Michael MeltsnerGeorge J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law
Oberlin College, AB 1957
Yale University, JD 1960
Mail: 416 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: (617) 373-3218
Fax: (617) 373-5056
Professor Meltsner was first assistant counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the 1960s and served as dean of the law school from 1979 until 1984. His memoir, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer, was published in 2006 (University of Virginia Press). Among his other writings are: Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment; Public Interest Advocacy; Reflections on Clinical Legal Education; and Short Takes, a novel. His most recent book, Rape, Race and Injustice tells the story of a group of law students sent secretly to the South during the 1960s to collect proof of discrimination. His 2011 play “In Our Name: A Play of the Torture Years” has been performed in New York and Boston to great acclaim.
In 1977, Professor Meltsner, who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has served as a consultant to the US Department of Justice, the Ford Foundation and the Legal Action Center and has lectured in Canada, Egypt, Germany, India,the Netherlands and South Africa. In 2000, he was named a fellow of the American Academy in Berlin and conducted research on German constitutional law. He returned to the School of Law in 2005 after five years as a visiting professor and director of the First-Year Lawyering Program at Harvard Law School. In 2010, he received the Hugo Bedau Award for excellence in death penalty scholarship. In 2012, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by John Jay College (CUNY) and described as the "principal architect of the death penalty abolition movement" in the United States.
Professor Meltsner is currently teaching a seminar on constitutional litigation and a course on the law governing freedom of speech. He is a regular contributor to the press on a range of legal topics.
Fields of Expertise
- Capital Punishment
- Civil Rights
- Consitutional Law
- Criminal Law
- Supreme Court
- Race, Rape, and Injustice: Documenting and Challenging Death Penalty Cases in the Civil Rights Era (University of Tennessee Press, 2012).
- Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment (Quid Pro Books, 2011; Random House, 1973).
- Reflections on Clinical Legal Education (Northeastern University Press, 1998).
- Short Takes (Random House, 1979).
- “The Constitutional Fight Over Delay,” The Huffington Post (May 10, 2016).
- “The Dilemmas of Excessive Sentencing: Death May Be Different But How Different?,” 7 Northeastern Law Journal 5 (2015).
- “Charleston Then,” The Huffington Post (June 30, 2015).
- “US Experience with Doctors and Patients Sharing Clinical Notes,” The British Medical Journal 350 (2015).
- “The Tsarnaev Victims Should Have Their Say On Sentence,” The Huffington Post (April 29, 2015).
- “Time to End Mandatory Minimum Sentencing,” The Boston Globe (March 18, 2015) (co-author).
- “Thurgood Marshall's Improbable But Brilliant Choice,” The Huffington Post (January 7, 2015)
- “On the Virtues of A Wild Justice,” 48 New England Law Review 683 (2014).
- “A Patient's View of OpenNotes,” 157 Annals of Internal Medicine 523 (2012).
- “Writing and Reflecting and Professionalism,” 5 Clinical Law Review 455 (1999).
- “Wither Legal Education,” 30 New York Law Review 579 (1985).
- “Report From A CLEPR Colony,” 76 Columbia Law Review 581 (1976).
- “The Supreme Court Under a Trump Presidency,” news@Northeastern (November 10, 2016).
- “3Qs: Justice Scalia's Legacy, and What His Death Means for Politics and the Law,” news@Northeastern (February 16, 2016).
- “What Are the Chances the Death Penalty Can Be Ruled Cruel, Unnecessary Punishment?,” Newsweek (December 1, 2015).
- “Death Penalty and the Law,” The New York Times (November 12, 2015).
- Radio Interview: “Professor Michael Meltsner Discusses Supreme Court Lethal Injection,” WRKO Radio (June 30, 2015).
- “The Lethal Injection Decision,” Human Rights at Home Blog (June 29, 2015).
- “3Qs: Professors weigh in on SCOTUS decision, free speech on social media,” news@Northeastern (June 3, 2015).
- Radio Interview: “Massachusetts' Varied History With The Death Penalty,” WAMC Northeast Public Radio (April 22, 2015).
- “‘USA v. Tsarnaev’: Legal Questions Asked and Answered,” Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (January 22, 2015).
- “A Message on Torture from the U.S. Senate,” Human Rights at Home Blog (December 11, 2014).
- “Time for Some Candor From the Supreme Court,” The Huffington Post (July 26, 2014).
- “In Our Name: A Play of the Torture Years” (2011).