Martha F. DavisProfessor of Law and Associate Dean for Experiential Education
Harvard University, AB 1979
Trinity College, Oxford University, MA 1981
University of Chicago, JD 1983
Mail: 416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (617) 373-8921
Fax: (617) 373-5056
Professor Davis teaches Constitutional Law, US Human Rights Advocacy and Professional Responsibility. She is a faculty director for the law school’s Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy and the NuLawLab. In 2015-2016, she held the Fulbright distinguished chair in human rights and humanitarian law at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Lund University, in Lund, Sweden, and she remains an affiliated scholar with the institute. She is also a member of the expert pool for WaterLex, a Geneva-based development organization that advocates for water and human rights.
Professor Davis has written widely on human rights, women’s rights, and social justice issues. She is co-author of the first law school textbook focused on domestic human rights: Human Rights Advocacy in the United States (West 2014) and she co-edited Bringing Human Rights Home, a three-volume work chronicling the US human rights movement. In 2008, Bringing Human Rights Home was named one of the “best books in the field of human rights” by the US Human Rights Network. Professor Davis’s book, Brutal Need: Lawyers and the Welfare Rights Movement, received the Reginald Heber Smith Award for distinguished scholarship on the subject of equal access to justice, and was also honored by the American Bar Association in its annual Silver Gavel competition. Professor Davis’ articles have appeared in the Yale Law Journal, the North Carolina Law Review, Fordham Law Review and many others. Her most recent book is Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities, in which she and her co-editors bring together academics and practitioners at the forefront of human rights cities and the “right to the city” movement to critically discuss the potential that human rights cities hold for global urban justice. In addition to serving as an editor, Professor Davis contributed a chapter, “Cities, Human Rights and Accountability: The United States Experience.” Professor Davis co-edits the Law Professors’ Network Human Rights at Home blog.
Prior to joining the law faculty in 2002, Professor Davis was vice president and legal director for the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. As a women’s rights practitioner, she was counsel in a number of cases before the US Supreme Court, including Nguyen v. INS, a challenge to sex-based citizenship laws that Professor Davis argued before the court. Professor Davis has also served as a fellow at the Bunting Institute, as the first Kate Stoneman Visiting Professor of Law and Democracy at Albany Law School, a Soros Reproductive Rights Fellow, a fellow at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and fellow of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Professor Davis is an appointed member of the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee of the US Commission on Civil Rights
Fields of Expertise
- Civil Rights
- Constitutional Law
- Domestic Violence
- Gender and the Law
- Human Rights
- International Law
- Legal Ethics
- Poverty Law
- Professional Responsibility
- Global Urban Justice The Rise of Human Rights Cities (Cambridge University Press, 2016) (co-editor).
- Human Rights Advocacy in the United States (West Academic, 2014).
- Bringing Human Rights Home (Praeger, 2007) (co-editor and chapter author).
- “Inconvenient Human Rights: Access to Water and Sanitation in Sweden’s Informal Roma Settlements,” Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Södertörn University, and NuLawLab of Northeastern University School of Law (2016).
- “Bringing It Home: Human Rights Treaties and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in the United States,” 41 Human Rights Magazine 2 (2015).
- “Race and Civil Counsel in the United States: A Human Rights Progress Report,” 64 Syracuse Law Review 447 (2015).
- “Human Rights in State Courts 2014,” Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 177-2014 (2014).
- “Participation, Equality and the Civil Right to Counsel: Lessons from Domestic and International Law,” 122 Yale Law Journal (2013).
- “Introduction: Framing Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights," 4 Northeastern University Law Journal 315 (2012).
- “Occupy Wall Street and International Human Rights,” 39 Fordham Urban Law Journal 931 (2012).
- “Oklahoma and Beyond: Understanding the Wave of State Anti-Transnational Law Initiatives,” 87(1) Indiana Law Journal Supplement 1 (2011) (co-author).
- “Oklahoma’s Anti-Sharia and Other Anti-Transnational Law Proposals:A Backgrounder for Domestic Human Rights Advocates,” 45 Clearinghouse Review 243 (Sept.-Oct. 2011) (co-author).
