Steven L. Chanenson

Professor of Law
Faculty Director of the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance 


As the faculty director of the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance, Steve Chanenson has helped strengthen the Law School’s emphasis on issues of ethics, broadly defined. For example, he worked with Professor Doris Brogan to adapt the internationally acclaimed Giving Voice to Values (GVV) approach for use at Villanova Law and hosted the first-ever GVV conference focused on the legal profession and law schools.

He also brings an innovative approach to the study of sentencing and criminal law as the director of the Villanova Sentencing Workshop and former chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing. He teaches courses on sentencing, pre-trial detention, criminal law and criminal procedure at Villanova. 

Chanenson writes primarily in the areas of sentencing and criminal procedure with his works having been published in such journals as the Stanford Law Review, Emory Law Journal, Waseda Proceedings of Comparative Law and Yale Law Journal Pocket Part. His scholarship and work on criminal sentencing, in particular, have gained him national recognition. Chanenson has frequently spoken on sentencing before groups of judges, lawyers and policy makers, including the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges, the annual Judicial Conference for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the Federal Judicial Center. He has been quoted on the subject by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune

Chanenson was a member of the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing for almost 14 years, having been appointed by three successive governors of Pennsylvania. He was the elected chair of the Commission from 2012 to 2015, the former chair of the Commission’s Research Committee and chaired the advisory committee for the Commission’s legislatively directed study of mandatory minimum sentences as well as its Strategic Planning Work Group. Appointed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Chanenson also served on a committee that advised the Supreme Court on criminal justice reforms, including bail reform, for the First Judicial District (Philadelphia) criminal courts.

An elected member of the American Law Institute, Chanenson was the liaison from the National Association of Sentencing Commissions to the American Law Institute regarding efforts to revise the sentencing portions of the Model Penal Code. In addition, he is a managing editor of, and frequent contributor to, the Federal Sentencing Reporter (University of California Press/Vera Institute of Justice), the leading professional journal of brief commentary on sentencing law, theory and reform.

Chanenson was a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Law during the 2008-09 academic year, teaching American law at Xiamen University School of Law in Xiamen, Fujian Province, People’s Republic of China. During his time abroad, he spoke on sentencing issues in several other cities in mainland China as well as in Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea and Australia. 

Chanenson has been recognized for his dedication to public service. On behalf of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, Justice Clarence Thomas presented him with the Judge Joseph Stevens Award for Outstanding Public Service in the Field of Law in a June 2005 ceremony at the United States Supreme Court. He was previously named a Truman Scholar in 1986 in recognition of his commitment to public service. For much of the past decade, Chanenson has been active in the Truman Scholar selection process, serving on both the Finalist Selection Committee and regional Selection Panels.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (BA in economics and MS in criminology), Chanenson received his JD from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a comment editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. He began his career as a clerk to the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He later clerked for the Honorable William J. Brennan, Jr. of the Supreme Court of the United States. While at the Supreme Court, Chanenson also served in the Chambers of the Honorable David H. Souter. As a litigation associate at Jenner & Block in Chicago, he helped defend, on a pro bono basis, a client charged with murder in state court. Chanenson also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the Criminal Division in Chicago before joining the Villanova Law faculty.

Chanenson is currently the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, which is the oldest organization in the country dedicated to sensible and humane criminal justice policies. Chanenson was previously on the Board of Directors of JEVS Human Services, a non-profit, nonsectarian social service agency with a multi-million dollar annual budget. JEVS provides a broad range of services – from health and rehabilitation to skills training and job placement – that help people from all walks of life across the Greater Philadelphia commufity achieve their personal and employment goals.

Practice Experience

  • Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
  • Judicial Clerk for the Honorable William J. Brennan, Jr. of the Supreme Court of the United States (and in the chambers of the Honorable David H. Souter).
  • Litigation associate, Jenner & Block in Chicago.
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney assigned to the Criminal Division in Chicago.

Office: Rm 236, John F. Scarpa Hall
Phone: 610-519-7459
Fax: 610-519-6837


Courses and Seminars

  • Corporate and White Collar Crime
  • Criminal Procedure: Adjudication
  • Criminal Law
  • Lawyers and the Holocaust
  • Legal Profession
  • Pretrial Detention
  • Sentencing and Punishment
  • Villanova Sentencing Workshop


  • University of Chicago Law School, JD
  • University of Pennsylvania, BA (economics), MS (criminology)