Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government 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

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 Insatiable Demand for Extreme Religious Liberty Under the RFRAs, Part I: Why Hobby Lobby Falls Outside RFRA’s Protections

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on federal RFRAs in the first column in a two-part series of columns that addresses the federal RFRA and the intersection of RFRAs and corporate law, as well as why corporations cannot take advantage of RFRAs. Part Two in the series, which will address state RFRAs, will appear here on Justia on March 20.

Sex Assaults at Evangelical Colleges, the United Nations, and the Vatican

Justia columnist and Cardozo law school professor Marci Hamilton comments on recent stories about the mishandling of reports of sex abuse and assaults at two fundamentalist colleges: Patrick Henry College and Bob Jones University. Hamilton also covers the Catholic Church’s ongoing issues with clergy sex abuse, and cautions these colleges not to follow the Church's lead. Hamilton notes that President Obama has been silent on the epidemic of sex abuse and assaults in religious entities in the United States. She argues that it is high time now, nearing the end of his last Term, for him to step up for all victims, and to stop pandering to religious entities.

The Federal Government Turns Its Focus to Sexual Assault on Campus

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the topic of college campus sexual assault, which is disturbingly frequent—so much so that the Obama Administration is now focusing on it. Hamilton considers ways to protect college women, especially women in college sports; notes how college men can help in rape prevention; and argues that worries about false accusations by women are overblown.

The Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Paroline v. Unknown Amy, a Case Regarding Restitution for Child Pornography Victims

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton covers and comments on Paroline v. Unknown Amy, a case on which the Supreme Court just held oral argument yesterday. The question in the case before the Court is how much child pornography market participants should be individually required to pay for the harm to the victims of child pornography.

2013: The Year in Review for Child Sex Abuse Victims’ Access to Justice

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton describes and comments on developments regarding justice for child-sex-abuse victims. Hamilton reports that, in 2013, the pace of the movement to procure justice for victims quickened remarkably. But there is also a negative development, Hamilton notes: religious groups have gone back to the drawing board to find new ways to protect themselves from the law in this area.

The Bishops Versus Women’s Health: The Gloves Are Off

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton contends that we are in the midst of a war over whether the U.S. Catholic Bishops and those who agree with them, or individual women, will control women’s bodies and health. Hamilton comments on the influence of Pope Francis. She also argues that there are two major battlefields in this war right now: one in the workplace, and the other in Catholic hospitals. Hamilton ends, too, with an account of the terrible labor of a woman who suffered unnecessarily due to these conflicts.

There Is Really Only One Issue in Town of Greece v. Galloway

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recently argued Supreme Court case that asks whether it is constitutional for a small town to open its town council meetings with prayer. Hamilton’s conclusion is that the case ultimately turns on a single factual question: Can there be, in 21st Century America, such a thing as a “nonsectarian” prayer? The short answer, according to Hamilton, is “No way.”

The “Me Me Me Generation” of Believers

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that a narcissistic worldview has infected debates over religious liberty in America, where, she notes, individuals are now demanding the right to construct their workplaces, communities, and schools in the image of their personal religious viewpoints. This is religious narcissism, Hamilton argues, and she compares it to the narcissistic viewpoint that critics of the Millennials say that many members of their generation often hold.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s Recent Veto of Child Abuse Legislation and What It Tells Us About the Civil Rights Movement for Children

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton takes strong issue with California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to veto anti-child-abuse legislation. She argues that, in the civil rights movement for children, which she notes, is transforming children from property into persons in the United States, a critical element is giving child sex abuse victims meaningful access to justice, and she castigates Governor Brown for ignoring children's rights.

The Republican War Against Women

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton contends that Catholic and evangelical leaders are waging a new war against the use of contraception, enlisting public relations experts, lobbyists, and lawyers, despite the fact that very large majorities of Americans support contraception. One strategy, Hamilton notes, involves “conscience clauses” that would, for instance, allow pharmacists not to hand over contraceptives if it violates the pharmacist’s own anti-contraception beliefs.

Sullivan & Cromwell and Yeshiva University Issue a Disappointing Report on Child Sex Abuse That Is Short on Facts and Long on Public Relations

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the investigation that occurred after many months, and many media stories about child sex abuse at the Yeshiva University High School (YUHS) in The Jewish Daily Forward. In the end, Yeshiva University released an “independent investigation” led by Karen Patton Seymour of Sullivan & Cromwell. Hamilton takes strong issue with the report that resulted from the investigation, and explains in detail her sharp criticisms of it, and what she contends that it should have contained, but did not. She also argues that, in this situation, pending litigation is a poor excuse for nondisclosure, especially in light of the statute-of-limitations situation in New York.

