Joan S. Meier

Joan Meier
Professor of Clinical Law
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
[email protected]

Joan Meier is a nationally recognized expert on domestic violence and the law, appellate litigation, and clinical law teaching. In her more than 20 years at GW, she has founded three interdisciplinary domestic violence clinical programs, two of which provided legal representation, advocacy, and counseling to victims of domestic violence and have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice as leading national models. In addition to her years of litigation and teaching, Professor Meier has co-written several significant pieces of federal and state legislation, and frequently delivers presentations and trainings to attorneys, judges, and other professional organizations. She has published widely on domestic violence, and received the Cahn Award from the National Equal Justice Library for her article on domestic violence and welfare reform. Professor Meier's scholarship focuses on custody and abuse litigation, in particular the misuse of psychological science in custody litigation.

In 2003 Professor Meier founded the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), which provides pro bono appellate representation in compelling domestic violence cases, including Supreme Court cases, and trains attorneys and courts around the country. DV LEAP spearheaded the domestic violence amicus briefs in several Supreme Court cases, including Giles v. California (2008), and Hammon v. Indiana (2006), both concerning constitutional constraints on criminal prosecutions of domestic violence. 

In 2010 DV LEAP filed amicus briefs in Abbott v. Abbott, concerning the Hague Convention on International Civil Abduction, and Roberton v. U.S., concerning the enforcement of civil protection orders by criminal contempt. In 2009, she received the Inaugural Sharon Corbitt Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence. She has also received Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Peace Award, and DV LEAP has received Justice for Children’s Leadership Award, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation Leadership Award, and the Mary Byron Foundation Celebrating Solutions Award in 2006, In 2011, DV LEAP received a two-year $450,000 grant award from the Dept of Justice Office on Violence Against Women to provide trainings on the misuses of science in custody and abuse litigation, in partnership with the Leadership Council on Interpersonal Violence and Child Abuse.

Professor Meier is regularly interviewed in the media on domestic violence issues and was one of the featured commentators in the groundbreaking PBS documentary, “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Voices.” She previously practiced in two national law firms and in two public interest organizations providing legal services and freedom of information litigation. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1980, cum laude from the University of Chicago Law School in 1983, and clerked on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

At the law school, Professor Meier teaches the Domestic Violence Project, a clinical course in which students work with community organizations on domestic violence legal advocacy. She has also taught criminal law and family law at GW and as a visiting professor at Washington & Lee. Her research and publications focus on domestic violence, criminal procedure and civil rights, child custody, and misapplication of social science theories.

Curriculum Vitae     Publications


BA, Harvard University; JD, University of Chicago

In the News

"How Claims Of Abuse And Alienation Affect Who Gets Child Custody"

October 21, 2019
Joan S. Meier spoke to WAMU-FM's "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" about how mothers lose custody at staggering rates when fathers claim "parental alienation."

"What If Your Abusive Husband Is a Cop?"

September 30, 2019

Joan S. Meier is quoted by The New Yorker on her analysis of more than 2,000 family-court opinions from the past decade.

"Fatal Court"

September 17, 2019

Joan S. Meier is quoted by Deseret News about the high rate of mothers losing custody of their children when alleging abuse in family court.

"Fathers Are Favored In Child Custody Battles, Even When Abuse Is Alleged"

August 19, 2019

Joan S. Meier discussed her research on child abuse in custody cases with WAMU-FM.

"Jennifer Dulos Disappearance: Study Shows Courts ‘Skeptical’ of Women’s Abuse Claims in Custody Disputes"

August 05, 2019

Joan S. Meier's research on the family court system is quoted by The Middletown Press to provide context for a missing person case.