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Barbara Bennett Woodhouse

Emory School of Law Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Areas of Expertise

Children's Constitutional Law and Human Rights, Comparative and International Family Law, Constitutional Law, Child Welfare, Family Law, Adoption


Barbara Bennett Woodhouse is among the nation’s foremost experts on children’s rights. She joined the Emory Law faculty in 2009 and is an Emory School of Law Distinguished Professor. Her scholarship and teaching focus on child law, child welfare, comparative and international family law, adoption, and constitutional law.

Academic Career: From 1988 to 2001, Woodhouse was professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and cofounder and codirector of its Center for Children’s Policy Practice and Research. In 2001, Woodhouse became the first David H. Levin Chair in Family Law at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law (she is currently the David H. Levin Chair Emeritus). In 2001, she founded and was director of Levin College of Law’s Center on Children and Families.

Practice: Before entering academia, Woodhouse was a litigator at the New York firm of Debevoise and Plimpton. During her academic career, she has participated in numerous appellate cases raising issues of adoption, custody and juvenile justice, and has authored or co-authored influential amicus briefs in many appellate courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. She is a member of the Bar of the State of New York and of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Clerkships: Following law school, Woodhouse clerked for the Honorable Abraham D. Sofaer of the Southern District of New York and, in OT ’84, was law clerk to Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the US Supreme Court.

Scholarship and Awards: Woodhouse has published more than seventy-five articles and book chapters. Her book The Ecology of Childhood: How Our Changing World Threatens Children’s Rights, is forthcoming from New York University Press in 2020. Her book Hidden in Plain Sight: the Tragedy of Children’s Rights from Ben Franklin to Lionel Tate, from Princeton University Press won the American Political Science Association’s 2009 award for best book on human rights. She was named a Human Rights Hero by the ABA's Journal on Human Rights in 2005. In 2008, she gave the David C. Baum Lecture on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights at University of Illinois. She was awarded a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy in 2007–2008. Her recent research has focused on the comparative ecology of childhood in the U.S. and Europe. Woodhouse is an editor of the Family Court Review and Journal of Psychology, Public Policy and Law. She served on the Executive Council of the International Society for Family Law from 2000 to 2018.

Education: JD, Columbia University Law School, 1983; Diploma Superiore, Universitá per Stranieri; BA, University of the State of New York.