Mila Versteeg

  • Martha Lubin Karsh and Bruce A. Karsh Bicentennial Professor of Law
  • Director, Human Rights Program
  • Senior Fellow, Miller Center

Mila Versteeg joined the Law School in 2011. Her research and teaching interests include comparative constitutional law, public international law and empirical legal studies. Most of her research deals with the origins, evolution and effectiveness of provisions in the world’s constitutions. Her publications have, amongst others, appeared in the California Law Review, the New York University Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review, the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Legal Studies, the Journal of Law and Economics, the American Journal of International Law, and the Journal of Law, Economics and Organizations. A number of her works have been translated into Chinese, Portuguese and Turkish.

In 2017, Versteeg was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, which provided her with a $200,000 award to expand her research into the world's constitutions to better understand how constitutional rights are enforced in different countries.

Versteeg earned her B.A. in public administration and first law degree from Tilburg University in the Netherlands in 2006. She earned her LL.M. from Harvard Law School in 2007 and a D.Phil. in socio-legal studies in 2011 from the University of Oxford, where she was a Gregory Kulkes Scholar at Balliol College and recipient of an Arts and the Humanities Research Council Award.

Prior to joining the Law School, Versteeg was an Olin Fellow and lecturer in law at the University of Chicago Law School. Versteeg previously worked at the U.N. Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute in Turin and at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre in Johannesburg. While at UVA, Versteeg has been a visiting associate professor at the University of Chicago Law School (fall 2013) and Columbia Law School (spring 2016), and a visiting professor at the law schools of Hebrew University, the University of Hamburg (summer 2015) and Tel Aviv University (spring 2017).


  • LL.M.
    Harvard Law School
  • D.Phil.
    University of Oxford
  • Meester in Rechten
    Tilburg University


When Constitutional Rights Matter (with Adam Chilton) (forthcoming 2020).

Constitutiones Aperentes (with David Law) (Universidad Externado Press) (2019) (Spanish translation of Sham Constitutions and Constitutional Variation Among Strains of Authoritarianism).

Comparative Constitutional Law: A Global and Interdisciplinary Approach (with Tom Ginsburg and David Landau) (Oxford University Press, in progress).

Comparative International Law (co-editor with Anthea Roberts, Paul Stephan and Pierre-Hugues Verdier) (Oxford University Press, 2018).

The Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions (editor with Denis Galligan) (Cambridge University Press, 2013).


“Small-c Constitutional Rights” (with Adam S. Chilton), (2019).

“Can Rights Combat Economic Inequality?” Harv. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2020) (Review of Sam Moyn, Not Enough (2018)).

“The Law and Politics of Presidential Term Limit Evasion” (with Tim Horley, Anne Meng, Mauricio Guim and Marilyn Guirguis), Colum. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2020).

“Empirical Studies of Human Rights Law” (with Cosette Creamer and Kevin Cope), Ann. Rev. L. & Soc. Sci. (forthcoming 2019) .

“The Strength of Weak Review” (with Pierre-Hugues Verdier and Yonatan Lupu), Int'l Stud. Q. (forthcoming 2019).

“From Catalonia to California: Secession in Constitutional Law” (with Tom Ginsburg), 70 Ala. L. Rev. 923 (2019).

“The External Dimensions of Constitutions” (with Eyal Benvenisti), 57 Va. J. Int'l L. 517 (2018) (symposium introduction).

“The Future of Human Rights Scholarship” (with James Loeffler), 81 J. L. & Contemp. Probs. i (2018) (symposium introduction).

“The Coming Demise of Liberal Constitutionalism?” (with Tom Ginsburg & Aziz Huq), 85 U. Chi. L. Rev. 239 (2018) (symposium introduction).
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“Courts’ Limited Ability to Protect Constitutional Rights” (with Adam Chilton), 85 U. Chi. L. Rev. 293 (2018).
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“The Political Economy of the Constitutional Right to Asylum” (with Lucas Kowalczyk), 102 Cornell L. Rev. 1291 (2017).
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“Rights without Resources: The Impact of Social Rights on Social Spending” (with Adam Chilton), 60 J. Law & Econ. 713 (2017).

“Measuring the Rule of Law: A Comparison of Indicators” (with Tom Ginsburg), 42 Law & Soc. Inquiry 100 (2017).

  • Generated response articles by Karen J. Alter, "Whose Rule of Law Is It," 2 LSI FORUM (2016); Sally Merry, "The Social Life of Measurement," 2 LSI FORUM (2016).
  • Reprinted in The Cambridge Companion to the Rule of Law (Martin Loughlin & Jens Meierhenrich, eds., forthcoming) (condensed version).

