Joan S. Meier

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

Joan Meier is a Professor of Clinical Law and Director of the National Family Violence Law Center at the George Washington University Law School. Professor Meier has been a clinical law professor for 29 years at GW Law, where she founded three pioneering and nationally recognized interdisciplinary domestic violence clinical programs. She has published widely on domestic violence, custody, clinical teaching, criminal procedure, and various Supreme Court decisions. Her major study, “Child Custody Outcomes in Cases Involving Parental Alienation and Abuse Allegations,” funded by the National Institute of Justice, was completed in 2019. Its findings have been written about in scholarship and multiple media outlets including The Washington Post and The New Yorker

In August 2019, Professor Meier stepped down from the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP), the nonprofit she founded in 2003 to provide pro bono appeals in domestic violence cases. While at DV LEAP, she was the co-author of eleven amicus briefs and three party briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court. She also represented domestic violence organizations and survivors of domestic violence in state court appeals all over the country and in Washington, DC. DV LEAP’s cases involved custody and child protection, enforcement of civil protection orders, criminal prosecution of batterers, and other issues.  Professor Meier has provided numerous trainings for judges, psychologists, lawyers, domestic violence coalitions, and others on best practices in adjudication of domestic violence and family court litigation and on her empirical research.

DV LEAP and Professor Meier have received several awards, including among others, the American Bar Association’s first ever Sharon L. Corbitt Award, which recognizes exceptional service and leadership in improving the legal response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and/or stalking; and the Outstanding Leadership Award from Justice for Children in 2007. Professor Meier received the Cahn Award from the National Equal Justice Library for her article on domestic violence and welfare reform. She was featured as a commentator in “Breaking the Silence: Children’s Voices,” the PBS documentary that aired in October 2005.

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 US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Curriculum Vitae     Publications


BA, Harvard University; JD, University of Chicago

In the News

"Upstate Judge Favored Abusive Men Over Battered Women in Custody Cases, Lawsuit Claims"

August 20, 2021

Joan S. Meier is quoted in the New York Post about how mothers who accuse their spouses of abuse in family court often lose custody of their children.

"‘Women Are Routinely Discredited’: How Courts Fail Mothers and Children Who Have Survived Abuse"

August 14, 2021

Joan Meier is quoted in The Guardian about how mothers accusing their partners of abuse sometimes end up losing custody of their children.

"Parental Alienation As A Defense To Allegations Of Domestic Violence And Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse"

March 29, 2021
Joan S. Meier is cited in Forbes for her work on how parental alienation is often claimed in custody cases when there are allegations of abuse.

"Assembly Bill Seeks to Stem Child Deaths in Family Court System"

February 03, 2021

Joan S. Meier is cited in the Times Union for her recent study examining the outcomes of child custody cases across the country.

"‘Trapped’: The American Women and Girls Forced Into Marriage"

December 24, 2020
Joan S. Meier is quoted in Al Jazeera about how perpetrators often escalate abuse and violence when victims attempt to flee.