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: Masculinity, Heteronormativity, and the Murder of Transgender Women in the Hastings Law Journal (with Peter Kwan), The Gay Panic Defense in the UC Davis 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 Procedure: Cases and Materials (West 2018) (with L. Song Richardson & Tamara Lawson); Criminal Law: Cases and Materials (West 2019) (with Angela Harris); 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. She is currently doing research on policing. Model legislation on police use of force that she proposed in an article published in 2018
in the Illinois Law Review was the basis for a bill considered by the Maryland House Judiciary Committee in 2019 and 2020.


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

In the News

"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.

"Use of Force"

June 18, 2020

Cynthia Lee is cited in Become All about how the self-defense justification for police officers is imbalanced as compared to civilians.

"Deadly Force Law a Key Issue in Capitol Policing Debate"

June 16, 2020

Cynthia Lee is quoted by Minnesota Public Radio about how laws deferential to police officers have reduced accountability.

"Police Killings Prompt Reassessment of Laws Allowing Deadly Force"

June 14, 2020

Cynthia Lee is quoted in The New York Times about how law reform can help shift the culture regarding police use of force.