Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. She is an expert in family law, especially on state regulation of marriage and divorce. Grossman is 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 has also written extensively about sex discrimination, with particular focus on issues of workplace equality such as sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. She is the co-editor of Gender Equality: Dimensions of Women’s Equal Citizenship (Cambridge University Press 2009), an interdisciplinary collection that explores the gaps between formal commitments to gender equality and the reality of women’s lives. She is also the co-editor of Family Law in New York (Carolina Academic Press 2015).
Grossman has a B.A. in economics from Amherst College. She graduated with distinction from Stanford Law School, where she was elected to Order of the Coif and served as the articles development editor of the Stanford Law Review. Prior to becoming a law professor, she served as a law clerk to Judge William A. Norris of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked at the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C., as recipient of the Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship. She practiced law from 1996 to 1998 at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Williams & Connolly. She has also taught law at Vanderbilt, UNC-Chapel Hill, Cardozo, and Tulane.

Columns by Joanna L. Grossman

Mommy and Momma: Determining Parentage in the New Family

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the Supreme Court of New Hampshire recognizing that both women who raised a child (while they were in a relationship together) are legal parents, despite that only one is the biological mother. Grossman describes how that decision and others like it indicate an evolving understanding of parentage and how families are created.

Hard Labor: New Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance From the EEOC

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s new Enforcement Guidance on pregnancy discrimination. Grossman provides an overview of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, as well as a history of courts’ treatment of pregnancy discrimination claims. She describes how the new Guidance clarifies the Act and serves to help pregnant women begin work, continue working, and return to work throughout the reproductive process.

Federal Appellate Court Rules Utah’s Ban on Marriage by Same-Sex Couples Unconstitutional

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upholding a lower court’s invalidation of a Utah ban on same-sex marriage. Grossman points out that while state same-sex marriage bans have been invalidated in sixteen different rulings across the country, this decision marks the first time a federal appeals court has so ruled.

The Legal Price of Adultery Goes Down: North Carolina and West Virginia Abandon Heartbalm Actions

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman and Stanford University law professor Lawrence Friedman discuss the erosion of “heartbalm” laws—legal claims against the extramarital lover of one’s spouse—in North Carolina and West Virginia. Grossman and Friedman describe the history of these causes of action and their decline over time. They explain the reasoning behind two different courts’ rulings—a lower court in North Carolina and the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia—independently striking down their respective state’s remaining heartbalm actions.

A Decade of Change: The Tenth Anniversary of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman reflects on the progress of same-sex marriage in the United States over the past decade. She notes that on May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Grossman describes how the movement gained momentum and how the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor contributed substantially to that rapid change. She observes that as of now, 19 states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage, and that number is only going to increase.

Federal Judge Turns Back Hunt for Gays in the Department of Justice

Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a federal lawsuit by a conservative group seeking to “expose” the U.S. Department of Justice as having been taken over by gay and lesbian employees. Grossman compares the attempt to 1950s-era McCarthyism and the largely successful effort to purge the federal government of gays and communists at that time. She argues that the district court in this case correctly found that the DOJ was justified in refusing to release sensitive documents pertaining to the sexual orientations of its employees.

Married Couple’s Phone Sex Did Not Force Divorce Clock to Reset

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a recent decision by a Maryland appeals court holding that a couple’s engaging in phone sex does not constitute cohabitation for the purpose of divorce. Grossman describes the history of fault and no-fault divorce in Maryland and explains why the court reached the decision it did in this case. Although she acknowledges that the court’s reasoning is sound, she presents two considerations that might have supported the opposite conclusion.

Adoption by Gay Couple Not Blocked by Illegal Surrogacy Agreement

Justia columnist and Hofsta law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a New York family court’s holding that the illegality of a surrogacy agreement should not preclude adoption of the children born from it. Grossman provides an overview of the practice of surrogacy and the legislation its advent sparked, and discusses New York law on that subject. She concludes that the court correctly balances the best interests of the children against the requirements of an outdated law on surrogacy.

