Marci A. Hamilton
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
The Voters’ One True Power and Impeachment

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that the present allegations against President Trump require representatives and senators to act in the interest of the voters and seek the truth. Hamilton explains that the checks and balances our Constitution’s framers put in place were designed for this very type of situation, and the power to impeach serves a vital role of protecting the people.

Toxic Religious Liberty: President Trump Takes the Conservative Religious Agenda to the International Stage

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, comments on President Trump's recent visit speech at the United Nations Event on Religious Freedom that promotes his administration's brand of religious liberty. Hamilton argues that Trump is leading the nation toward toxic religious liberty that our nations framers—and particularly James Madison—warned against and attempted to prevent.

Access to Justice for College Sex Abuse and Assault Victims

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why statute of limitations (SOL) reform for sex abuse and assault victims is necessary not only for children, but also for college students. Hamilton describes the nationwide epidemic of sexual abuse on college and university campuses and argues that SOL reform is the best way to ensure these victims have access to justice.

Let’s Restore the Public Good to a Place of Honor and End Vaccination Exemptions Other Than Those Absolutely Necessary

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, calls for an end to legislative exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccinations, except those that are absolutely necessary. Hamilton explains why these exemptions undermine the public good and endanger children.

The Three-Front War on Child Sex Abuse: Law, Society, and the Public

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, describes the statute of limitations reform in New York that will give victims of child sex abuse a window of one year to file civil lawsuits against their abusers. Hamilton explains why this is an important—but not nearly sufficient—victory for child sex abuse victims and describes the three major changes we as a society need to implement to meaningfully address the scourge of child sex abuse.

Justice O’Connor Deserves Better Than Her Brethren Gave Her in American Legion v. American Humanist Association

Marci A. Hamilton—a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars—discusses how the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority opinion in American Legion v. American Humanist Association rejects without giving proper respect to the “endorsement test” that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor first championed as a way of maintaining separation between church and state. Hamilton argues that the endorsement test was the right test at the right time in history and that the majority in American Legion attempted to erase Justice O’Connor’s contribution to the Court’s Establishment Clause doctrine.

Jeffrey Epstein and His Enablers Are Evil, But Not Special: He’s Just the Latest Example of a Toxic Culture for Children

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, comments on Jeffrey Epstein and the circumstances and people who allowed him to endanger children for so long. Hamilton describes the ways in which our culture enables men like him to abuse children and get away with it for as long as they do.

The Supreme Court Dramatically Narrows the Establishment Clause in American Legion v. American Humanist Association

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, comments on the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, in which the Court upheld against an Establishment Clause challenge a large cross on public land in Maryland. Hamilton argues that in reaching its conclusion, a majority of the Court ignores the purpose of the Establishment Clause—to create a bulwark against the tyranny that results from the joinder of government and religious power to rule.

The SOL Reform Movement Becomes More Inclusive as Adult Victims of Sex Assault Seek Justice, Too

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, describes a recent development in the movement for reforming statutes of limitations for victims of sexual assault. As Hamilton explains, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that applies not only to children, but also to victims who were sexually assaulted as adults.

C’mon Pope Francis: You Can Do Better Than That

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, explains why the modest steps taken by Pope Francis ostensibly to address the child sex abuse problem in the Church are not enough to effect meaningful change. Hamilton points out that the United States has also failed to act, with the notable exception of Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), who proposed that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) re-appropriation include a requirement that the states examine their laws related to institution-based sex abuse.

Children Have a Right to Live and Be Vaccinated, and Two Legal Reforms Are Needed

Marci Hamilton—professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA—discusses the importance of vaccinating children and proposes two legal reforms needed to ensure children’s protection. Specifically, Hamilton proposes that states eliminate religious exemptions to mandatory vaccination and permit mature children to decide whether they get vaccinations.

Insurance Carriers Hold a Key to Prevent Child Sex Abuse

Marci A. Hamilton—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—explains why insurance carriers can and should play a key role in preventing child sex abuse. Hamilton describes two reforms that are needed to make the insurance industry a positive force instead of a barrier to child sex abuse prevention.

Lawmakers Must Stop Cooperating in the Bishops’ Dirty Tricks

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, and Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, describe the latest trick by Catholic bishops in Maryland to successfully lobby for a statute of repose to be included in a bill, undermining its ability to provide meaningful justice to abuse victims. Hamilton and Robb call upon legislators to stop cooperating with Catholic bishops, as doing so leads only to continued secrecy, suffering, and pedophile empowerment.

Robert Kraft Is the Canary in the Coal Mine: Conditions Have Changed for the Worse for Powerful Men Using Trafficked Girls and Women for Sex

Marci A. Hamilton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—discusses the significance of Patriots owner Robert Kraft being charged with soliciting a prostitute at a strip mall in Florida, after a sting exposed a sex trafficking scheme there. Hamilton points out the differences between the handling of Kraft and the mishandling of Palm Beach sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and suggests Kraft may be the “canary in the coal mine” indicating a shift of power from perpetrators to their victims.

Compare and Contrast: The Vatican’s Gathering of Bishops in Rome with the Epstein Court on Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims

Marci A. Hamliton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—describes the similarities and differences between the Vatican’s gathering of bishops to address clergy sex abuse scandals and the federal judge’s ruling in the case of Jeffrey Epstein over sex trafficking scandals. Hamilton points out that decision in the Epstein case is a victory for child sex abuse victims, while the approach of the Catholic Church is already misguided.

With Ink Not Yet Dry on the New York Child Victims Act, There Is Already Reason to Be Concerned About the Victims in this Process

Marci A. Hamilton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—comments on New York’s recent passage of the New York Child Victims Act and the troubling class action lawsuit filed purportedly on behalf of victims on the same day. Hamilton explains why class action lawsuits are inconsistent with child sex abuse victim empowerment and healing, pointing out that such lawsuits are designed for circumstances where the victims have identical or nearly identical harm, which is not the case with child sex abuse.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan Proves Once Again the Church Will Never Reform Itself without the Law and Civil Society Behind It

Marci A. Hamilton—professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania and founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA—comments on an op-ed by New York City’s Archdiocese’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan that Hamilton characterizes as full of “misstatements and ugly implications.” Hamilton disassembles Dolan’s claims and explains why litigation—not mediation, as Dolan claims—is critically essential for the victims of child sex abuse to access the justice they deserve.

2018 Year in Review: Child Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitations, and the Catholic Bishops’ Spiritual Retreat

Marci A. Hamilton—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—comments on the progress (and lack thereof) of legislation in 2018 affecting child sex abuse victims’ access to justice across the United States. In particular, Hamilton calls upon American bishops to start advocating for, rather than against, the victims of abuse.

The Latest Report on Institution-based Sex Abuse Is Issued on the United States Olympic Committee’s Failures

Marci A. Hamilton—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—comments on the most recent report on child sex abuse, which was commissioned by the US Olympic Committee and focuses on the Dr. Larry Nassar scandal. Hamilton points out that scandal after scandal should make clear to the public that we have a systemic problem that is cultural, not isolated.

Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta Must Go

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains the role of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta in allowing multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein to plead guilty to a mere 13-month sentence despite evidence he had abused dozens of girls in his home in Palm Beach. Hamilton argues that Acosta should not be in any position of power, but particularly not one such as Labor Secretary, where the welfare of children or trafficking victims is at stake.