Cynthia Lee

Professor Cynthia Lee
Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
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Professor Lee teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Adjudicatory Criminal Procedure and Professional Responsibility at the George Washington University Law School. Professor Lee graduated from Stanford University and received her JD from UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. Upon graduating from law school, she clerked for Judge Harold M. Fong, then Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii. She then served as an associate with Cooper, White & Cooper in San Francisco, California, where she was a member of the firm's criminal defense practice group. Professor Lee started teaching at the University of San Diego School of Law, where she received the Thorsness Prize for Excellence in Teaching. In August 2001, she joined the GW Law faculty. 

Professor Lee has written numerous articles published in various law journals, including "Reforming the Law on Police Use of Deadly Force" in the University of Illinois Law Review; "Making Race Salient: Trayvon Martin and Implicit Bias in a Not Yet Post-Racial Society" in the North Carolina Law Review; "The Trans Panic Defense Revisited" in the American Criminal Law Review; "A New Approach to Voir Dire into Racial Bias" in the UC Irvine Law Review; "Prosecutorial Discretion, Substantial Assistance, and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines" in the UCLA Law Review; "Race and Self-Defense: Toward a Normative Conception of Reasonableness" in the Minnesota Law Review; and "Freedom of Speech in the Public Workplace: A Comment on the Public Concern Requirement" in the California Law Review. She is the author or editor of four books: Criminal Law: Cases and Materials (West 2019) (with Angela Harris); Criminal Procedure: Cases and Materials (West 2018) (with L. Song Richardson & Tamara Lawson); Searches and Seizures: The Fourth Amendment, Its Constitutional History and the Contemporary Debate (Prometheus Books 2011); and Murder and the Reasonable Man: Passion and Fear in the Criminal Courtroom (NYU Press 2003). Professor Lee served as chair of the AALS Criminal Justice Section in 2008. Key provisions from a model statute on police use of deadly force she proposed in an article published in 2018 in the Illinois Law Review were incorporated into police reform legislation enacted by Connecticut, Virginia, and the District of Columbia in 2020.


BA, Stanford University; JD, University of California, Berkeley

In the News

"Q & A: The Implications of the Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial"

April 22, 2021
Cynthia Lee discusses with GW Today the potential implications of Derek Chauvin's conviction on all charges in the killing of George Floyd.

"21 Experts on What the Verdict Means — and Where to Go From Here"

April 20, 2021

Cynthia Lee is quoted in Politico about the historic verdict in the Derek Chauvin case and the need to continue pushing for policing reform.

"Ignoring Race at Its Peril in the Derek Chauvin Trial"

April 16, 2021
Cynthia Lee writes in The Hill that the prosecution in the Derek Chauvin case cannot afford to ignore race or the case's racial implications.

"Washington, DC Legislation Starts Police Reform That May Go Nationwide"

June 27, 2020

Cynthia Lee discussed on "The Latest" podcast the difference between excessive and justifiable force by police officers.

"Lethal Force Laws Reexamined After Police Killings; Is Reasonableness Standard Too Easy?"

June 19, 2020

Cynthia Lee is quoted in the ABA Journal about her model legislation on police use of force adopted by the DC Council.