- “Law, Issue Frames and Social Movements: Three Case Studies,” 14 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change 363 (2011).
- “Learning to Work: A Functional Approach to Welfare and Higher Education,” 58 Buffalo Law Review 1 (2010).
- “Abortion Access in the Global Marketplace,” 88 University of North Carolina Law Review 1657 (2010).
- “The Child Exclusion in a Global Context,” 60 Case Western Reserve Law Review 1 (2010).
- “Not So Foreign After All: Alice Paul and International Women's Rights,” 16 New England Journal of International and Comparative Law 1 (2010).
- “Human Rights and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct: Intersection and Integration,” 42 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 157 (2010).
- “The Spirit of Our Times: State Constitutions and Human Rights,” 30 New York University Review of Law & Social Change 259 (2006).
- “Access and Justice: The Transformative Potential of Pro Bono Work,” 73 Fordham Law Journal 903 (2005).
- “Preparing for the Worst: Addressing the Legal Needs of Disaster Victims,” 31 Fordham Urban Law Journal 959 (2004).
- “The International Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Catalyst for Innovative Child Care Policy” 25 Human Rights Quarterly 689 (Aug. 2003) (co-author).
- “Life Without the Safety Net: When Women Facing Violence and Poverty Lose Welfare” Metropolitics (Winter 1997) (co-author).
- “Restoring Government Leadership on Human Rights at Home,” in Mandate for Change: Policies and Leadership for 2009 and Beyond, ed. C. Hartman (Lexington Books, 2009) (co-author), 431.
- “Progressive Lawyers and Human Rights: Using International and Comparative Law to Inform Domestic Decisions,” in Progressive Lawyering, Globalization and Markets: Rethinking Ideology and Strategy, ed. C. Dalton (William S. Hein & Co., 2007).
- “Sexual Harassment,” in Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia, ed. J. Ciment (M.E. Sharpe, 2006), 1532.
- “Legislating Patriarchy,” in From Poverty to Punishment: How Welfare Reform Punishes the Poor, ed. G. Delgado (Applied Research Center, 2002).
- “The Ties that Bind: How Violence Perpetuates Women’s Poverty,” in Family Violence and Welfare Reform: What are the Links?, ed. R. Brandwein (ed. Sage, 1999).
- “Now is the Time: Mainstream Feminism’s Statements on Welfare Rights,” in For Crying Out Loud: Women’s Poverty in the United States, ed. D. Dujon et al. (South End Press, 1996), 337.
- “Testing Federal Power Over Immigration,” The Atlantic (October 24, 2016).
- “3Qs: Why Voting Rights Rulings Will Help the Democrats at the Polls,” news@Northeastern (August 8, 2016).
- “Sweden and the UN’s Report on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” Personal Dispatches, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (August 5, 2016).
- “Human Rights at Sea,” Human Rights at Home (May 2, 2016).
- ““Brainy Award” Winners Examine US Human Rights Issues,” Human Rights at Home (April 29, 2016).
- “The Drumbeat to End Solitary Confinement Intensifies -- New Resources and Continuing Challenges,” Human Rights at Home (February 26, 2016).
- “Resources on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in the US Context,” Human Rights at Home (February 3, 2016).
- “Will the Flint Water Crisis Light a Fire?,” Human Rights at Home (February 2, 2016).
- “Learning from the Torture Memos,” Human Rights at Home (January 21, 2016).
- “Whole Woman's Health v. Cole: The Face of “Human Dignity”,” Human Rights at Home (January 15, 2016).
- “The State of the Human Rights Union,” Human Rights at Home (January 13, 2016).
- “Vaccinations and Human Rights,” Human Rights at Home (February 5, 2015).
- “Rebuffing the Zones,” The American Prospect (January 14, 2014).
- “Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones’ Fate in Hands of High Court,” The Boston Globe (December 29, 2013).
- “Prop 8 Standing Ruling Shakes Up Citizen Lawmaking,” Law 360 (June 26, 2013).