“I’ve been given a calling,” says leading legal scholar and advocate Marci Hamilton

Marci Hamilton

Legal scholar, advocate, and Fels Professor of Practice Marci Hamilton has taken on some of the world’s most powerful institutions in her decades-long fight for justice for child victims of abuse.

Hamilton’s legal career began at Penn Law in 1985. At the time, she was a short fiction writer who had already earned national acclaim. She says, “I went to law school thinking that I would write on the side, but the law swept me up and I was fortunate enough to get wonderful clerkships”—including one with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Since then Hamilton has shaped numerous landmark rulings for the protection of children. She has submitted expert testimony, advised legislators in every state where significant reform has occurred, and filed countless pro bono amicus briefs in the US and state supreme courts.

Hamilton was one of the first legal scholars to speak out publicly about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, and has brought numerous child abuse scandals into public view through her op-eds. She is also the founder and CEO of CHILD USA, a nonprofit dedicated to using interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to prevent abuse, exploitation, and neglect. 

In addition to her advocacy and research, Hamilton is passionate about teaching. In discussing her recent Children and the Law class at Fels, she says, “I had a wonderful group of students, including a public school principal, an Army major, an education graduate student, and even a former worker in the foster care system… I just want to sit and speak with them all day.” Hamilton says the insights from class discussions inform her policy work.

Reflecting on her long and storied career, Hamilton says she’s just getting started. “I’ve been given a calling that just happens to be at the right time and in the right place. It’s what children need, and what the country needs,” she says. “It’s getting better incrementally, but every day I wake up and there’s another frontier that we need to civilize. As soon as my team and I solve one challenge, we just take that pin off the board and tack another one on.” 

Read more about Hamilton’s legacy and current work in the article David vs. Goliath via Omnia.

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