Prof. George Fletcher

George P. Fletcher

  • Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence

M.C.L., University of Chicago, 1965
J.D., University of Chicago, 1964
B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1960

Areas of Specialty

Criminal Law
Comparative Law
International Criminal Law

Recognized as one of the foremost scholars in the United States in the fields of comparative and international criminal law, George P. Fletcher joined the faculty in 1983. He teaches courses that explore the jurisprudence of war, the Bible, crime, and victims’ rights.

Fletcher has written more than 150 law review articles, including the oft-cited “Fairness and Utility in Tort Theory.” He has also written a Supreme Court amicus brief, for Hamdan v. Rumsfield in which he argued that a post-9/11 prisoner at Guantanamo who was charged with conspiracy should be tried in federal criminal court and not by a military commission. Fletcher’s argument was credited with shaping the majority opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens, which struck down the military tribunals used during the so-called War on Terror. 

Fletcher’s 20 books include a memoir, a novel, and scholarly tomes. They include Tort Liability for Human Rights Abuses, which discusses tort liability in international cases; Defending Humanity: When Force is Justified and Why, which explores the analogies between self-defense in domestic and international law; and The Grammar of Criminal Law: American, Comparative and International, which probes the basic structure and language of diverse systems of criminal punishment. He has also written dozens of op-ed pieces and longer articles for The New York Times, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, and The Washington Post.

Conversant in seven foreign languages, Fletcher has lectured and conducted media interviews in Russian, French, German, Hebrew, Spanish, Hungarian, and Italian. He is the only scholar writing in English to be cited by the International Criminal Court. He received the Silvio Sandano International Award for human rights in a ceremony at the Senate of the Italian Republic in 2015. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Science.


  • “Fletcher’s Essays on Criminal Law” by Christopher Russel, Oxford University Press, 2012
  • “Tort Liability for Human Rights Abuses,” Hart Publishing, 2008
  • “Defending Humanity,” (with Jens David Ohlin) Oxford University Press, 2008
  • “The Grammar of Criminal Law,” Oxford University Press, 2007, third volumes pending.
  • “The Law of War and its Pathologies,” Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 2007
  • “Hamdan Confronts the Military Commissions Act of 2006,” Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 2006
  • “Reasonableness im amerikanischen und im Völker strafrecht,” Menschengerechtes Strafrecht: Festschrift für Albin Eser, Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck, 2005
  • “Parochial vs. Universal in Criminal Law,” Journal of International Criminal Justice, 2005
  • “Reclaiming Fundamental Principles of Criminal Law in the Darfur Case,” (with Jens David Ohlin), Journal of International Criminal Justice, 2005
  • “Justice & Fairness in the Protection of Crime Victims,” Lewis & Clark Law Review, 2005
  • “American Law in a Global Context: The Basics,” (with Steve Sheppard), Oxford University Press, 2005
  • “Romantics at War: Glory and Guilt in the Age of Terrorism,” Princeton University Press, 2002
  • “Our Secret Constitution: How Lincoln Redefined American Democracy,” Oxford University Press, 2001
  • “Basic Concepts of Criminal Law,” Oxford University Press, 1998
  • “Basic Concepts of Legal Thought,” Oxford University Press, 1996
  • “With Justice for Some: Victims’ Rights in Criminal Trials,” Addison Wesley, 1995
  • “Loyalty: An Essay on the Morality of Relationships,” Oxford University Press, 1993
  • “A Crime of Self-Defense: Bernhard Goetz and the Law on Trial,” University of Chicago Press, 1988
  • “Rethinking Criminal Law,” Oxford University Press, 1978

Honors and Awards

Associate, Hartman Center, Jerusalem

Associate, Max Planck Institute in Freiburg

Silvia Sandano Prize on Criminal Law, Rome

Dec. 2015

Fellow, American Academy of Arts & Sciences


Storrs Lectures, Yale University


Winner, German Wissenschaftspreis


News and Press

Unique Course Highlights Theory Behind War