Professional and Biographical Information


J.D., Yale Law School, 1989
M.A., Columbia University, 1986
A.B., Brown University, 1982
A.M. (honorary), Amherst College, 2005

Research Interests

I became a legal scholar in a liberal arts setting because I was fascinated by the power of law to shape social meaning. My research has been primarily devoted to exploring the possibilities and limitations of war crimes trials as tools for responding to mass atrocities. My book, The Memory of Judgment, explored the didactic uses of such trials—how they aimed to teach history and define collective memory. Focusing on several spectacular trials—including Nuremberg, Eichmann and Barbie—I argued that war crimes trials have an impressive, though finite, capacity to serve the interests of collective pedagogy.

My most recent book, The Right Wrong Man, builds on the work of The Memory of Judgment. The Right Wrong Man began as an essay I wrote for Harper’s on the Munich trial of John Demjanjuk. In part a trial narrative, my book uses the Demjanjuk case, the most convoluted and lengthy to arise from the crimes of the Holocaust, to explore how three distinct legal systems—the American, Israeli and German—each struggled to deal with the problem of the collaborator in Nazi genocide.

I am presently at work on two projects. The first is a book tentatively called A Jurisprudence of Atrocity, which aims to offer a synthetic understanding of law's response to the worse human rights violations. Here I hope to show how the remarkable efforts of jurists to gain dominion over the most extreme crimes have transformed the very core meaning of criminal justice. The second is a series of articles on the proceedings against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, before the Guantanamo military commission. The Nashiri case is one of two high-profile cases pending before the commission.  

On a somewhat different note, I’ve have served for a number of years as a member of the College's Program in Creative Writing. As a creative writer, I've published numerous short stories, essays, and pieces of humor (many in collaboration with my colleague Alex George in Amherst's Philosophy department). My first novel, The Catastrophist, was published in 2006 and received the 2007 Silver Prize in General Fiction from the Independent Publishers Association of America. In 2011, I published my second novel, The Vices, which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Prize, 2011.

Teaching Interests

Some of my courses directly touch on the substance of my research, others are a bit further removed; some are designed specifically for first-term students, others for juniors and seniors. They all share certain common features, however. They are all interdisciplinary in terms of both the materials that we read and the questions that we explore. For example, in my seminar "Judging the Holocaust," we compare how jurists, historians, and creative writers have sought to understand and represent the Holocaust. In "Interpretation in Law and Literature," we compare the strategies that scholars from disciplines as diverse as theology, anthropology, literature, and law rely on to locate meaning in a text. As would befit courses on law taught in a liberal arts setting, my teaching asks students to see law not a narrow system of rules, but as a complex system that serves to constitute and maintain ordered patterns of social life.

Selected Publications

Scholarly books (authored)

The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial  Princeton University Press, 2016.

The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust. Yale University Press, 2001; paperback, 2005.

Scholarly books (edited with Austin Sarat and Martha Umphrey)

Law and the Utopian Imagination, Standford University Press, 2014.

Law and War. Stanford University Press, 2013.

Imagining New Legalities, Stanford University Press, 2012.

Law without  Nations, Stanford University Press, 2011.

Law as Punishment, Law as Regulation, Stanford University Press, 2010.

Law and Catastrophe. Stanford University Press, 2007.

Law and the Sacred. Stanford University Press, 2006.

How Law Knows. Stanford University Press, 2006.

The Limits of Law. Stanford University Press, 2005.

Law on the Screen. Stanford University Press, 2005.

Law's Madness. University of Michigan Press, 2003.

The Place of Law. University of Michigan Press, 2003.

Lives in the Law. University of Michigan Press, 2002.

Non-scholarly books (authored)

The Vices. Novel; Other Press, 2011.

The Catastrophist. Novel; Hardback, Other Press, 2006; Paperback, Harcourt, 2007.

Sense and Nonsensibility (with Alexander George). Humor; Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 2004.

Selected scholarly essays and articles:

"Nashiri in Gitmo," a revised and expanded version of "A Kangaroo in Obama's Court," in Political Trials in Theory and Practice, Jens Meierhenrich and Devin Pendas, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2016.

"Writing Retribution: Holocaust Justice and Meaning" in Holocaust Justice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Norman Goda, ed., Berghahn, 2016.

"Truth and Justice in Atrocity Trials," in Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law, William Schabas, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2015, 52-72.

"A Kangaroo in Obama's Court" (cover essay) Harper's, October 2013, 35-47.

“Was damals Recht war…Nulla Poena, the Justice Case, and the Prosecution of Crimes Against Humanity in Occupied Germany” in Justice Post Bellum, Larry May, ed., Cambridge, 2013, 44-73.

Ivan the Recumbent, or Demjanjuk in MunichHarper’s March 2012, 45-52. An expanded version of this essay will appear in Political Trials: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Jens Meierhenrich and Devin Pendas, eds., Cambridge University Press, 2013.

