Judith Resnik

Arthur Liman Professor of Law

J.D., New York University School of Law, 1975

B.A., Bryn Mawr College, 1972

Courses Taught
  • Federal and State Courts
  • Liman Project
Judith Resnik

Judith Resnik is the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School and the Founding Director of the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law. She teaches courses on federalism, procedure, courts, prisons, equality, and citizenship. Her scholarship focuses on the relationship of democratic values to government services such as courts, prisons, and post offices; the role of collective redress and class actions; contemporary conflicts over privatization; the relationships of states to citizens and non-citizens; the interaction among federal, state, and tribal courts and the forms and norms of federalism; practices of punishment; and equality and gender.

In the fall of 2022, Yale Law School hosted a conference to mark the anniversary of Judith Resnik’s first law review article, Managerial Judges, published in the Harvard Law Review in 1982 and analyzing transformations in the role of judges. The 2022 convening centered on contemporary challenges faced by people seeking legal remedies and the need to reconfigure court processes. That fall, the Liman Center also published new data on the use of solitary confinement in prison systems in the United States.

In 2018, Resnik received an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a two-year award to enable her to complete research for her forthcoming book, Impermissible Punishments. The book explores the role played by incarcerated individuals in re-conceiving the boundaries of state punishment and the impact of the 1960s civil rights revolution on the kinds of punishments that governments can and should impose on people convicted of crimes. In 2018, she also was awarded an honorary doctorate from University College London, and that year, Resnik was a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Procedural Law, in Luxembourg.

Resnik's books include Representing Justice: Invention, Controversy, and Rights in City-States and Democratic Courtrooms (with Dennis Curtis, Yale University Press, 2011); Federal Courts Stories (co-edited with Vicki C. Jackson, Foundation Press, 2010); and Migrations and Mobilities: Citizenship, Borders, and Gender (co-edited with Seyla Benhabib, NYU, 2009). In 2014, Resnik was the co-editor (with Linda Greenhouse) of the Daedalus volume, The Invention of Courts, published in 2014.

Recent book chapters include Class in Courts: Incomplete Equality’s Challenges for the Legitimacy of Procedural Systems in A Guide to Civil Procedure: Integrating Critical Legal Perspectives (Brooke Coleman, Suzette Malveaux, Portia Pedro, and Elizabeth Porter, eds., 2022). Constituting a Civil Legal System Called “Just”: Law, Money, Power, and Publicity, in New Pathways to Civil Justice in Europe (Xandra Kramer, Alexandre Biard, Jos Hoevenaars, and Erlis Themeli, eds., Springer, 2021); Not Isolating Isolation, in Solitary Confinement: History, Effects, and Pathways to Reform (Jules Lobel and Peter Scharff-Smith, eds., Oxford University Press, 2020); Judicial Methods of Mediating Conflicts: Recognizing and Accommodating Differences in Pluralist Legal Regimes in Judicial Power: How Constitutional Courts Affect Political Transformations (Christine Landfried, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2019); The Functions of Publicity and of Privatization in Courts and Their Replacements (from Jeremy Bentham to #MeToo and Google Spain) in Open Justice: The Role of Courts in a Democratic Society (Burkhard Hess and Ana Koprivica, eds., Max Planck Institute, Luxembourg, Nomos, 2019); and Courts and Economic and Social Rights/Courts as Economic and Social Rights, in The Future of Economic and Social Rights (Katharine G. Young, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2019).

Some of Resnik’s recent articles are Representing What? Gender, Race, Class, and the Struggle for the Identity and the Legitimacy of Courts in Law and Ethics of Human Rights (forthcoming 2021); Punishment in Prison: Constituting the “Normal” and the “Atypical” in Solitary and Other Forms of Confinement (co-authored), 115 Northwestern Law Review 45 (2020); (Un)Constitutional Punishments: Eighth Amendment Silos, Penological Purposes, and People’s “Ruin,” 129 Yale Law Journal Forum 365 (2020); and Collective Preclusion and Inaccessible Arbitration: Data, Non-Disclosure, and Public Knowledge (co-authored), 24 Lewis & Clark Law Review 611 (2020).

