Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Wexler was a Professor of Law at Florida State University, whose faculty she joined in 2006 after serving as a Harry A. Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School. 

She received a bachelor's degree in English Literature with honors from the University of Michigan and her J.D. with honors from the University of Chicago, where she served as an associate editor for the Chicago Journal of International Law and article editor for the Chicago Legal Forum. Upon graduating from law school in 2002, Professor Wexler clerked for Judge William Wayne Justice of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and then for Judge Thomas Reavley of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. 

Professor Wexler writes, teaches and consults in the public international law fields, especially international humanitarian law, international disaster law, and human rights as well as in the anti-discrimination field more generally. She has published in a variety of journals, including the University of Chicago Law Review, the Yale Journal of International Law, the Chicago Journal of International Law, the Michigan Journal of International Law, the Wake Forest Law Review, the Georgia Law Review, and the Cardozo Law Review. 

Columns by Lesley Wexler

Unpacking Cambodia’s Nuremberg Moment

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler reports on the genocide convictions recently handed down by the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia after trials concluded over crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Wexler suggests three main takeaways of the rulings, including how the determination of genocide is beneficial to many victims in Cambodia, a reminder about how international legal entities define genocide in the context of this and other human rights atrocities, and a breakdown of the crucial importance of reparations to the Cambodian people.

#MeToo: The 2018 Nobel Prize, Pinkwashing, and Institutional Reform

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the 2018 peace prize to relatively unknown contenders for leading efforts “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” Wexler considers whether the decision might be “pinkwashing”—a term Wexler derives from “whitewashing” to mean (1) an institution or individual’s deployment and publicity of policies and practices (2) in response to the identification of a #MeToo or sex discrimination related grievance, (3) which does not address the underlying concern of the aggrieved and (4) is intended to establish, maintain, burnish, or restore institutional reputation. Wexler raises and discusses the question how one distinguishes sincere efforts to address a #MeToo problem from pinkwashing.

A Beginning, Not An Ending: #MeToo and the Kavanaugh Confirmation

Illinois law professors Lesley Wexler and Colleen Murphy propose that the most lasting legacy of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle will not be Judge Kavanaugh’s imprint on the Court, but the bravery Dr. Ford has inspired in others. Wexler and Murphy view the recent events through the lens of transitional justice and argue that the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh is not dispositive or even indicative of whether the aspirations for #MeToo movement may be realized.

Moral Statutes of Limitation and Restorative Justice for #MeToo Claimants

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler considers whether there should be a moral (as opposed to legal) statute of limitations for wrongdoing and specifically what obligations a person who long ago committed sexual harassment or sexual assault owes his victim. Wexler proposes a model based on restorative justice principles that would involve acknowledgement of wrongdoing and of the victim and her account; responsibility taking, harm repair, a promise of non-repetition, and subsequent actions that demonstrate a commitment to that promise of non-repetition.

Transitional Justice Lessons Regarding Complex Victims for #MeToo

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the recent allegations that Asia Argento—an alleged victim of Harvey Weinstein and vocal #MeToo advocate—committed statutory rape against then-17-year-old Jimmy Bennett. Wexler argues that if the allegations are true and Argento is what is known as a “complex victim,” society should judge Argento neither more harshly, by virtue of the female perpetrator’s violation of traditional gender roles, nor less harshly, simply because she is also a victim, than other complex victims.

Seeking Forward-Looking Justice for #ChurchToo

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the #ChurchToo movement, a campaign arising from the viral #MeToo movement, that seeks to raise awareness of sexual assault in the specific context of churches. Wexler describes the similarities between the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, as well as some key differences, and explains that any meaningful change must come largely from within these communities due to challenges in church doctrine and philosophy, particularly with evangelical churches.

Mexico’s Turn to Transitional Justice

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler analyzes the strategy of newly elected Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador with respect to that country’s war on drugs and cartels—a strategy known as transitional justice. Wexler defines transitional justice and explains how the core components of transitional justice might serve as a good framework for addressing some of Mexico’s most daunting challenges.

The European Immigration Deal and Its Aftermath

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on last week’s EU summit, in which the heads of state sought to address the immigration crisis affecting various countries in the European Union. Wexler describes the highlights of the resulting agreement and while cautiously optimistic, expresses concerns for what some of the longer term implications may be.

Burn Pits are the New Agent Orange: The Limited Circle of Concern for Pollution Victims of War

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler explains why the open air burn pits as used in recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan are being called the “new Agent Orange.” Wexler describes the challenges combatants, their children, contractors, and civilians have had in obtaining care for long-term injuries as a result of the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and expresses concern that the same may occur for burn pits.

The Closing of European Ports: Catastrophe or Immigration Crisis Management?

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler considers the significance of various countries’ responses to the rescue of 629 migrants on the Aquarius, a humanitarian rescue ship on the Mediterranean Sea. Wexler considers first whether the responses of Italy and Malta were lawful, and then turns to the question of what their conduct means for immigration policy, not only within the European Union, but worldwide.

We Need to Talk About Brazil

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the ongoing national strikes by truckers and oil workers in Brazil in protest of the recent steep increase in diesel prices due to international market-based pricing. Wexler expresses specific concerns over calls for a return to a military dictatorship to replace the democracy, despite the prior military government’s corruption and engagement in serious human rights violations including torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.

Bad Apologies and the Windrush Scandal

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler comments on the Windrush scandal developing in the United Kingdom, just one example of immigration policies that affect not only undocumented migrants present unlawfully but also undocumented citizens present lawfully. Wexler explores the reasons for the scandal and identifies troubling shortcomings in the apology and remedy offered.

#MeToo: Not Decapitation, but Possibly Lustration

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler explores the narrative of the so-called career death penalty that has arisen from the #MeToo movement and considers lustration—a process of purging or vetting individuals responsible for abuses of the state—as a mechanism to govern some of the high-profile harassers. Wexler calls upon the public and the media to help create a different story—a better world—where individuals who have engaged in harassment no longer need to serve as cultural or economic arbiters.

Pay for Slay?

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler discusses the decision by Hamas to pay funds to those wounded and to the families of those killed by Israeli military forces and considers whether such payments ought to be condemned as “pay for slay” disbursements. Wexler concludes that due to the unconditional nature of the offer, at least some payments made by Hamas might be appropriate because they are not conditioned on affiliation with or motivation by Hamas’s military wing.

Risk and Reward for International Prize Revocation: Aung San Suu Kyi, Genocide, and the Nobel Committee

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler considers whether institutions such as the Nobel Committee should revoke awards for illegal or immoral behavior by its recipients. Wexler points out that empirical evidence suggests that revocation can sometimes lead to crackdowns or repressions, rather than motivating the recipient to improve their behavior, and thus that revocation should be considered with caution.