Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book, Nine to Five: How Gender, Sex, and Sexuality Continue to Define the American Workplace (Cambridge University Press 2016), is a lively and accessible introduction to the laws, policies, and practices that shape women’s lives at work. She also writes extensively on family law, especially on state regulation of marriage and parentage. She chronicles contemporary developments in parentage law in her blog, Are You My Mother?. She is also an author of Inside the Castle: Law and the Family in 20th Century America (Princeton University Press 2011), a comprehensive social history of family law. She is the co-author of Gender & Law: Theory Doctrine & Commentary (6th ed. 2013); the co-editor of Gender Equality: Dimensions of Women’s Equal Citizenship (Cambridge University Press 2009); and the co-editor of Family Law in New York (Carolina Academic Press 2015).

Columns by Joanna L. Grossman

California Allows Children to Have More Than Two Legal Parents

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a ruling allowing a child to have three legal parents, and a related measure that California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law. Grossman covers both the facts and law pertaining to the case, and explains why California, alone among the states, allowed a three-parent situation to be established.

Last Rights and the Battle Over Huguette Clark’s Will

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman and Justia guest columnist and Stanford law professor Lawrence Friedman together comment on an epic contest over an estate that totaled over $300 million. Grossman and Friedman explain why the estate at issue, belonging to a woman named Huguette Clark, raised a host of complex issues that were ripe for a will contest, and they comment on the possibility that the will contest might have been avoided in various ways.

Playing “Too Womany” and the Problem of Masculinity in Sport

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman, and Justia guest columnist and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah Brake comment on the 40th anniversary of Title IX, which transformed athletics for women and girls. Yet, they note, serious problems remain. Grossman and Brake note issues such as the cost of prizing masculinity in sports and the collateral damage of masculinity, including rape, gang-rape, and male-on-male hazing and assault. They also discuss the daunting task of changing sport culture, suggesting that community sports programs, especially in the younger years, should encourage more co-ed play, so that kids learn young to respect all athletes, both male and female, at a young age.

Falling Dominoes: Same-Sex Spouses Gain More Recognition Rights

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Hofstra law professor and Justia columnist Joanna Grossman comments on recent same-sex marriage developments, including Justice Ginsburg’s performing a same-sex wedding ceremony; the ruling in United States v. Windsor; changes in the way in which same-sex couples now will be treated by the IRS and Social Security Administration, as well as by HHS regarding Medicare benefits; and the Obergefell v. Kasich case, which raised the issue of whether a same-sex marriage would be reflected on a death certificate.

And They Shall Call Him . . .? Post-Divorce Disputes Over Children’s Surnames

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent New Jersey Supreme Court case that involved the following question: Should the custodial parent have the presumptive right to change his or her child’s surname after a divorce? Grossman considers this and other questions and conflicts, that can arise regarding child-naming. She also puts these conflicts in the context of the U.S.’s tradition of patronymy, under which children take their father’s surname, and explains how that tradition emerged.

A Matter of Contract: The Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Traditional Surrogacy Agreements Are Enforceable

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Hofstra law professor and Justia columnist Joanna Grossman discusses a complex Wisconsin family law case, which led the Wisconsin Supreme Court to validate traditional surrogacy contracts—that is, ones where the surrogate provides the egg and the womb. This kind of surrogacy, as Grossman explains, is now rare. The arrangement, Grossman points out, was also unusual in another way: It was an altruistic—that is, uncompensated—surrogacy. Unfortunately, the arrangement led to a post-birth controversy, and then to litigation, as Grossman explains.

Solomon’s Child: How Baby Veronica Came to Be Returned Home After a Long Legal Battle

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman chronicles and comments on the legal fight over Baby Veronica, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. As Grossman explains, the case was complicated due to an apparent conflict between the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 1978 law designed to reduce improper removals of Indian children from their parents and their placement with non-Indian families, and South Carolina’s rules regarding the rights of unwed fathers. Grossman explains the reasoning of majority opinion, as well as that of the opinion of Justice Sotomayor, who wrote the principal dissent.

Revenge: The Supreme Court Narrows Protection Against Workplace Retaliation in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman, and Justia guest columnist and University of Pittsburgh law professor Deborah Brake together comment on the Supreme Court's recent decisions in two cases that involved employment discrimination. In one, the Court narrowed the definition of “supervisor” in harassment cases, which reduces the number of cases in which employers can be held vicariously liable for unlawful harassment. In the other case, the same 5-4 majority took a restrictive view of causation in workplace retaliation cases, which Grossman and Brake note will undermine protection for workers who complain about discrimination. As Justice Ginsburg observed in her strong dissents in both cases, and as Grossman and Brake also contend, the majority opinions are insensitive to the realities of working life, and are wrongly preoccupied with making it easy for employers to win discrimination cases at the summary judgment stage.

DOMA is Dead: The Supreme Court Rules in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Windsor, holding that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—passed in 1996 in haste to ward off same-sex marriage in the states—is unconstitutional. Grossman chronicles DOMA's history; discusses challenges to DOMA Section Three; and explains why Windsor was the perfect test case for DOMA. She also covers the standing issue, in addition to the merits questions discussed by the majority opinion and the dissent.

The Power to Harass: The Supreme Court Adopts A Definition of “Supervisor” that Reduces Employer Liability for Harassment

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman critiques the Supreme Court majority opinion in Vance v. Ball State University. There, Grossman explains, the Court majority held that a harasser does not qualify as a supervisor unless he or she has the power to “take tangible employment actions against the victim”—also known informally as having the power to hire and fire. This ruling matters in important ways, Grossman explains, because the employer’s liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for workplace harassment committed by supervisors is much stronger than it is for harassment inflicted by co-workers. Accordingly, the ruling leaves some workers with less protection from harassment than they would have had, if the Court's minority had had its way. Grossman also covers Justice Ginsburg's dissent, which she finds very persuasive.