The High Price of Badmouthing One’s Spouse During Divorce

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman discusses one aspect of the highly public divorce between Ira and Janice Schacter. She notes that a court recently held that the wife’s decision to vilify her husband in the press, which led to a reduction in his ability to attract clients, was sufficient cause to reduce her share of the marital property. Grossman comments on the judge’s reasoning and raises two key points that could bring the decision into question.

Undue Burden: New York City Police Officer Denied Opportunity to Take Sergeant’s Exam Because She Was Due to Give Birth the Same Day

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a charge of discrimination filed against the City of New York for an allegedly unlawful testing accommodation policy. Grossman describes the facts alleged in the charge: an NYPD police officer was denied the opportunity to reschedule a sergeant’s exam despite that she was scheduled to give birth on the same day as the exam. Grossman then discusses the applicable laws, and she argues that the discriminatory policy is a manifestation of the erroneous mindset that pregnancy is a condition not worthy of even minor accommodation.

Hair Makes the Man: Federal Appellate Court Says Short-Hair Requirement for Male Athletes Is Sex Discrimination

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman tells the story of a boy in Indiana who sued for, and won, the right from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for male athletes to wear their hair long during the athletic season, or at least for the right for boys not to be forced to cut their hair while female athletes are allowed to wear theirs long. Grossman discusses the ruling and why, although it corrects some of the missteps made by other federal courts in grooming-code cases, it does not go far enough to eliminate the gross stereotyping implicit in many sex-specific appearance codes.

A Private Skirt in a Public Place: The Surprising Law of Upskirting

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman, and Justia guest columnist and Stanford law professor Lawrence Friedman comment on the law regarding “upskirting,” in which a man is surreptitiously videotaping up the skirt of a woman who is sitting, facing him, across the aisle of a bus or subway (or in another situation that lends itself to the practice). Grossman and Friedman note that Massachusetts’s legislature now has an anti-upskirting criminal law. Other states may follow soon too, for old laws are poorly fitted to address the very modern practice of upskirting, and unless legislatures move quickly, culprits may walk away scot-free.

The Red State Scare: Federal Court in Texas Invalidates Ban on Marriages by Same-Sex Couples

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman notes that first Utah, then Oklahoma, then Kentucky, and now Texas have seen at least some aspects of their anti-same-sex marriage rules invalidated by federal courts. Red states are unlikely to shift as quickly as blue states, Grossman notes, but change on this issue is inevitable, and only in one direction. She also notes the irony of Justice Scalia's words being used against him.

Kentucky to Become a “Second Paradise” for Same-Sex Married Couples

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on the status of same-sex marriage in Kentucky. There, a federal court’s ruling in Bourke v. Beshear concluded that whether or not a state has the power to refuse to authorize same-sex marriages on its own turf, it does not have the constitutional power to refuse to recognize those that are validly celebrated elsewhere. Grossman notes that Bourke joins a growing number of cases in which recognition issues are at the forefront, a trend that was ignited by the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in United States v. Windsor, which found fault in the federal government’s decision to single out same-sex marriages for non-recognition.

Secrets and Lies: A New Ohio Law Opens the Adoption Closet

As Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman explains, under a newly enacted law, adult adoptees in Ohio can now seek access to their original birth certificates, with the State’s joining a small number of other States that have made an about-face in their thinking about the role of secrecy in adoption, and have joined the gradual shift towards greater openness. Grossman also describes the three key eras in American adoption law.

Equality Still Elusive for Women in the Federal Workforce

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on the continuing gender inequality in the federal workforce. That inequality, in 2010, led the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to convene a working group to “identify the obstacles that remain in the federal workplace that hinder equal employment opportunities for women.” Grossman comments on what they found, and how far—or near we are from the sexist world that the movie 9 to 5 depicted.