Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit academic think tank at the University of Pennsylvania dedicated to interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to prevent child abuse and neglect. Before moving to the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Hamilton was the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.

Hamilton is the leading expert on child sex abuse statutes of limitations and has submitted testimony and advised legislators in every state where significant reform has occurred. She is the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge University Press), which advocates for the elimination of child sex abuse statutes of limitations. She has filed countless pro bono amicus briefs for the protection of children at the United States Supreme Court and the state supreme courts. Her textbook, Children and the Law, co-authored with Martin Gardner, will be published Fall 2017 by Carolina Academic Press, formerly Lexis/Nexis.

Hamilton has been a vocal and influential critic of extreme religious liberty, advocating for the vulnerable about overreaching. Hamilton successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) at the Supreme Court in Boerne v. Flores (1997), and defeated the RFRA claim brought by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee against hundreds of child sex abuse survivors in Committee of Unsecured Creditors v. Listecki (7th Cir. 2015). She has represented numerous cities dealing with church-state issues as well as claims brought under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA). The author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty (Cambridge University Press), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, she is also a columnist for Verdict on Justia.com.

Hamilton has been honored with the 2018 Pennsylvania State University Department of Philosophy Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2017 University of Pennsylvania Law School Louis H. Pollak Public Service Award, the 2016 Voice Today, Voice of Gratitude Award; the 2015 Religious Liberty Award, American Humanist Association; the 2014 Freethought Heroine Award; the National Crime Victim Bar Association’s Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice Award, 2012; the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for outstanding public advocacy and scholarship, 2008; and selected as a Pennsylvania Woman of the Year Award, 2012, among others. She is also frequently quoted in the national media on child abuse and neglect, statute of limitations, constitutional, RFRA, RLUIPA, and First Amendment issues.

Hamilton clerked for United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Judge Edward R. Becker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Professor Hamilton is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, B.A., summa cum laude; Pennsylvania State University, M.A. (English, fiction writing, High Honors); M.A. (Philosophy); and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, J.D., magna cum laude, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif.

Columns by Marci A. Hamilton

Thank You, Penn State

Updated:

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton explains how the Sandusky scandal at Penn State revealed that ignoring and covering up child sex abuse over an extended period of time is not unique to the Catholic church. Hamilton argues that Joe Paterno knew of the child sex abuse long before it came to public light but that he chose to keep Sandusky because doing so served his own ends.

Rabbis With a Conscience Make History

Updated:

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a recent development in protections for child sex abuse victims’ access to justice: a letter signed by 62 Jewish rabbis and leaders calling for New York to pass the Child Victims Act, which would create access to justice for child sex abuse victims by eliminating and reviving expired statutes of limitations.

Bucks County DA David Heckler’s Mixed Signals on Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton examines the position Bucks County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney David Heckler has taken with respect to child sex abuse and sex assault victims. Hamilton points out that Heckler does not seem to truly support the protection of children, based on his role in the misleading statements about SOL in the Task Force Report, the delay in release of a grand jury report that supports SOL reform, and the failure to prosecute a Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse.

The 1-2 Punch the Catholic Bishops Have Delivered to Clergy Sex Abuse Victims

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton and guest columnist and child traumatology specialist Steven Berkowitz, M.D., describe the several ways in which Catholic bishops have prevent sex abuse victims from seeking justice for their abusers. Hamilton and Berkowitz argue that justice demands that legislators revive expired civil statutes of limitations and, going forward, eliminate the criminal and civil statutes of limitation for child sex abuse.

The Obama Administration Draws Back From the Precipice of Theocracy

Updated:

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton describes two recent events that indicate that the United States remains dedicated to a culture of freedom and tolerance, rather than moving toward theocracy. As Hamilton explains, the federal government has taken action against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for establishing a theocracy on the border of Utah and Arizona, and also for money laundering and food stamp fraud.

