Elizabeth Defeis

Professor Elizabeth Defeis

Distinguished Scholar and Dean Emeritus

  • Degrees:

  • LL.M., New York University | J.D., St. John's University School of Law
  • Contact:

  • [email protected]
  • Tel: 973-642-8868
  • Courses:

  • International Human Rights, Public International Law, European Union Law, International Criminal Law, Gender and the Law

Professor Elizabeth F. Defeis has lectured internationally on human rights, rule of law, democracy and constitution building, electoral reform and standards for independence of the judiciary. Her expertise has been requested by governments and intergovernmental institutions including the OSCE and the United Nations. She has lectured in countries ranging from Azerbaijan, Russia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, Guinea Bissau, Nepal, Italy, Egypt and Germany. She has also participated in fact finding missions in Gaza and the West Bank, Armenia and Moldova and in numerous international conferences including the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, China and the U.N. Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria. She is an Advisor to The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Professor Defeis teaches in the areas of International Law, International Human Rights, International Criminal Law, European Union Law and United States Constitutional Law. She was a visiting Professor of Law at the University of Milan and held the Distinguished Chair at the University of Naples, Italy. She was also a visiting Professor at St. Louis University, School of Law, St. John's University School of Law and Temple University School of Law. Through Fulbright Scholarships and the Speakers Program of the U.S. State Department she has lectured at various universities including those in Russia, Iran, India, Bangladesh, Italy, Egypt, Kenya and Armenia. She is the recipient of numerous awards including a Ford Foundation Fellowship, a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship and an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from St. John's University.

Professor Defeis has written extensively in the areas of International Law, Human Rights, Gender Equality, European Union Law and U.S. Constitutional Law. She is also the Producer/Host of television programs including the 15 part video course on Women and the Law, Human Rights and New Jersey, the 3 part series The Italians and the Creating of America and the 10 part International Law Television Course which has been translated into Chinese, Spanish and Russian and is in distribution in more than 25 countries.  

Professor Defeis currently serves on the Council of International Affairs and the Committee on Foreign and Comparative Law for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and previously Chaired the International Law Committee and the Committee on the United Nations for the Association. She is active in numerous professional associations including the ABA, the New York and New Jersey State Bar Associations, the International Association of Jurists Italy/U.S.A. and the American Law Institute. She is a member of the Board of SUNSGLOW and is a director of the Albert Einstein Institution, which explores alternatives to violence in the international context. Professor Defeis was appointed by Governor Thomas Kean to chair the Urban Development Corporation for the State of New Jersey. 

Professor Defeis received her J.D. from St. John's University School of Law and her LL.M. from New York University, School of Law. Prior to joining the faculty of Seton Hall Law School, Prof. Defeis was selected for the Honors Program with the United States Department of Justice and was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. She was also an Associate with the Law Firm of Carter, Ledyard, Milburn in New York specializing in complex litigation and was a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow at Bedford Stuyvesant Legal Services in Brooklyn, N.Y. focusing on test case litigation. Professor Defeis joined the faculty of Seton Hall Law School in 1971 and was Dean from 1983 to 1988.



Human Rights, The European Union, and the Treaty Route: From Maastricht to Lisbon, 35 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1207 (2012)

Reflections of Women in Legal Education: Stories from Four Decades of Section Chairs, 80 UMKC L. R. 679 (2012) (Women in Legal Education Section)

The Responsibility to Protect and International Justice, 10 Hofstra J. Int'l Bus. & L. 91 (2011)

The United Nations and Women–A Critique, 17 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 395 (2011)

Human Rights and the European Court of Justice: An Appraisal, 1 Fordham Int'l Law Journal 1104 (May 2008)

U.N. Peacekeepers and Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: An End to Impunity, 7 Wash. U. Global Stud. L. Rev. 185 (2008)

Dual System of Human Rights: The European Union, 14 Ilsa J. Int'l & Comp. L. 1 (Fall 2007)

Targeted Sanctions, Human Rights, and the Court of First Instance of the European Community, 30 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1449 (May 2007)

Journal of Catholic Legal Studies 2006 Symposium: Can God and Caesar Coexist? Balancing Religious Freedom and International Law, 45 J. Cath. Leg. Stud. 73 (2006)

A Constitution for the European Union? A Transatlantic Perspective, 19 Temp. Int'l & Comp. L.J. 351 (Fall 2005)

Equality and the European Union, 32 GA. J. INT'L & Comp. L. 73 (Winter 2004)

Women's Human Rights Violations and Sex Trafficking, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons-A New Approach, 10 ILSA J. Int'l & Comp. L. 485 (Spring 2004)

International Human Rights and the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976:The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and Human Rights, 8 ILSA J. Int'l & Comp. L. 363 (Spring 2002)

Human Rights and the European Union: Who Decides? Possible Conflicts Between the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, 19 DICK. J. Int'l. L. 301 (Winter 2001)

International Elections Monitoring: Should Democracy be a Right?: Elections-a Global Right?, 9 Wis. Int'l. L. J. 321 (Fall 2001)

Minority Rights and Bi-lateral Agreements:An Effective Mechanism, 22 Hastings Int'l Comp. L. Rev. 291 (Winter 1999)

The Treaty of Amsterdam: The Next Step Towards Gender Equality?, 23 Boston College Journal of International Law Rev. 1 (Winter 1999)

Elections and Democracy: Armenia, A Case Study, 20 Loyola Int'l & Comp. L. J. 455 (March 1998)

Armenian Constitutional Referendum: Towards a Democratic Process, 9 Temp. Int'l & Comp. L.J. 269 (Fall 1995)

The Role of International Law in the Twenty-First Century: Women's Human Rights: The Twenty-first Century, 18 Fordham Int'l. L. J. 1748 (May 1995)

Freedom of Speech and International Norms: A Response to Hate Speech, 29 Stan. J. Int'l L. 57 (Fall 1992)


Bi-Lateral Mechanism and Responsibility to Protect, in Chapter in Blood and Borders: The Responsibility to Protect and the Problem of the Kin-State (United Nations University 2011)


The Treaty of Lisbon and Accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights, ILSA Journal of Internationall & Comparative Law at Nova Southeastern University, 2012 International Practitioner's Notebook (forthcoming Fall 2012)

Current Development in the  European Union, The Treaty of Lisbon and Human Rights, 16 ILSA J. Int'l & Comp. L. 413 (2010)

Constitution Building in Armenia: A Nation Once Again, 2 Parker School Journal of Eastern European Law, (Columbia University) 153 (1995)

An International Human Right: Gender Equality, 3 Journal of Women's Legal History 90 (1991)


La Protection Des Droits Indivduels, Une Comparaison Entre L'Union Européene et Les États-Unis, 525  DU MARCHÉ COMMUN ET DE L'UNION EUROPÉENNE (March 2009) (The Protection of Individual Rights, A Comparison between the European Union and the United States)


Women's Legal Rights: International Covenants as Alternative to ERA, Transnational Publications (1988) (with Halberstam)


Diritto Dell'Unione Europea by Professor Luigi Daniele, 19 The Digest-National Italian American Bar Association Law Journal 47 (2011)