“Constitutions Un-Entrenched: Towards an Alternative Theory of Constitutional Design” (with Emily Zackin), 110 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 657 (2016).
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  • Reviewed by Rosalind Dixon in Jotwell: Journal of Things We Like (Lots) (Nov. 17, 2016).
  • Reprinted, with a new introduction, as "Limiting Judicial Discretion," in Comparative Judicial Review (Erin Delaney & Ros Dixon, eds., forthcoming 2017).

“Do Constitutional Rights Make a Difference?” (with Adam S. Chilton), 60 Am. J. Pol. Sci. 575 (2016).
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“The Failure of Constitutional Torture Prohibitions” (with Adam Chilton), 44 J. Legal Stud. 417 (2016).

“International Law, Constitutional Law, and Public Support for Torture: Evidence from a Survey Experiment” (with Adam Chilton), Res. & Pol 1 (2016).
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“The Contours of Constitutional Approval” (with Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos), 94 Wash. U. L. Rev. 113 (2016). 
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“Comparative International Law: Framing the Field” (with Anthea Roberts, Paul Stephan and Pierre-Hugues Verdier), 109 Am. J. Int'l L. 467 (2015).
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“International Law in National Legal Systems: An Empirical Exploration” (with Pierre-Hugues Verdier), 109 Am. J. Int'l L. 514 (2015).
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  • Reprinted in Anthea Roberts et al., eds., Comparative International Law 209 (Oxford University Press, 2018).

“Law versus Norms: The Impact of International Human Rights Treaties on Constitutional Rights,” 171 J. Institutional & Theoretical Econ. 87 (2015).
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  • Generated response articles by Mathias Siems, “Human Rights Treaties and Comparative Law,” 171 J. Institutional and Theoretical Econ. 118 (2015); Maya Sen, “How Ratifying Treaty Rights Could Affect Norms, Laws, and Constitutional Language,” 171 J. Institutional and Theoretical Econ. 112 (2015).

“The Politics of Takings Clauses,” 109 Nw. U. L. Rev. 695 (2015) (symposium contribution).
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  • Reprinted in Seqüência: Estudos Jurídicos e Políticos (Brazil, 2016).

“American Constitutional Exceptionalism Revisited” (with Emily Zackin), 81 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1641 (2014). (Portugese translation in Novos Estudos Jurídicos (Luciene Dal Ri trans. 2014)).
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“The Diffusion of Constitutional Rights” (with Benedikt Goderis), 39 Int’l Rev. L. & Econ. 1 (2014).
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“Unpopular Constitutionalism,” 89 Ind. L.J. 1133 (2014).
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  • Turkish translation forthcoming (Safak Evran trans. 2016).
  • Excerpted in Norman et al., Comparative Constitutional Law: Cases and Materials (3rd edition, forthcoming).
  • Reprinted in Gender in Constitutional Law (Catharine MacKinnon & Elizabeth Long, eds., 2017).

“Why Do Countries Adopt Constitutional Review?” (with Tom Ginsburg), 30 J.L. Econ. & Org. 587 (2014).
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“Sham Constitutions” (with David S. Law), 101 Cal. L. Rev. 863 (2013).
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  • Reprinted in Comparative Constitutional Law (Mark Tushnet ed., Edward Elgar Press 2017).

“When to Overthrow Your Government: The Right to Resist in the World’s Constitutions” (with Tom Ginsburg and Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez) 60 UCLA L. Rev. 1184 (2013).
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“The Declining Influence of the U.S. Constitution” (with David S. Law), 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 762 (2012).
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  • Featured on front pages of The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Canadian Globe and Mail, and other national and international radio and television outlets.
  • Excerpted in Philip Alston & Ryan Goodman, International Human Rights 55 (2013).
  • Translated into Chinese and published in the Tsinghua Rule of Law Forum (Xu Xiaofei trans. 2014).
  • Generated response articles by Sujit Choudhry, "Method in Comparative Constitutional Law: A Comment on Law and Versteeg," 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 2078 (2012); Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsburg & James Melton, "Comments on Law and Versteeg’s The Declining Influence of the United States Constitution," 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 2088 (2012); Vicki C. Jackson, "Comment on Law and Versteeg," 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 2102 (2012).
  • Reprinted as "Is the Influence of the United States Constitution Declining?" in Constitution-Making (Roger Smith, ed., forthcoming).