Seneca Falls Redux: New York’s Governor Cuomo Pushes A New Law to Protect Women’s Rights

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman explains the specific provisions of, and the keen need for, the bill that Governor Cuomo of New York has recently proposed, which is entitled the Women's Equality Act (WEA). Pointing to two hypothetical babies, a boy and a girl, Cuomo notes that the girl's life will be marked with risks and forms of discrimination that the boy will never have to suffer. The bill, Cuomo contends, will help level the playing field for girls and women, via changes in the law in ten different areas, each of which Grossman comments upon.

Birthright: The Iowa Supreme Court Allows a Lesbian Co-Parent to Be Listed on an Infant’s Birth Certificate

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling allowing the lesbian co-partner of the biological mother of a child to be listed on that child’s birth certificate. Grossman covers the facts regarding the particular co-partners who prevailed in this landmark decision, and the reasoning that convinced the Iowa Supreme Court—which earlier had legalized same-sex marriage—to side with them and to grant them both the rights to be recognized as the legal mothers of the child whom they are raising together.

A Difference of Opinion: Are Universal Life Church Weddings Valid in New York?

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on the validity, in New York, of marriages performed by the Universal Life Church, which ordains its ministers via the click of an online button, and subsequent online approval. New York courts are split on the matter, and as Grossman notes, a recent annulment filing has brought the issue up once again. Her column brings up interesting questions such as, “Who is a minister?” and “What is a Church?”

Victor/Victoria: Michigan Court Says Marriage Still Valid Despite Husband’s Sexual Reassignment Surgery

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on how the legal status of the spouses in a marriage may change if one of them has sex-reassignment surgery—either before or after the marriage, or whether their legal sex must always be the one they had at birth. Grossman covers cases on this topic in Kansas, Texas, Florida and New Jersey, and their outcomes.

Parenthood by Contract: The Kansas Supreme Court Enforces a Lesbian Co-Parenting Agreement

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on the recurring legal issue of whether a lesbian co-parent—one who functions as a second parent for her partner’s biological child—can acquire parental or quasi-parental rights that allow her to still enjoy a parent-child relationship after the adults’ relationship ends. Grossman discusses state Supreme Court cases from Kansas, North Carolina and Ohio that take on this very question. She also discusses the question whether a child can have three legal parents (one of whom is a sperm donor and the other two, lesbian co-parents) and notes that no court, so far, has allowed that.

What’s the Matter with North Dakota and Arkansas? Two State Legislatures Pass Highly Restrictive and Unconstitutional Abortion Laws

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on two states’ decisions to pass abortion laws despite the fact that under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, it is very clear that these new laws are unconstitutional. Grossman explains the relevant tenets of constitutional law regarding abortion, and details exactly why both North Dakota’s and Arkansas’s laws flout the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedents. Grossman also covers other abortion laws that have been passed by state legislatures despite their very clear unconstitutionality, and notes that the new laws do not gibe with public opinion regarding abortion rights.

A Lawyer for All: The 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright

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Justia columnist Joanna Grossman and Justia guest columnist Leon Friedman, both Hofstra law professors, comment on the landmark Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainright, which established the right to an attorney for those who are facing felony charges, and who would not otherwise be able to afford a lawyer. The column is timely, as the Gideon precedent is now fifty years old. In their column, Grossman and Friedman describe the state of the law before the ruling in Gideon, note the arguments that persuaded the Court to declare a right of appointed counsel for those who could not afford counsel, and explain the meaning of the ruling.

A Step in the Right Direction: The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 at 20

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman discusses the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) on its twentieth anniversary. Grossman notes that after an eight-year fight over its provisions, the FMLA was left somewhat anemic when it was finally enacted into law. Grossman also explains specifically why the FMLA is disappointing to many workers: For instance, many U.S. workers are not eligible for FMLA leave; many of the eligible cannot afford to take leave; and the FMLA has done little to alter the disproportionate burden of caretaking that falls on women in most families. In addition, Grossman points out, the FMLA did not alter the U.S.’s disappointingly low ranking among industrialized countries when it comes to medical and caretaking leave benefits for workers. Grossman urges some much-needed fixes to the FMLA, advocating that the law should be changed to solve some serious problems with, and close some worrisome gaps in, leave benefits, which she details.

In Utero: The New Jersey Supreme Court Says Prenatal Drug Exposure Is Not Sufficient Evidence of Child Abuse

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a New Jersey case in which the state’s high court held unanimously—and perhaps surprisingly, to some—that the state may not find a newborn to be abused or neglected based solely on evidence of prenatal drug exposure, without evidence of actual harm to the child. Grossman covers the problem of drug use among pregnant women; states’ various approaches to that problem; and the question of when pre-natal drug use should be deemed child abuse under the law.

“Mama’s in the Graveyard, Papa’s in the Pen”: Why the Children of a Slaying Spouse Cannot Inherit

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman, and Justia guest columnist and Stanford law professor Lawrence Friedman explain the rule that one who slays his or her spouse cannot then inherit from that spouse. To illustrate the doctrine, Grossman and Friedman focus on a case involving a murder in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and raise the interesting question of who determines, in this context, if a suspect was actually the slayer. They also explain why not only the slayer, but also the slayer’s children, are barred from inheriting from the murder victim. In addition to the BVI case, Grossman and Friedman cover a long-ago New York case that they deem the grandfather of all slayer cases, as well as a few other, more recent slayer cases.