Legislators Should Find Courage in Spotlight’s Success and Motivation in Yet Another Grand Jury Report, and Finally Do SOL Reform Right

Updated:

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the recently released report on abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese in Pennsylvania. Hamilton argues that with the motion picture Spotlight having received the Oscar for Best Motion Picture, legislators in Pennsylvania and elsewhere should have even greater motivation to reform civil and criminal statutes of limitations with respect to victims of child sex abuse.

The 2016 RFRA Decline Is Due to the Difficulty of Selling Discrimination and Child Endangerment as Good Policy

Updated:

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton explains why the pace of new state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts is slower in 2016 than in previous years. Hamilton points out that to pass these bills, legislators have to not only advocate for discrimination, but also for child endangerment—hard policies to sell.

In Defense of Justice Scalia on Religious Liberty and Smith

Updated:

In honor of the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the Court’s decision in Employment Div. v. Smith, in which Justice Scalia wrote for the majority holding that a law is constitutional under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if it is facially neutral and generally applied. Hamilton lauds the decision as striking the right balance between liberty and harm, and between religious diversity and religious tyranny.

Godly Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns: Cruz, Rubio, and Reagan

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the use of religious terms in among the Republican presidential candidates, particularly terms that refer to a specific religio-political world view. Hamilton especially critiques Cruz’s and Rubio’s invocation of Ronald Reagan’s name, pointing out that Reagan tried to bring Americans together in his speeches, even in his references to God.

Sex Abuse Statute of Limitations Reform 2015 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses some of the changes 2015 saw with respect to reform of sex abuse statutes of limitations. Hamilton praises such progress as the sweeping inquiries undertaken by Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the release of the award-winning motion picture, Spotlight, which chronicles the Boston Globe journalists’ path to breaking the story of priest abuse in the Catholic church.

Donald Trump and the Need for Civil, Accurate Discourse

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that Donald Trump and his extreme comments illustrate the need for civil, accurate discourse, rather than blunderbuss and showmanship. Hamilton points to the work by the Program in Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, which is conducting a social experiment that shows that people from different sides of the political/religious divide can have a meaningful conversation and reach agreement for the common good.

The Opposite of ISIS Is the First Amendment, And Its Members Are Extremist Islamic Terrorists

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution stands for the opposite of everything that ISIS stands for, and furthermore, that denying the religious roots of Islamic terrorists does a disservice both to peaceful Muslims and to the public at large. Hamilton points out that by identifying ISIS as religious extremists, we can better accept that they are dogmatic, unbending fundamentalists rather than mere political actors.

Waves Up, Presidential Candidates

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton predicts that the release of the motion picture Spotlight—which is about the cover up of child sex abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese—will force the hands of politicians and candidates across the country with respect to their positions on these issues.

On the Tenth Anniversary of the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury Report on Child Sex Abuse in the Archdiocese

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton celebrates the ten-year anniversary of the groundbreaking 2005 Grand Jury Report on Child Sex Abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. She argues that while that document pales in comparison to the Australian Commission’s report on abuse in that country, it is still hugely significant and should serve as the benchmark for responsible prosecutorial initiative on clergy sex abuse in the United States.

Pope Francis Visits Philadelphia and Promises No More Secrets

Updated:

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recent visit by Pope Francis to Philadelphia on the ten-year anniversary of the release of the landmark Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Hamilton argues that now is the time for state legislators to eliminate statutes of limitations for civil sex abuse suits and revive those claims that have expired due to short statutes of limitations.

Jared Fogle, Ashley Madison, and When Will We Have the Fences that Make for Privacy and Safety on the Internet?

Updated:

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the need for effective fences on the Internet that protect privacy but also permit authorities to enforce the law. Hamilton illustrates this need using examples such as the case of Jared Fogle, the former Subway spokesperson who is pleading guilty to charges of child solicitation and pornography, as well as the Internet's use as a tool for empowerment for victims of child sex abuse.