(updated February 4, 2022)
Melissa Murray, who serves as the Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, is an expert in family law, constitutional law, and reproductive rights and justice. Before her time at NYU Law, Professor Murray was the Alexander F. And May T. Morrison Professor of Law and the Faculty Director of the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. A groundbreaking scholar, Professor Murray has written or edited three books and has had articles appear in the California Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Harvard Law Review, and Yale Law Journal, among others. Professor Murray has also regularly provided legal commentary for the public on television and as an op-ed writer for news publications.
Melissa Murray was born in Brooklyn in 1975 to immigrants from Jamaica and was raised in Florida. As a high school student at Lincoln Park Academy, a public school, she was a violinist in two youth orchestras, a nationally ranked debater, and a contestant on Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. She attended the University of Virginia as a Jefferson Scholar (full tuition merit scholarship) and an Echols Scholar (honors program) and graduated in 1997 with a B.A. in American Studies. In her final year at UVA, she was selected as a Lawn Resident, an honor for the top 40 students in the fourth-year class, and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to receive her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2002, where she was a recipient of the Shearman-Sterling NAACP LDF scholarship. While at Yale, Professor Murray was the Notes Development Editor of the Yale Law Journal and published her first piece of legal scholarship in the Michigan Journal of Gender and the Law, entitled Whatever Happened to G.I. Jane?: Citizenship, Gender, and Social Policy in the Postwar Era.
After receiving her law degree, Professor Murray clerked for two judges: Judge Stefan Underhill for the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was then on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Professor Murray has had a prolific academic career in her relatively short 16 years as a law professor. She has served as a professor at Columbia University, University of California at Berkeley, where she first received tenure, and New York University. She has written or edited 3 books, 29 law review articles and chapters, and 29 op-eds. Her work has primarily focused on family law and constitutional law, including sex and sexuality, reproductive rights and justice, and marriage.
After finishing her clerkship with now-Justice Sotomayor, Professor Murray joined Columbia Law School as an Associate in Law. There, she taught Legal Writing and a seminar entitled “Federalism and the Family,” and published a review of Duncan Kennedy’s Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy: A Polemic Against the System.
In 2006, Professor Murray joined University of California at Berkeley Law School as an Assistant Professor of Law, earning tenure in 2011. After receiving tenure, Professor Murray served as the Interim Dean of Berkeley Law School following the resignation of Dean Sujit Choudhry in 2016. At Berkeley, she wrote and published extensively, including the Dukeminier Award-winning article What’s So New About the New Illegitimacy?, which examined continued legal impediments associated with nonmarital birth. In another example of her scholarly work, she won the American Association of Law Schools’ Scholarly Paper Competition for best paper by a young law professor with her article, Marriage as Punishment, which traced laws that used marriage as a disciplinary measure.
In 2014, she co-authored her first book with Kristin Luker, Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice. Professor Murray also co-authored two amicus briefs while at Berkeley Law for Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which the Court addressed whether bakery owners could refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, and Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to two Texas restrictions on abortion.
In 2018, Professor Murray moved to New York University Law School where she is currently the Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network. While at NYU, Professor Murray co-edited two books, Reproductive Rights and Justice Stories and Feminist Jurisprudence and several articles. Two recent articles, Race-ing Roe: Reproductive Justice, Racial Justice, and the Battle for Roe v. Wade, and The Symbiosis of Abortion and Precedent, were published in the Harvard Law Review and consider the Supreme Court’s rapidly evolving abortion jurisprudence. Professor Murray also wrote the Dukeminier Award-winning Consequential Sex: #MeToo, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Private Sexual Regulation. She also co-authored an amicus brief for the Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs case in which Mississippi’s sole abortion provider challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 15-week abortion ban.
PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES AND ACCOLADES
Professor Murray is an elected Member of the American Law Institute and sits on the boards of the Brennan Center for Justice, the American Constitutional Society, the Guttmacher Institute, and the National Women’s Law Center. At NYU, Professor Murray was honored with the Jacob Javits Distinguished Professorship and the Podell Distinguished Teaching Award. She received numerous accolades during her time at University of California, Berkeley, including the Association of American Law Schools’ Derrick A. Bell Award, which honors a junior faculty member who, through activism, mentoring, colleagueship, teaching and scholarship, has made an extraordinary contribution to legal education, the legal system, or social justice. While at Berkeley, she also received the Rutter Award for Teaching Distinction and the Center for Reproductive Rights Innovation in Scholarship Award.
Professor Murray has worked to make her scholarly work accessible outside of academic institutions. She co-founded and hosts, with Professor Leah Litman of University of Michigan Law School and Professor Kate Shaw of Cardozo Law School, the Strict Scrutiny podcast, which discusses the Supreme Court, its docket, and issues related to the federal courts.