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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Professor Elizabeth L. Hillman: Influencing Military Justice Reform

Elizabeth L. Hillman

Elizabeth L. Hillman

UC Hastings Professors Robin Feldman, Elizabeth L. Hillman, and Joan C. Williams chose to explore hot-button topics in their fields long before those issues became trendy. These professors are just three of the many UC Hastings scholars who have earned stellar reputations for having their fingers on the pulse of what’s coursing through society.

Credit UC Hastings’ academic culture, which fosters thoroughly researched work, vetted by colleagues, that espouses novel legal theories. Spanning every discipline, scholarship at UC Hastings infuses public debate and often translates into policy changes adopted by legislative and regulatory bodies.

Research by Feldman, Hillman, and Williams has triggered changes in legislation and rule making across agencies as diverse as the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Labor. The professors’ scholarly work in the fields of intellectual property, military violence, and work-life balance has been published in world-class law reviews and cited in court briefs; it has also reached mainstream audiences through blog posts and op-ed pieces.

Elizabeth L. Hillman: Influencing Military Justice Reform

Provost and Academic Dean Elizabeth L. Hillman was appointed in the spring of 2013 by the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking minority member to serve on an independent sexual assault review panel that will recommend policy changes to the Department of Defense, the latest example of her influence on military justice reform.

That history began in 2000, when Hillman served as a reporter for a blue-ribbon panel convened on the 50th anniversary of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and is rooted in her scholarship about military sexual assault and civil rights.

“Women in the military are more likely to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder because of rape by another service member than by combat,” explains Hillman, who has testified before Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and is assisting lawmakers who are drafting bills proposing significant changes in military justice.

In addition to her academic work, Hillman serves as president of the National Institute of Military Justice and as co–legal director of the Palm Center, an independent think tank that sponsored much of the critical empirical research that led to the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

The author of two books, Hillman is now working on a comparative study for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that will identify best practices for handling military sexual assault and harassment by examining what’s done in countries other than the United States.

“In general, our topics find us,” she says about choosing what to research. “I try to keep talking to people—not just scholars but veterans, legal practitioners, judges, community groups, and gay and lesbian groups. It helps me get a sense of what people are concerned about and what we need to work on.”

Being a neutral academic offers an ideal vantage point for analyzing these issues. “I can avoid absolutes,” Hillman explains. “There are two competing views: There’s a rigid feminist view that the military is so masculine and violent, there’s no way rape can be eradicated. In sharp contrast are military professionals, government actors, and some pop culture, which view the military as a protector of all things noble and good. That disconnect makes it difficult to craft solutions. Being both a former military officer and feminist scholar, I can help bridge some of those gaps.”

Read more from UC Hastings magazine here.

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