“From IMT to NMT: The Emergence of a Jurisprudence of Atrocity,”in The Nuremberg Trials Revisited, Kim Priemel & Alexa Stiller, eds., Berghahn, 2012, 276-295.

“Arendt in Jerusalem, Demjanjuk in Munich” in Hannah Arendt and the Law, Chris McCorkindale and Marco Goldoni, eds., Hart, 2012, 291-304.

Crimes of Atrocity, the problem of punishment and the situ of Law” in Propaganda, War Crimes Trials and International Law, Predrag Dojcinovic, ed., Routledge, 2012, 269-294.

“From Trying the Perpetrator to Trying the Denier and Back Again: Some Reflections” in Denials and the Law, Ludovic Hennebel and Thomas Hochmann, eds., Oxford University Press, 2011, 49-74.

"Nuremberg Trials," "War Crimes Tribunals," Adolf Eichmann," "Slobodan Milosevic," "Klaus Barbie," "Ivan Demjanjuk," "Political Trials," "Show Trials," "Memory and Law," Oxford Companion to Law, Peter Crane et al., ed., Oxford Univeristy Press, 2008.

"The Didactic Trial: Filtering History and Memory in the Courtroom," European Review Vol 14, No. 4, 2006, 513-522.

"History and Memory in the Courtroom: Reflections on Perpetrator Trials" in The Nuremberg Trials International Criminal Law Since 1945; Die Nürnberger Prozesse Völkerstrafrecht seit 1945 Herbert Reginbogin and Christoph Safferling, eds., K. G. Sauer Verlag, 2006.

"Trial as Documentary: Images of Eichmann," Law's Moving Image, Les Moran, ed., Cavendish, 2004.

"Crimes Against Humanity and Legal Memory," Law and History: Current Legal Issues, Andrew Lewis and Michael Lobban, eds., Oxford University Press, 2003.

"Rivka Yoselewska on the Stand: The Structure of Legality and the Construction of Heroic Memory at the Eichmann Trial," Law and Literature: Current Legal Issues, Michael Freeman and Andrew Lewis, eds., Oxford University Press, 1999.

"The Shrunken Head of Buchenwald: Icons of Atrocity at Nuremberg," Representations, Vol. 63, Summer 1998.

"Policing the Past: Holocaust Denial and the Law," chapter in Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation, Robert C. Post, ed., Getty Research Institute Press, 1998.

"The Memory of Judgment: The Law, the Holocaust, and Denial," History and Memory, Vol. 7, No. 2, Fall/Winter 1996.

"Film as Witness: Screening 'Nazi Concentration Camps' before the Nuremberg Tribunal," The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 105, No. 2, November 1995.

"Wartime Lies: Securing the Holocaust in Law and Literature," Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer 1995.

"The Force of Words: Fish, Matsuda, MacKinnon and the Theory of Discursive Violence," Law and Society Review, Vol. 29, No. 1, May 1995.

"Discursive Limits: Narrative and Judgment in Billy Budd," Mosaic, Vol. 27, No. 4, Winter 1994.

"Constitutional Discourse and Its Discontents," chapter in The Rhetoric of Law, Austin Sarat and Thomas Kearns, eds., University of Michigan Press, 1994.

Selected reviews

Review of Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide by Thomas de Waal, Irish Times, June 20, 2015.

"What Counts as Murder?" (review of Hitler's First Victims by Timothy Ryback), Commonweal, April 10, 2015, 25.

"A Very Deliberate Banality" (review of Eichmann before Jerusalem by Bettina Stangneth), Times Literary Supplement February 27, 2015, 7.

Review of Torture: An Intimate History by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Irish Times, February 21, 2015.

“Nexus Requirement” (review of Totally Unofficial by Raphael Lemkin), Times Literary Supplement, May 28, 2014, 12.

Review of Anti-Judaism: The History of a Way of Thinking by David Nirenberg, Irish Times, September 14, 2013.

Review of The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer, Irish Times, July 6, 2013.

Review of Evil Men by James Dawes, Irish Times, May 25, 2013.

"Undue Process" (review of The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay by Jess Bravin), Times Literary Supplement, May 17, 2013, 7.

“Terror on Trial” (review of Justice and the Enemy by William Shawcross, and All the Missing Souls by David Scheffer) Times Literary Supplement, July 27, 2012, 12.

Review of The Paris Correspondent by Alan Cowell (“Fiction in Brief”) Times Literary Supplement, July 20, 2012, 21.

“Being Uncivil” (review of Academic Freedom and the Law by Eric Barendt) Times Literary Supplement January 6, 2012, 28.

“Bigger Fish” (review of The Eichmann Trial by Deborah Lipstadt) Times Literary Supplement June 24, 2011, 10.

“Save the Ugly” (review of Extreme Speech and Democracy, edited by Ivan Hare and James Weinstein) Times Literary Supplement September 4, 2009, 5.

“Loose canons” (review of How Judges Think by Richard Posner) Times Literary Supplement> June 20, 2008, 26.

