Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse in Relationships

  • michelle dempsey

Michelle Dempsey, J.D., LL.M.,, D. Phil.

Villanova School of Law
Professor and Associate Dean of Faculty Research & Development

Michelle Madden Dempsey teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, feminist legal theory, and jurisprudence at the Villanova University Law School, where she also serves as the Associate Dean of Faculty Research and Development. In 2015, she co-founded the Villanova Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation. Professor Dempsey received her B.A. from the University of Illinois, J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, LL.M. from the London School of Economics, and D. Phil. (Ph.D.) from the University of Oxford.


Following law school, she worked as a domestic violence prosecutor in the Champaign (Illinois) C

ounty State's Attorney's Office and later as a plaintiff's tort litigator in one of Chicago's premiere personal injury law firms. As a civil litigator, she obtained a record-setting jury verdict of $10.62 million in a medical malpractice trial and a $3.5 million jury verdict in a wrongful death case involving a shooting death by Chicago Police officers.  


She was a tutor in law at University College London and served as an expert consultant on domestic violence prosecutions to the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales prior to joining the Oxford Law faculty in 2005.  At Oxford, she was a University Lecturer (CUF) in Law and a Tutorial Fellow. She left Oxford In 2009 to join Villanova where she teaches Criminal Law, Evidence, Jurisprudence, Feminist Legal Theory, and Sexuality & Law.


Prof. Dempsey has been working to combat commercial sexual exploitation since the late 1990s, when she served as a lobbyist in Vienna during the United Nations negotiations and drafting of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. She has worked on behalf of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and has served as a consultant to the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons. 


Prof. Dempsey’s work has been published in leading law journals. Her book, Prosecuting Domestic Violence: A Philosophical Analysis, published by Oxford University Press, was awarded second prize in the UK’s Society of Legal Scholars Peter Birks Award for Outstanding Legal Scholarship. 


She is an editor of the multidisciplinary, international journal, Criminal Law & Philosophy and is the co-director of the Criminal Law Theory Program at the Robina Institute for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice at the University of Minnesota Law School. She has served as Chair of the American Association of Law Schools’ Section on Scholarship and Section on Jurisprudence and was elected to the American Law Institute in 2015