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 (RWI), Lund University, in Lund, Sweden. She continued her work with RWI in 2017-2018, when she received a Fulbright Specialist Award, and she is now an affiliated scholar of 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. Most recently, she co-edited Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities (Cambridge, 2016), the first book-length scholarly treatment of the human rights cities movement. In addition to serving as an editor, Professor Davis contributed a chapter, “Cities, Human Rights and Accountability: The United States Experience.” 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 (Yale University Press, 1995), 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. 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

Selected Works


Selected Articles

Selected Chapters

  • “Finding International Law ‘Close to Home’: The Case of Human Rights Cities.” In Research Handbook on International Law and Cities, eds. H. Aust et al. (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming 2021). 
  • “Protecting Human Rights Through International and National Law,” in Social Injustice and Public Health, Third Edition, ed. B. Levy (Oxford University Press, 2019) (co-author).
  • “The Status of Women in the United States, 1968 and 2017,” in The 50th Anniversary of the Kerner Commission, eds. Senator F. Harris et al. (Temple University Press, 2018).
  • Cities, Human Rights, and Accountability: The United States Experience,” in Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities, ed. Barbara Oomen, et al (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
  • “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.

Selected Commentary