From 2012-2022, Resnik chaired Yale Law School’s Global Constitutional Law Seminar, a part of the Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights. This annual private seminar brought together a small number of jurists from around the world to discuss the challenges of constitutional adjudication. Since 2012 when she became the chair, Resnik edited the volumes of readings, available without charge as e-books, and the series includes Weighing Judicial Authority (2022) and Urgency and Legitimacy (2021).

Resnik founded Yale’s Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law, which supports one-year fellowships for Yale Law School graduates as well as summer fellowships for students at Barnard, Brown, Bryn Mawr, Harvard, Princeton, Spelman, Stanford, and Yale. From its inception in 1997 through 2022, more than 170 graduates of Yale Law School have held Liman fellowships. Each year, the Liman Center sponsors colloquia and teaches seminars on the civil and criminal legal systems. Students and faculty in the Liman Center also do targeted research to provide new empirical insights into the impact of incarceration and the challenges of the legal system for individuals with limited resources. For example, the Liman Center has joined with the organization of the directors of all the prisons systems, now called Correctional Leaders Association (CLA) and formerly called the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), in a series of reports on solitary confinement, in which prisoners are held on average for 22 hours or more in their cells, for 15 days or longer. In 2013, that collaboration focused on the rules governing placement in isolation; a review of fifty states documented that corrections policies made it easy to place an individual in solitary confinement and focused little on insuring release from such segregation. In 2015, ASCA and the Liman Center co-authored Time-in-Cell: The ASCA-Liman 2014 National Survey of Administrative Segregation in Prison. The report was the first to provide information on both the numbers of people held in isolation (then estimated to be 80,000 to 100,000) and the conditions under which they live. 

Follow-up surveys provide a unique longitudinal database on the use of what correctional officials call “restrictive housing.” The reports include Aiming to Reduce Time-In-Cell: Reports from Correctional Systems on the Numbers of Prisoners in Restricted Housing and on the Potential of Policy Changes to Bring About Reforms (2016); Rethinking Death Row (2016); Reforming Restrictive Housing: The 2018 ASCA-Liman Nationwide Survey of Time-in-Cell, and its companion volume, Working to Limit Restrictive Housing: Efforts in Four Jurisdictions to Make Changes, both published in 2018, Time-in-Cell 2019: A Snapshot of Restrictive Housing. The volume, Time-in-Cell 2019, reported that as of the summer of 2019, an estimated 55,000 to 62,500 prisoners in the United States were held in isolation for an average of 22 hours a day for 15 days. Almost 3,000 people — or 11% of all the people for which statistics were provided — were kept in solitary confinement for more than three years. The volume published in 2022 is Time-in-Cell 2021: A Snapshot of Restrictive Housing based on a Nationwide Survey of U.S. Prison Systems. These reports have also identified a significant shift in governing policies and legislative action. Once, prison administrators saw solitary as the solution to disciplinary issues in prison. Today, many prison leaders are joining in the national and international view that solitary is itself a problem to be solved through abolition or substantial limitations on its use.

Other projects of the Liman Center include researching the challenges that women face while incarcerated. In February of 2019, Resnik joined many other witnesses to testify before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at its hearing on women in prison. The Commission’s report is Women in Prison: Seeking Justice Behind Bars (February 2020). The Liman Center also has several initiatives focused on economic injustice and the courts. Resnik chaired the 2018 Colloquium, Who Pays: Fines, Fees, Bail, and the Cost of Courts, and co-taught the 2018 Liman workshop, Rationing Access to Justice in Democracies. The 2019 Liman seminar, Poverty and the Courts: Fines, Fees, Bail, and Collective Redress, continued to explore these issues, as did the 2019 Colloquium, Economic Injustice: Courts, Law Schools, and Institutionalizing Reforms, which focused on how to bring the economics of court services and the needs of courts and litigants into the mainstream of legal education. The topic of the 2020 Colloquium was After Ferguson: Money and Punishment, Circa 2020. Much of this work is in partnership with the Policy Advocacy Clinic at UC Berkeley and the Fines and Fees Justice Center and is supported by Arnold Ventures. The series of e-books include Who Pays: Fines, Fees, Bail, and the Cost of Courts (2017); Ability to Pay (2019), Fees, Fines, and the Funding of Public Services: A Curriculum for Reform (2020) and Money and Punishment (2020).