“Prison Without Reform” (review of Atrocity, Punishment, and International Law by Mark Drumbl, and Tales from Spandau by Norman Goda) Times Literary Supplement May 2, 2008, 25.

"A Better Way to Win" edited by George Kassimeris) Times Literary Supplement, February 16, 2007.

"The People's Court" (review of The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America by Jeffrey Rosen) Commonweal February 9, 2007.

"Me and Yoo: Counsels of War" (review of Lawless World by Philippe Sands and The Powers of War and Peace by John Yoo) Times Literary Supplement, No. 5380, May 12 2006.

Review of Justice in the Balkans: Prosecuting War Crimes in the Hague Tribunalby John Hagan, Holocaust and GenocideStudies, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2006, 326-329.

"The Man on the Right" (review of Becoming Justice Blackmun by Linda Greenhouse), Times Literary Supplement, No.5347, September 23, 2005.

"Bloody Boredom" (review of They Would Never Hurt a Fly by Slavenka Drakulic and Justice in a Time of War by Pierre Hazan), Times Literary Supplement, No. 5320, March 18, 2005.

"Judgments Unlimited," Review of Universal Jurisdiction: International and Municipal Perspectives by Luc Reydams, and Universal Jurisdictionedited by Stephen Macedo,Times Literary Supplement, No. 5295, September 24, 2004.

"A Nation's Trial," Review of The State of Israel vs. Adolf Eichmann by Hanna Yablonka, Times Literary Supplement, No. 5278, May 28, 2004, 8.

Review of Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America's Courts by Michael Bazyler, American Historical Review, Vol. 108, No. 5, December 2003.

"Eichmann in Jerusalem; Kissinger in the Hague?" (review of The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens), Salmagundi, Winter-Spring 2003.

"Too Vivid A Memory" (review of Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life), Commonweal, August 13, 1999.

"The Goldhagen Riddle" (review of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners), Commonweal, May 9, 1997.

Selected comments and essays of general interest

"Auschwitz Guard Trial: Moral vs. Criminal Culpability," CNN, April 24, 2015.

“The Face of Genocide,” Salon, March 20, 2012.

“The NMT Trial Program and the Emergence of a Jurisprudence of Atrocity,” Opinio Juris, November 17, 2011.

“Desaster in Jerusalem” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung July 12,2009, 8.

"The Saddam Hanging: A Spectacle of Vengeance"Jurist; January 4, 2007.

"Justice Denied at the Hague?" Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, March 14, 2006.

"Saddam in the Dock: The Challenge of Didactic Justice," Jurist; October 18, 2005.

"Milosevic in the Hague," Jewish Journal, February 22, 2002.

"My Books, My Life," The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 6, 2000.

"Movies with an 'R'..." Outlook, The Washington Post, May 2, 1999.

"Exhumation of Dreams," Witness, Vol. X, No. 1, Spring/Summer 1996.

"New Blood," The Boston Globe Magazine, October 1, 1995.

"Last Bus from Auschwitz," The Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXV, No. 1, Spring 1994.

Selected Fiction, Humor, and Occasionals

“Bitextual Me,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 11, 2011, B-4.

Talk of the Gown” (“Literary Police Blotter,” with Alexander George“ The Chronicle of Higher Education February 1,2008, B-5.

"Baby Boris" (short story) Five Chapters; November 2006.

"Advanced Symptoms of Advanced Degrees" (with Alexander George), The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 4, 2005.

"Lawrence and Alex's Great Publishing Adventure," The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 14, 2005.

"A Support Group for Terminal Grad Students" (with Alexander George), The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 19, 2004.

"Not eBay, but an Amazing Facsimile" (with Alexander George), New York Times Book Review, August 13, 2000.

"The Philosopher Is In" (with Alexander George), The New Yorker, June 1, 1998.

"The Family Romance" (short story) TIKKUN, Vol. 12, No. 3, May/June 1997.

"E-Mail" (short story) The Hudson Review, Vol. XLVII, No. 3, Fall 1994.

Awards and Honors

Senior Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societes; Ina Levine Senior Invitational Scholar, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies; NEH Senior Fellowship; Faculty Research Award, Eugene S. Wilson Fellowship, Karl Loewenstein Fellowship, Amherst College; Honorary Research Fellow, Birkbeck College, University of London; Olin Fellowship, Yale Law School; President's Fellowship, Columbia University; ITT-Fulbright International Fellowship to the Federal Republic of Germany.

Scholarly and Professional Activities

Member, Board of Directors, Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center, 2006-present.

Co-editor, The Amherst Series in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, book series, 2001-present.

Editorial Advisory Board: Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities.


“Demjanjuk in Munich: War Crimes Trials in Historical Perspective” Annual Meyerhoff Lecture, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,

NYU Taub Center--50th Anniversary of the Eichmann Trial—A Look Back--Lawrence Douglas

"Judging the Courts: Wikinews Interviews Professor Lawrence Douglas" Wikinews; November 21, 2006.

Radio Netherlands interview: