Joan S. Meier

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

Joan S. Meier is a nationally recognized expert on domestic violence and the law, appellate litigation, and clinical law teaching. In her nearly 30 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 were recognized by the US Department of Justice as leading national models.

In addition to her 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. For DV LEAP, Professor Meier currently handles two clients’ cases in the Supreme Court, and previously handled another nine domestic violence amicus briefs in the Supreme Court in cases concerning constitutional constraints on criminal prosecutions of domestic violence, the Hague Abduction Treaty, and the enforcement of civil protection orders by criminal contempt.

In 2019, Professor Meier completed a five-year empirical study of family court outcomes in cases involving abuse and alienation claims, which has generated significant attention. That year she left DV LEAP to rejoin GW Law as a full-time faculty member and to launch the National Family Violence Initiative, through which she continues her national research and impact work on the legal system’s response to abuse in the family.

She has received a number of awards, including most recently the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Battered Mothers’ Custody Conference (2019).  Professor Meier was also awarded the Inaugural Sharon Corbitt Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence (2009), Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Peace Award (2010), and (for DV LEAP) the Justice for Children Leadership Award (2007), the Washington Area Women’s Foundation Leadership Award (2009), and the Mary Byron Foundation Celebrating Solutions Award (2006).

Professor Meier is regularly interviewed by the media, including The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and many others on domestic violence issues and her research and litigation. She 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 direct legal services and freedom of information litigation.

Professor Meier 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 GW Law, 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 Law and as a visiting professor at Washington & Lee. Her research and publications focus on clinical teaching, domestic violence, child custody, misapplication of social science theories, criminal procedure, and civil rights. 

Curriculum Vitae     Publications


BA, Harvard University; JD, University of Chicago

In the News

"When Protecting Your Children Is a Crime"

February 10, 2020

Joan S. Meier is quoted by Dame Magazine about her research on how courts discount the risk to children in domestic violence cases.

"Why Women Lose Custody"

January 26, 2020

Naomi R. Cahn writes for Forbes on Joan S. Meier's new study on gender bias in custody cases.

"Dulos Murder Case Used to Push Domestic Violence Law"

January 11, 2020

Joan S. Meier's research on gender bias in family custody cases was mentioned by Connecticut Senator Alex Bergstein on HLN.

"Pointing to Dulos Case, State Sen. Alex Bergstein Announces New Legislation to Expand Legal Definition of Domestic Violence"

January 10, 2020

Joan S. Meier's research on gender bias in family court cases was mentioned by the Hartford Courant.

"Gender Bias and the Myth of Parental Alienation"

January 05, 2020
Joan S. Meier appears on "One in Ten," a National Children's Alliance podcast, to discuss her research on how alleging abuse affects custody decisions.