Research Summary

My scholarship addresses issues of gender, law, and inequality, with a focus on employment discrimination law and family law. Critical to much of my research have been questions concerning the legal regulation of nontraditional families, how law can disrupt discriminatory processes of exclusion within institutions such as workplaces, and the relationship between sexual and economic inequality. Methodologically, my research employs social science in service of advancing legal knowledge.


  • J.S.D., Law, Columbia University
  • LL.M., Law, Columbia University
  • J.D., Law, University of Maryland
  • B.A., Political Science, The George Washington University


Professor Laura T. Kessler is a nationally known expert in family law and employment discrimination. She has published extensively on these matters in law reviews and scholarly collections. She teaches family law, comparative family law, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, civil procedure, and feminist jurisprudence. In 2018-2019, Professor Kessler served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Israel, where she undertook research on the human rights impacts of Israel's state-enforced religious family laws and taught comparative family law in Haifa University's Global Law Program.

Professor Kessler's recent book chapter, Reynolds v. United States, Rewritten (2019), presents a historical legal analysis demonstrating that laws criminalizing religious polygamy among consenting adults are unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Her article, Employment Discrimination and the Domino Effect (2017), distills a large body of social science research on the complicated processes of workplace discrimination into a simple, familiar concept that can be used by lawyers and judges to understand and analyze employment discrimination cases. Her 2015 article, 'A Sordid Case': Stump v. Sparkman, Judicial Immunity, and the Other Side of Reproductive Rights, bridges the disciplines of law and history to reach a broad audience and analyze the historical roots of the current retreat and retrenchment on reproductive rights in the United States. Her other law review articles and book chapters explore the often hidden gendered foundations of family law, employment law, and social welfare law.

Professor Kessler has participated in many amicus briefs on behalf of individuals seeking equal family rights in the United States. She was the co-author (with two Berkeley law professors and the National Center for Lesbian Rights) of an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Kitchen v. Herbert, the successful legal challenge to Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. The brief, filed on behalf of forty family law and child welfare professors nationwide, argued that Utah’s marriage ban undermines rather than furthers the state’s interests in children and child welfare.

Prior to joining the University of Utah law faculty, Professor Kessler clerked for the Honorable Ronald L. Ellis in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, litigated class-action civil rights cases for the ACLU of Maryland, and served as a teaching fellow at Columbia Law School.

Areas of Expertise

Family Law

Employment Discrimination

Feminist Jurisprudence

Law and Social Sciences

Women and Legal Education