Recovering Carceral Feminist. That’s how Leigh Goodmark, JD, the recently named Marjorie Cook Professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, describes herself in her Twitter bio.
At Goodmark’s investiture ceremony, held Jan. 19 in the Ceremonial Moot Courtroom, Renée Hutchins, JD, dean, Maryland Carey Law, used different words to characterize the founder and director of the law school’s Gender Violence Clinic.
“Leigh is exactly what you want in a colleague, friend, and faculty member,” she said in heartfelt unscripted remarks. “She cares about our students and she cares about her clients in the most remarkable way.”
Goodmark, who has been working with survivors of intimate partner violence for almost 20 years, enthralled an audience of professors, attorneys, students, and clients with a talk about her new book, “Imperfect Victims: Criminalized Survivors and the Promise of Abolition Feminism,” in which she amplifies the voices of survivors and proposes an alternative to incarceration.
The answer, says Goodmark, is abolition feminism — dismantling a criminal justice system that arrests and incarcerates victims of gender-based violence — and rebuilding it from the ground up.
Victims of intimate violence don’t always conform to the stereotype of a meek, passive woman pitted against a monstrous perpetrator, she explained. “Sometimes they fight back. Sometimes they do sex work. Sometimes they have mental health issues. And these imperfect victims face harsh treatment from the criminal justice system.”
The well-attended talk earned praise from fellow professors including Max Stearns, JD, Venable, Baetjer & Howard Professor of Law, who joined the faculty in 2006. “I've seen lots and lots of talks,” he said. Goodmark’s “investiture lecture was one of the best I've ever had the privilege to watch. It was inspiring. It's no wonder her students and, of course, her clients love her.”
Michael Pinard, JD, co-directs the law school’s clinical program with Goodmark. He tweeted her talk “was moving, reflective, and urgent. She took us to the future that needs to be.”
Marjorie Cook Professorship
Goodmark joins Professor Emeritus Karen Rothenberg, JD, MPA, as the second Marjorie Cook Professor at Maryland Carey Law. Endowed in 1994 by the Marjorie Cook Foundation, the professorship seeks to further the organization’s mission of fostering equality for women under the laws of the United States.
“As a scholar, an educator, and an advocate, Professor Goodmark has done just that,” said Hutchins. “Tonight, we recognize the achievements of our incredible colleague, Leigh Goodmark, and celebrate her investiture as the Marjorie Cook Professor of Law,” she continued.
The evening was particularly meaningful as it marked the kickoff of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Clinical Law Program, which Goodmark has co-chaired since 2019. “It’s an absolute pleasure to recognize the importance of the program at the same time that we are celebrating its leader,” said Hutchins.
Celebrating 50 Years of Clinical Work
What began as a single juvenile court clinic in 1973 has blossomed to 18 clinics offered in 2023. With offerings ranging from public health to fair housing to intellectual property, Maryland’s Clinical Law Program has been ranked among the nation’s top 10 by U.S. News and World Report. Each year, faculty and staff supervise 150 students providing almost 75,000 hours of free legal services to the community. The combination of theoretical and practical experience prepares students to hit the ground running in their legal careers while also providing real help to clients who might not otherwise have legal representation.
Lindsay Hemminger 3L said her work in the Gender Violence Clinic resulted in a client’s sentence being reduced from life to a 2025 release date. Successfully arguing a motion for sentence modification as a student attorney was an “incredible experience” that built her confidence. “I really feel so much more competent going into my career after I graduate this spring because I've been given responsibilities that have pushed me to just figure out who I want to be as an attorney,” said Hemminger.
Makes Us All Want to be Better
Goodmark, who joined the law school faculty in 2014, has earned a reputation as a passionate advocate for both her clients and her students. “She elevates the practice of law in these incredible ways that make us all want to be better,” said Hutchins.
Working with Goodmark in the Gender Violence Clinic was a highlight of Hayley Wolf’s law school experience. As a third-year student, Wolf handled cases, interviewed clients, and visited prisons — tasks that Goodmark assigns to students with no hesitation.
“I could go on all day about how wonderful she is," said Wolf. "She’s kind and approachable and very thoughtful in her responses. Most important, she doesn’t hold your hand and wholeheartedly believes in her students and that we’re more than capable of doing the work.”
Hemminger agreed. “She doesn’t give you all of the answers and encourages you to grapple with the pros and cons of different outcomes. She treats us like attorneys and encourages us to figure it out.”
Released Jan. 31, "Imperfect Victims: Criminalized Survivors and the Promise of Abolition Feminism” is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book from the University of California Press.