Lee Kovarsky

Lee Kovarsky

  • Bryant Smith Chair in Law
  • Professor

Faculty Profile: Lee Kovarsky

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Professor Kovarsky is a leading scholar of the death penalty and habeas corpus. His teaching and writing also focuses on civil and criminal procedure, criminal justice, federal jurisdiction, and conflicts of law. His most recent articles are forthcoming or have been published in the California Law Review, the Chicago Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Cornell Law Review, the Duke Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, the Texas Law Review, the Vanderbilt Law Review, and the Virginia Law Review. He has co-authored two books with Professor Brandon L. Garrett, including a leading case book on habeas corpus for which the second edition is in progress. His scholarship has been cited by the United States Supreme Court, as well as by seven of the federal circuit courts. He was elected to the American Law Institute in 2020.

Professor Kovarsky remains an active habeas and capital litigator. He regularly represents death-sentenced prisoners as they await execution, and he has worked on many dozens of capital post-conviction cases. He argued Ayestas v. Davis before the U.S. Supreme Court during the October 2017 term, with the Court deciding unanimously in the capital prisoner's favor. He frequently drafts and contributes to amicus briefing before U.S. Supreme and other appellate courts, usually representing law professors or other professional organizations, including the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). He also appears regularly in popular media, having written for the New York Times, MSNBC, Slate, and Salon, and having been a featured guest on NPR's All Things Considered and Slate's What Next.

Professor Kovarsky received his B.A. in Political Science and Economics from Yale University, with awards of academic distinction in both majors. He received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was an Articles Editor for the Virginia Law Review. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable Jerry E. Smith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He worked for several years as an appellate practitioner before beginning his academic career with a three-year appointment as an Acting Assistant Professor at New York University School of Law. He joined the School of Law in the summer of 2020, after a decade at the University of Maryland.

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