“Human Rights Violations After 9/11 and the Role of Constitutional Constraints” (with Benedikt Goderis), 41 J. Legal Stud. 131 (2012).
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“The Evolution and Ideology of Global Constitutionalism” (with David S. Law), 99 Cal. L. Rev. 1163 (2011).
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  • Translated into Chinese and published in the Tsinghua Rule of Law Forum (Xu Xiaofei trans. 2013).

Book Chapters:

“Conceptualizing Comparative International Law” (with Anthea Roberts, Paul Stephan and Pierre-Hugues Verdier) in Anthea Roberts et al., eds, Comparative International Law (Oxford University Press, 2018).

“Separation of Powers, Treaty-Making, and Treaty Withdrawal: A Global Survey” (with Pierre-Hugues Verdier) in Curtis Bradley, editor, Oxford Handbook of Comparative Foreign Relations Law (Oxford University Press, 2018).

“Constitutional Correlates of the Rule of Law” (with Tom Ginsburg) in Maurice Adams & Anne Meuwese, eds., Rule of Law & Constitutionalism (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

“Modes of Domestic Incorporation of International Law” (with Pierre-Hugues Verdier) in Wayne Sandholz & Chris Whytock, eds., Handbook on the Politics of International Law (Edward Elgar, 2017).

“Constitutions” (with Kevin L. Cope) in International Encyclopaedia for the Social and Behavioural Sciences (Elsevier, 2015).

“Theoretical Perspectives on the Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions” (with Denis J. Galligan), in Denis J. Galligan & Mila Versteeg, eds., Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions 3 (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

“Constitutional Variation Among Strains of Authoritarianism” (with David S. Law), in Tom Ginsburg & Alberto Simpser, eds., Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes 165 (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

“‘Perfection in Imperfection’: Joseph de Maistre and the Limitations of Constitutional Design,” in D. J. Galligan, ed., Constitutions and the Classics: Patterns of Constitutional Thought from Forescue to Bentham 312 (Oxford University Press, 2014).

“The Constitutional Choices of Authoritarian Regimes” (with David S. Law), in Tom Ginsburg, ed., Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

“Transnational Constitutions: A Conceptual Framework” (with Benedikt Goderis) in Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions 103 (Denis J. Galligan & Mila Versteeg eds., Cambridge University Press, 2013).

“Quantitative Methods for Comparative Constitutional Law” (with Anne Meuwese), in Maurice Adams & Jacco Bomhoff, eds., Practice and Theory in Comparative Law 230 (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Shorter Works:

“Afterword: Understanding the Third Wave of Judicial Review,” 17 International Journal of Constitutional Law 10 (2019).

“Modelo Constitucional Colombiano en Perspectiva Comparada Latinoamericana y Global,” Los 25 Años de la Constitución (1991-2016): Debates Constitucionales y Perspectivas Constituyentes (Andres Rodriguez ed., 2017) (with Camilo Sanchez).

“Review Essay” (with Kevin L. Cope), 111 Am. J. Int’l L. 538 (2017) (reviewing Helmut Philipp Aust & Georg Nolte, eds., The Interpretation of International Law by Domestic Courts: Uniformity, Diversity Convergence (Oxford University Press, 2016)).

“Measuring the Rule of Law: Pushing Forward” (with Tom Ginsburg), 2 Law & Soc. Inquiry Forum (2016).
“History, Geography, and Rights: A Response to Chilton and Posner,” 56 Va. J. Int’l L. 501 (2016).
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“International Law in Domestic Legal Systems: An Empirical Perspective” (with Pierre-Hugues Verdier), 108 Am. Soc’y Int’l L. Proc. 376 (2014).

 “Debating the Influence of the United States Constitution” (with David S. Law), 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. Online (2012).

Popular Press, Non-Academic Writing:

“Federalism in the Middle East: A Collection of Essays,” Lawfare (August 13, 2018).

“What Europe Can Teach America About Free Speech,” The Atlantic (August 19, 2017).

“The Failure of Constitutional Torture Prohibitions” (with Adam Chilton), in The Washington Post - Monkey Cage (April 25, 2015).

“An Exceptional Constitution,” in Insights in Law and Society (2015).

“In Sickness and in Health: The Constitution Should Give Americans the Right to Basic Health Care” (with Kevin L. Cope) in Slate, "The Hive: How Can We Fix the Constitution?" (June 12, 2012).

Analytic Report on the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. Rome, International Development Law Organization (with Jose Cheibub, Tom Ginsburg, Veronica Eragu, Donald Horowitz, and Christina Murray) (June 2012).



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