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
#FreeBritney and Believe Women

Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on Britney Spears’s petition to end her conservatorship and explains how her situation reflects general attitudes about believing women. Professor Wexler argues that the #FreeBritney movement may shape emerging norms of believability, which is often a precondition to convincing judges, jurors, co-workers, friends, and others in society about both the existence of abuse and its impact on its victims.

Reforming the Vatican’s Code of Canon law, #MeToo Insights, and Zero Tolerance

Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on the recent overhaul of the Vatican’s Code of Canon law, pointing out areas in which it shows promise and also its possible shortcomings. Despite some features that warrant skepticism, Professor Wexler argues that the reforms reflect a serious reckoning with past scandals, evolving understandings of consent, and an attempt to use the criminal code to deter bad behavior both by sexual abusers and those who would protect them, rather than their victims.

Military #MeToo, Part II: In Bad Company— Canada’s Armed Forces #MeToo Crisis

In this second of a series of columns on military sexual harassment and sexual assault, Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler compares and contrasts the U.S. military’s efforts to address the problem with how the Canadian military is addressing the same issue. Professor Wexler notes that Canada’s government has adopted several tools to address sexual harassment and misconduct that the United States has not yet accepted, and while the two militaries are not identically situated, we should pay close attention their efforts and see whether lessons may be learned.

Military #MeToo Justice: Is a Change Going to Come?

Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on a recent announcement by the Army Forces Command that fformal sexual harassment complaints would be moved out of the direct chain of command, instead going to an investigating officer outside the accused’s brigade. Professor Wexler explains that, while this might read as a small procedural change, it is actually a meaningful step for an institution long committed to a commander-centric justice model.

Oprah Interview as Truth Commission – Part II: What Counts as Success?

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler continues analogizing Oprah’s interview with Meghan and Harry to a truth commission and describes some goals against which we might measure the success of a truth commission. Professor Wexler proposes such measures as (1) whether the commission finishes its mandate and widely disseminates its findings, (2) whether it establishes a definitive narrative of the relevant abuses, and (3) whether it serves as catharsis for individual victims. She suggests that although some initial facts on the ground are negative, reform and reconciliation are still possible.

The Oprah Interview as a Truth Commission

Illinois Law professor Lesley Wexler explains how Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle might illuminate how a formal truth commission to deal with legacies of racism and colonialism might function in the British empire. Professor Wexler describes the purpose and function of state-operated truth commissions and notes the similarities and differences between those and the interview.

Celebrities as Glamour Species in the #MeToo Ecosystem

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler explores the extent to which the role of famous, white, cis, heterosexual women as some of the most visible faces in the #MeToo movement helps or hinders the campaign. Professor Wexler proposes that conservation biology can help us understand the role of these celebrity women and harness their contributions to the #MeToo movement and also provide better assistance to other individuals and communities facing their own #MeToo struggles.

Corporate Transitional Justice

Illinois law professor Lesley M. Wexler and Nicola Sharpe discuss various corporate responses to the recent storming of Capitol Hill and consider whether such responses might constitute private transitional justice. Professors Wexler and Sharpe point out, however, that simply vocalizing a commitment to social justice, diversity, and inclusivity is not enough; corporations should diversify boards and leadership representation and take other quantifiable steps that transform corporate culture and processes.

Transitional Justice and Inauguration Poems

Illinois law professor Lesley M. Wexler describes how Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb and Jericho Brown’s Inaugural,’ an Original Poem—as two inaugural poems—fit within the call of transitional justice. Professor Wexler explains how, read together, the two poems provide a roadmap of the transitional justice terrain the government may choose to tread.

Apology as Accountability in Transitional Justice

Illinois law professor Lesley M. Wexler discusses the possibility of and criteria for amend making, amid calls for national unity and moving forward after the violence at the Capitol on January 6. Professor Wexler focuses on Oklahoma Senator James Lankford’s recent apology after his call for an electoral commission, applauding Senator Lankford for his willingness to apologize but pointing out that these actions alone do not undertake much of the hard work demanded by restorative and transitional justice.

