (8th edition 2004); Criminal Procedure (6th edition 2004); Criminal Justice (7th edition 2005)