The Book of Matt and What It Can Tell Us About the Zimmerman/Martin Case

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a new book on the infamous Matthew Shepard murder, The Book of Matt, which she urges everyone to read, and which reveals that, as it turns out, there was much more to the Shepard case than was known at the time. Hamilton also considers the possibility that, as with the Shepard case, in which important facts weren't unearthed until now, years later, we may also be reassessing the Zimmerman/Martin case years later, when a future journalist may find new and important facts, as occurred in the Shepard case now.

The California Catholic Bishops Fight Access to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the California Catholic Bishops’ decision to fight against, rather than for, justice for child sex-abuse victims. In particular, Hamilton notes that the Bishops’ primary target is the statute-of-limitations (SOL) window, which would open a one-year period during which those victims of clergy and other child sex abuse whose statutes of limitations had expired (which is the vast majority of victims) could still file lawsuits against their abusers, and those who covered up the abuse. Hamilton also faults, as indefensible, the Bishops’ attempt to triangulate the relationship between victims and parishioners, so that the victims are purportedly the enemies of the parishioners.

The Facts, the Verdict, and the Role of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) in the Zimmerman Trial: A Model of Opacity

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the role of the CRS—a little-known division of the Department of Justice—in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Hamilton starts with the facts that we do know and the many that we don't, and the perspective each side presented at trial. In addition, Hamilton questions the unclear role, here, of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS). Hamilton notes the role the CRS usually plays, and the evidence that has—and has not—been made public regarding the role it played here.

Why the En Banc Tenth Circuit’s Interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius Is Indefensible

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton takes strong issue with the contention that a for-profit company is a religious “person” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third and Tenth Circuits have differed on the issue, and Hamilton argues that the Third Circuit is plainly right, and the Tenth Circuit plainly wrong. She also contends that the federal government should take an anti-RFRA position, just as it took an anti-DOMA position.

How to Read United States v. Windsor to Understand What Gay Couples Won This Week, But Why They Still Have a Long Way to Go

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a little-remarked but important aspect of the recent Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor: the limits of the decision. For instance, she notes that gay people were not granted a constitutional right to be married in any state by the decision. Moreover, Hamilton points out that, despite the decision, there are only 14 jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, where gay people will be able to marry, and where they also will be able to receive the identical federal benefits received by heterosexual couples. And, in the 37 states left to persuade, federal benefits for married couples can be limited to heterosexual couples. Thus, Hamilton notes that we are far from true equality for gay Americans.

The Inevitable Holding in Shelby v. Holder, and Its Fallout

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby v. Holder, the Voting Rights Act case that the Court just resolved. Section 4(a) of the Act establishes a formula to be applied to identify jurisdictions that must obtain preclearance before they change their voting practices. Hamilton considers the majority and the dissent, and contends that coverage of the decision features a drastic overstatement of both the Court’s decision and its likely fallout.

The Supreme Court Renders Another Decision Interpreting the Ex Post Facto Clause That Makes It More Difficult to Incarcerate Sex Offenders: What the Ruling Means for Child Safety

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the Supreme Court’s recent Peugh decision. She contends that the ruling, although it does not deal with sex offenders, will have an impact that will surely be felt in sex-offender cases. In particular, Hamilton argues that the case's interpretation of the Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause will make it more difficult to incarcerate criminals, and sex offenders in particular. As a result, Hamilton notes, the Court’s decision, and another it issued a decade ago, may put children in very serious peril.

The Supreme Court Takes the Case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, Which Raises the Questions Whether—And If So, How—a Town Board May Open Its Meetings With Prayer

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses a church/state case that the Supreme Court has recently taken up, which concerns the question whether a town board may constitutionally open its meetings with prayer. Hamilton predicts that this case will be a landmark Establishment Clause battle, and a key development in America’s ongoing culture war over control of government programs and spaces, and of American culture itself. In addition to analyzing prior Establishment Clause precedents that are relevant here, Hamilton suggests where each of the Justices is likely to fall on the possible spectrum of views, and votes, regarding the Town of Greece case.