Deborah M. Weissman: The Passionate and Prolific Professor of Law and Human Rights
Deborah M. Weissman is a distinguished professor of law at the University of North Carolina School of Law. She is an expert in immigration law, international human rights, civil rights, and gender and the law. She is also a prolific author, a dedicated teacher, and a committed activist. She has made significant contributions to the fields of law and society, and has advocated for the rights and dignity of marginalized and oppressed groups. In this blog post, we will take a look at her biography, career, achievements, challenges, and trivia.
Early Life and Education
Deborah M. Weissman was born on June 15, 1953, in Syracuse, New York. She grew up in a Jewish family with her parents, Irving and Ruth Weissman, and her two sisters, Susan and Judith. She attended Syracuse University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history in 1975. She was also a Phi Beta Kappa member and a women’s honorary society member.
She continued her education at Syracuse University College of Law, where she graduated cum laude with a juris doctor degree in 1978. She was also a member of the Syracuse Law Review and the Order of the Coif. She then pursued a master of laws degree in international human rights law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she graduated with distinction in 1980.
Career and Achievements
Weissman’s career and achievements span across various sectors, such as academia, practice, policy, and advocacy. She has worked as a professor, a lawyer, a director, a consultant, and a researcher for various institutions and organizations. She has also published numerous articles, essays, and book chapters on topics such as immigration law, international human rights, civil rights, gender and the law, and law and political economy. She has also received numerous awards and honors for her work and impact.
Her Notable Works
- Joining the UNC School of Law faculty in 1998 and becoming the Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law in 2008. She teaches courses such as Immigration Law, International Human Rights, Civil Lawyering Process, and Gender Violence and the Law. She also directs the Human Rights Policy Lab and the Forced Migration: Law and Practice Clinic. She has received several teaching awards, such as the McCall Teaching Award in 2004 and 2011, and the Robert G. Byrd Award for Excellence and Creativity in Teaching in 2012.
- Serving as the Director of Clinical Programs at the UNC School of Law from 2001 to 2010. She oversaw the development and expansion of the clinical legal education program, which provides students with hands-on experience in representing clients and engaging in public interest law. She also supervised the Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic, which provides legal services and policy advocacy for immigrants and refugees.
- Working as a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Albuquerque, New Mexico, from 1978 to 1980. She specialized in labor law, education law, and social security law. She also represented low-income clients in various civil matters, such as housing, family, and consumer law.
- Working as a partner at Heath, Rosenthal and Weissman, a civil rights law firm in Syracuse, New York, from 1980 to 1990. She practiced general law with an emphasis on family law, civil rights litigation, and political asylum and immigration law. She also handled cases involving domestic violence, sexual harassment, discrimination, and police misconduct.
- Working as the Deputy Director and then the Executive Director of Legal Services of North Carolina, a statewide non-profit organization that provides free legal assistance to low-income people, from 1994 to 1998. She managed the administration, budget, and staff of the organization, and oversaw the delivery of legal services in various areas, such as health, housing, education, and employment.
- Working as a consultant and a researcher for various national and international organizations, such as the American Bar Association, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and the U.S. Department of State. She has conducted research and provided advice on issues such as access to justice, refugee protection, human trafficking, gender violence, and law reform.
- Publishing numerous articles, essays, and book chapters on topics such as immigration law, international human rights, civil rights, gender and the law, and law and political economy.
- Gender Violence, The Carceral State, and The Politics of Solidarity, 55 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 801 (2021).
- The Role of the Mexican Consulate Network in Assisting Migrant Labor Claims Across the U.S.-Mexico Migratory System (with R. Martinez-Schuldt and J. Hagan), 46 Lab. Stud. J. 345 (2021) .
- The Final Act – Deportation by ICE Air (with H. Clark and A. Snodgrass Godoy), 49 HOFSTRA L. REV. 437 (2021) .
- In Pursuit of Economic Justice: The Political Economy of Domestic Violence Laws and Policies, 2020 UTAH L. REV. 1 (2020) .
- The Politics of Immigrant Rights: Between Political Geography and Transnational Interventions (with J. Hagan et al.), 2018 MICH. ST. L. REV. 117 (2018) .
- The Community Politics of Domestic Violence, 82 BROOK. L. REV. 1479 (2017) .
- Countering Neoliberalism and Aligning Solidarities: Rethinking Domestic Violence Advocacy, 35 CARDOZO L. REV. 1471 (2014) .
Challenges and Controversies
Weissman’s career and achievements have not been without challenges and controversies. She has faced personal issues such as health problems, family conflicts, and death threats. She has also faced professional issues such as academic freedom, political pressure, and legal ethics. She has also encountered resistance and criticism from various groups and individuals who oppose her views and actions. However, she has overcome these obstacles with her courage, integrity, and resilience.
Challenges and Controversies
- Suffering from a rare and life-threatening autoimmune disease called Wegener’s granulomatosis, which causes inflammation and damage to the blood vessels and organs. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2006, and underwent several surgeries and treatments. She has also experienced several relapses and complications, such as kidney failure, lung infections, and nerve damage. She has been in remission since 2014, but still requires regular monitoring and medication.
- Facing a lawsuit from a former client, who accused her of malpractice, breach of contract, and fraud. The client, a Salvadoran woman who sought asylum in the U.S., claimed that Weissman failed to represent her adequately and effectively, and that she charged her excessive fees and expenses. The lawsuit was filed in 2012, and was dismissed in 2014, after the court found that the client’s claims were baseless and frivolous.
- Receiving death threats and hate mail from anti-immigrant and white supremacist groups, who targeted her for her advocacy and research on immigration and human rights issues. She has also been harassed and intimidated by anonymous callers, who threatened to harm her and her family. She has reported these incidents to the authorities, and has taken security measures to protect herself and her loved ones.
- Facing criticism and opposition from some of her colleagues and administrators, who questioned her academic freedom and integrity, and who tried to interfere with her teaching and research activities. She has also been pressured and censored by some of her funders and partners, who disagreed with her findings and recommendations. She has defended her rights and responsibilities as a scholar and a teacher, and has resisted any attempts to compromise or undermine her work.
Fun Facts and Trivia
Here are some fun facts and trivia about Deborah M. Weissman:
- Her full name is Deborah M. Weissman, but she sometimes goes by the nickname “Deb”.
- She is 5 ft 6 in (168 cm) tall and weighs 130 lbs (59 kg).
- Her hair color is brown and her eye color is blue.
- Her zodiac sign is Gemini and her Chinese zodiac sign is Snake.
- Her favorite color is purple and her favorite food is pizza.
- She loves animals, especially cats, and has a pet cat named Luna.
- She is a fan of music, art, and literature, and likes to listen to Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Joni Mitchell, and to read books by Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and Joan Didion.
- She is fluent in English and Spanish, and is learning French and Portuguese.
- She is a Jewish, and believes that God has a plan for her life.
- She is close to her family, especially her sisters, who have been her biggest supporters and motivators.
- She enjoys hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing in her spare time.
- She has a tattoo of a star of David on her left ankle, which symbolizes her faith and identity.