Michelle Madden Dempsey

Professor of Law
Harold Reuschlein Scholar Chair


Michelle Madden Dempsey joined Villanova in 2009, after teaching at the University of Oxford, where she was a University Lecturer (CUF) in Law and Tutorial Fellow. Dempsey teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law, feminist legal theory, and philosophy of law. She has served as chair of the American Association of Law School’s Section on Scholarship and Section on Jurisprudence. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

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. Her articles have been published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Modern Law Review, Ethics, Criminal Law & Philosophy, Criminal Law Review (UK), American Criminal Law Review, and elsewhere. Her co-edited volume, From Morality to Law and Back Again: Liber Amicorum for John Gardner, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Dempsey received her doctor of philosophy (PhD) from the University of Oxford, LLM from the London School of Economics, JD from the University of Michigan Law School and BA from the University of Illinois. She is the co-editor-in-chief (with Matt Matravers, York) of the multidisciplinary, international journal, Criminal Law & Philosophy, co-general editor (with Jeremy Horder, LSE) of OUP Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice, co-founder and executive committee member of The Collective: Women in Legal Philosophy, and served as 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 from 2009-2016.

Following law school, she worked as a domestic violence prosecutor in the Champaign (Illinois) County 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 remains a licensed member of the Illinois State Bar and a member of the Trial Bar of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois.

Dempsey 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 Villanova, she regularly teaches Criminal Law, Evidence, Advanced Criminal Law and Sexuality and Law, and has previously taught Jurisprudence, Feminist Legal Theory, Gender and Law, Race and Law and Domestic Violence and Law. In 2014, she co-founded the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation.

Dempsey previously served as associate dean for faculty research and development from 2013-2017 and was appointed to the inaugural Harold Reuschlein Scholar Chair in 2018. She was awarded the Villanova Law Student Bar Association Faculty Member of the Year Award in 2019 and 2021, and was awarded the Diane Ambler Scholarship Impact Award in 2022. 

Practice Experience

  • Champaign County State's Attorney's Office (Urbana, Illinois)
  • First Health Group Corp. (Downers Grove, Illinois)
  • Paul B. Episcope, Ltd. (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Joined the faculty in 2009

Office: Rm 335, John F. Scarpa Hall
Phone: 610-519-8011


Courses and Seminars

  • Advanced Issues in Criminal Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Evidence
  • Jurisprudence
  • Feminist Legal Theory
  • Sexuality and Law


  • University of Oxford, DPhil (PhD)
  • London School of Economics, LLM
  • University of Michigan, JD
  • University of Illinois, BA