Resnik is a member of national and international organizations dedicated to law, courts, and social justice. She has been the Chair of the Section on Law and the Humanities of the American Association of Law Schools, as well as of the Sections on Procedure, on Federal Courts, and on Women in Legal Education. She is a Managerial Trustee of the International Association of Women Judges. Resnik served as a founder and, for more than a decade, as a co-chair of Yale University’s Women Faculty Forum, begun in 2001. She remains on its steering committee.

Resnik is also an occasional litigator. She argued Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Carpenter, decided in 2009 by the United States Supreme Court, and in the 1987 case about admission of women to the Rotary Club. She also regularly files amici briefs in areas related to her expertise. In the wake of COVID-19, Resnik submitted declarations to several courts in which she outlined the authority of the courts to protect the health and safety of prisoners. In the statement, she described the availability of a provisional remedy known as enlargement and available to judges responding to COVID-19 litigation by “enlarging” the place of an incarcerated person’s custody from a particular prison to another setting, such as home or a halfway house. Resnik has also submitted amicus briefs related to judicial power, and she has testified before Congress, before rulemaking committees of the federal judiciary, and before the House of Commons of Canada.

From 2014 to 2016, Resnik was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, travelling to various liberal arts colleges in the United States. In 2015, she was a visiting professor at Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II, to which she returned in 2020; she is also an honorary visiting professor at University College London. In 2016 she was a visiting professor at Dauphine Université Paris.

In 1998, Resnik was the recipient of the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the Commission on Women of the American Bar Association. In 2001, she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2002, she became a member of the American Philosophical Society, where she delivered the Henry LaBarre Jayne Lecture in 2005. In 2022 she chaired a symposium entitled Incarceration, and presented her paper, Punishment in Polities, Democratic and Not.

In 2008, Resnik was named Outstanding Scholar of the Year by the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. In 2010, she received the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Prize, awarded to outstanding faculty in higher education in the fields of psychology or law. That year, Resnik also had a cameo role in the Doug Liman film, Fair Game. In 2013, Resnik was given the Arabella Babb Mansfield Award, the highest honor presented by the National Association of Women Lawyers. In 2017, she was honored by former Liman fellows with the establishment of the Resnik-Curtis Fellowship in Public Interest Law.

Resnik’s books have been warmly received. For example, Representing Justice received awards for its exploration of the evolution of adjudication into its modern form. Through mapping the remarkable run of the political icon of Justice and tracking the development of public spaces — courthouses — dedicated to justice, Resnik and co-author Curtis analyzed how Renaissance “rites” of judgment turned into democratic “rights,” requiring governments to protect judicial independence and to provide open and public hearings. With more than 220 images, readers can see the longevity of aspirations for legitimate state-based adjudication and the expansion of government services and come to appreciate that, while venerable, courts are also vulnerable institutions that ought (like the post office and the press) not be taken for granted. In 2011, Representing Justice was selected by The Guardian as one of the year’s “best legal reads;” in 2012, it was chosen by the American Publishers Association as the recipient of two PROSE awards for excellence in social sciences and in law/legal studies, and by the American Society of Legal Writers for the 2012 SCRIBES award. In 2014, Representing Justice won the Order of the Coif award, presented every two years in recognition of a book’s outstanding contributions to legal scholarship. In 2022, with support of the Yale Law Library, the book was reissued as an e-book and is also available in hard copy.