Michael MeltsnerGeorge J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law
Oberlin College, AB 1957
Yale University, JD 1960
Mail: 400 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).
Professor Meltsner is currently teaching a seminar on constitutional litigation and a course on the law governing freedom of speech. He has taught criminal law and procedure as well a seminar on writing about the law for general audiences and an experimental course called Being A Lawyer.
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)
- "‘USA v. Tsarnaev’: Legal Questions Asked and Answered," Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (January 22, 2015)
- "Time for Some Candor From the Supreme Court," The Huffington Post (July 26, 2014)
- “In Our Name: A Play of the Torture Years” (2011)