Charisa Smith

Hastie Fellow


LL.M., University of Wisconsin Law School (expected, 2017)
J.D., Yale Law School, 2005
B.A. (cum laude, History), Harvard University, 2000

Research Interests:
Family law, Child welfare, Juvenile and Criminal justice, Education law, Alternative dispute resolution, Critical theory


Charisa Smith is the 2015-2017 Hastie Fellow.  Her areas of expertise are family law, juvenile and criminal justice, education law, alternative dispute resolution, and critical theory.  Smith's work combines legal analysis with insights from the social and physical sciences to address the state's impact on the intimate lives of families and children, notions of personal capacity for decision-making, and broader societal ramifications.  She explores the impact of legal norms and processes upon members of society while questioning solely rights-based approaches.  Smith's recent articles in the Stanford Law & Policy Review, Law & Psychology Review, the Charlotte Law Review, the Quinnipiac Health Law Journal, and the Journal of Applied Research on Children have addressed the legal treatment of parents with mental disabilities and the efficacy of the current juvenile justice system.  Her 2016 University of Miami Law Review article critiques dominant, criminal law responses to the domestic sex trafficking of minors while examining the promise of civil law remedies.  Smith's additional forthcoming work addresses legal treatment of "sexting" by minors, alternative dispute resolution in child welfare cases, and discrimination in special education law.  Smith applies lessons from psychological, anthropological, and human rights literatures to articulate theoretical frameworks that can improve the law's impact upon society and the economy.  Smith likewise incorporates Vulnerability Studies to address the limits of those literatures, and to argue for a more egalitarian purposing of law and public systems.  

Smith received a J.D. from Yale Law School and was a Staff Attorney at Advocates for Children of New York, Inc. and the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, Virginia.  She has legally represented children on matters of juvenile prison conditions, delinquency, criminal defense, immigration, and public benefits.  Smith also represented parents in special education litigation and on child welfare matters.  Smith has drafted education and child welfare legislation, convened intergovernmental and stakeholder task forces, and mediated civil court cases in several jurisdictions.  She clerked for a leader in the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and co-directed Yale Law School's Legislative Advocacy Clinic.  Smith authored an original curriculum on legislative advocacy and lawyering ethics, and has been instrumental in many legislative efforts.  Smith has also taught at the CUNY School of Law, Brooklyn College, Long Island University, and the University of New Haven. 

Smith is the recipient of numerous distinctions, including the Arthur Liman Public Interest Law Fellowship, the Mary McCarthy Fellowship, and the Schell International Human Rights Fellowship (from Yale Law School); and the Michael Rockefeller Fellowship (from Harvard).  She has worked for women's rights organizations in Latin America, conducting field research on rural women's land ownership, political participation, and reproductive health.  Smith has also worked with sexually exploited children in the Dominican Republic and New York City.  She received her bachelor's degree cum laude from Harvard University and was awarded the Harvard History Essay Prize, among others.  Smith is the author of Blending Colors From Life: Trenton's Own Watercolorist, Tom Malloy (Africa World Press / Red Sea Press, 2007), which received research funding from institutions including the New Jersey Historical Commission and Radcliffe College.  Her book won an Honorable Mention at the 2010 New York Book Festival. 

Smith's scholarly work can be viewed on her Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Author page: 

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