Transitional Justice, Anti-Democratic Riots, and Private Responses

In light of the events of January 6, Illinois law professors Lesley M. Wexler and Colleen Murphy identify some preliminary questions raised by private actors sanctioning other private actors for the latter’s potentially criminal activities at the Capitol. In particular, Professors Wexler and Murphy explain why the event gives rise to transitional justice concerns, and through the transitional justice lens, they assess the advantages and disadvantages of private action in this context.

Law and Non-Legal Entitlements: Kate Manne’s Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on philosopher Kate Manne’s recent book, Entitled, in which Mann tackles “privileged men’s sense of entitlement” as a “pervasive social problem with often devastating consequences.” Wexler praises Manne’s work as “illuminating” and calls upon lawyers and law scholars to ask how such entitlements might best and safely be challenged and reallocated, and how new more egalitarian entitlements might be generated and enforced.

Decoupling Determinations of Sexual Misconduct from Title IX: UIUC #MeToo Reform

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on a recent report on Faculty Sexual Misconduct issued by a committee at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that calls for a sweeping overhaul of the University’s approach to sexual harassment. Wexler begins to explore the proposed reforms, describing the major changes and what they aim to address, and she raises some of the questions that the reforms present.

Unbuilding the Wall? Rebooting European Immigration Policies

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler discusses signs of a possible reversal of the global trend toward nationalism and European rejection of migrants. Wexler explains how a broad regional immigration agreement emerged and what a migration distribution proposal might look like, as well as the important questions such a proposal raises.

Sorry Studies

Illinois Law professors Lesley Wexler and Jennifer Robbennolt respond to a recent op-ed by Professor Cass Sunstein, in which Sunstein suggests that an apology is a risky strategy for a public figure seeking election or re-election. Wexler and Robbennolt point out three troubling aspects of Sunstein’s op-ed and argue that rather than abstain from giving apologies altogether, perhaps public figures should study apologies and learn how to give—and live—a good one.

Exploring Cy Pres, Restorative Justice, and Earned Redemption through Fleabag: Part II in a Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois law professors Lesley Wexler, Jennifer Robbennolt, and Jennie Pahre continue their discussion of the legal mechanism of cy pres—by which a court decides a remedy based on how closely it serves the intended purpose (originally from the law of trusts). The authors draw upon the plot and characters of the television show Fleabag to illustrate how restorative justice might help re-center the #MeToo debate away from its seemingly sole punitive focus and more towards the twin purposes of victim restoration and deterrence.

Cy Pres and Restorative Justice: Part I in a Series

In this first of a series of columns, Illinois law professors Jennie Pahre, Jennifer Robbennolt, and Lesley Wexler discuss the legal mechanism of cy pres—by which a court decides a remedy based on how closely it serves the intended purpose (originally from the law of trusts)—a mechanism the U.S. Supreme Court has expressed interest in resolving but about which the Court (in a per curiam opinion) described some reservations. The authors offer restorative justice as a way to answer some of those lingering questions about the remedy and to better tie cy pres to its intended purposes.

#MeToo: Counting the Collective Harm of Missing Women’s Work

In light of recent revelations about Ryan Adams, a powerful musician and music producer, Illinois law professors Robin B. Kar and Lesley Wexler discuss the collective harm the scourge of sexual harassment inflicts on society, depriving it of countless and invaluable contributions. Kar and Wexler point out that research demonstrates that experiences of sexual harassment cause not only individual harms to women (such as decreases in mental and physical well-being) but also organizational withdrawal, decreases in organizational commitment, and decreases in productivity and job performance. The exact losses due to this withdrawal have yet to be measured, but evidence suggests the magnitude is enormous.

#MeToo Goes Global: Introducing the #MeToo Treaty

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler discusses a draft treaty by the International Labor Organization that would address, on a global scale, many of the issues of workplace harassment and sexual assault that the #MeToo movement has brought into the spotlight. Wexler describes how the treaty is grounded in human rights language and would create protections for workers far more expansive than even those recognized under current US law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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.