Donna Coker

Professor of Law

Social Justice/Public Interest Concentration Affiliated Faculty
J.D. 1991, Stanford Law School
M.S.W. 1982, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
B.S.W. 1978, Harding University

Phone: 305-284-3041
Office: G383

Donna Coker has a J.D. (1991) from Stanford Law School, an M.S.W. (1982) from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a B.S.W. from Harding University (1978). Before joining the University of Miami faculty in 1995, Professor Coker practiced law with a major west coast law firm and taught domestic violence law at Stanford Law School and Santa Clara School of Law. She served as Academic Associate Dean from 2005–2009. She has taught criminal law, evidence, domestic violence, family law, wrongful convictions and other advanced criminal justice courses.

Professor Coker's scholarship focuses on criminal law, gender and inequality. She is a nationally recognized expert in domestic violence law and policy. Her research concerns three major areas: the connection between economic vulnerability and domestic violence; restorative justice and other alternative criminal justice interventions; and gender and criminal law doctrine. She is a leading critic of the disproportionate focus on criminal justice responses that characterizes U.S. domestic violence policy. Her widely cited research illustrates the negative impact of this focus on battered women marginalized as a function of poverty, race, or immigration status.

Her empirical study of the adjudication of domestic violence cases in Navajo Peacemaking Courts has influenced work in the fields of restorative justice and domestic violence in the United States and abroad. Her work on the nature of "heat of passion" doctrine uncovered gender related assumptions imbedded in criminal law doctrine. She continues to explore gender and mens rea in her Criminal Law Stories chapter on Wanrow, a self- defense case frequently cited as the first "women's self-defense" case. Professor Coker and Professor Robert Weisberg (Stanford Law) are the co-editors of the Criminal Law Stories (2013).

Before attending law school, Professor Coker worked in the domestic violence field for 10 years. This work began in 1978 when she was became the sole staff person for a newly opened battered women's shelter in Little Rock, Arkansas. In subsequent years she was the Coordinator of a community based battered women's project in Honolulu, Hawaii, overseeing advocacy and support for more than 100 women a year. She trained religious professionals, military police, shelter staff, attorneys and judges in responding to domestic violence; co-authored an influential article on child custody and domestic violence; and served as an expert witness in custody cases involving allegations of spouse abuse.

Professor Coker's public service includes amicus curiae representation of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (Legal Momentum); training lawyers, activists and child abuse/neglect investigators; service as a board member for a state-wide project providing civil representation for battered women; and expert consultation and testimony on sentencing and child custody. She serves as co-editor for the Criminal Law section of Jotwell (an online journal).



Crime Logic, Campus Sexual Assault, and Restorative Justice, 49 TEXAS TECH LAW REVIEW  147  (2017) (special volume, Violence Against Women)

Responses from the Field:  Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Policing (2015) co-authored with Sandra Park, Julie Goldscheid), Tara Neal, and Valerie Halstead

Domestic Violence and Social Justice:  A Structural Intersectional Framework for Teaching About Domestic Violence, 22 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN 1426  (special volume, Teaching About Domestic Violence, Madelaine Adelman and Donna Coker eds. 2016) (contact author for copy)

Donna Coker & Ahjané Macquoid, Why Opposing Mass Incarceration Should be Central to the Work of the Anti-Domestic Violence Movement, 5 U. Miami Race & Soc. Just. L. Rev. 585 (2015) 

Alternative U.S. Responses to Intimate Partner Violence in COMPARATIVE APPROACHES TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (Rashmi Goel & Leigh Goodmark, eds. 2015) co-authored with Ahjane Macquoid.

Roll Back “Prison Nation”, CUNY Law Review: Scholarship for Social Justice (Dec. 18, 2014)

"Stand Your Ground" in Context: Race, Gender, and Politics, Foreward, University of Miami Law Review: Vol. 68: Iss. 4, Article 3.

Criminal Law Stories (co-edited with Robert Weisberg 2013) – available from Thomson Reuters/Foundation Press at

The Story of Wanrow: The Reasonable Woman and the Law of Self-Defense (co-authored with Lindsay C. Harrison) in Criminal Law Stories (Coker & Weisberg eds 2013) 213-262 – contact the author for a copy. An abstract is available here.

Restorative Justice, Navajo Peacemaking and Domestic Violence, 10(1) Theoretical Criminology (Special Issue) 67 (Kathleen Daly, Kim Cook, and Julie Stubbs guest eds., 2006).

Race, Poverty, and the Crime Centered Response to Domestic Violence, 10(11) Violence Against Women 1331 (2004) (a comment on Linda Mills, Insult to Injury: Rethinking Our Responses to Intimate Abuse.) - (see author for copy)

Foreward: Addressing the Real World of Racial Injustice in the Criminal Justice System, 93 The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 827 (2003).

Addressing Domestic Violence Through a Strategy of Economic Rights, 24 (3) Women's Rights Law Reporter 187 (2003) published remarks, Trafficking in Women symposium, Rutgers University School of Law.

Violence Against Women, Women's Rights in Theory and Practice: Employment, Violence and Poverty (2002), remarks published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The entire proceedings are available here.

Crime Control and Feminist Law Reform in Domestic Violence Law: A Critical Review, 4 New Criminal Law Review 801 (2001).

Shifting Power for Battered Women: Law, Material Resources and Poor Women of Color, 33 U.C. Davis Law Review 1009 (2000).

Transformative Justice: Anti-Subordination Processes in Cases of Domestic Violence, in Restorative Justice and Family Violence (Heather Strang and John Braithwaite eds., 2002). The book Restorative Justice and Family Violence is available from Cambridge University Press.

Enhancing Autonomy for Battered Women: Lessons from Navajo Peacemaking, 47 U.C.L.A. LAW REV. 1 (1999).

Domestic Violence and Move Away Issues, in Domestic Violence Law: A Comprehensive Overview of Cases and Sources (Nancy K. D. Lemon ed., 1996).

Heat of Passion and Wife Killing: Men Who Batter/Men Who Kill, 2 Southern California Review of Law and Women's Studies 71 (1992).

What Therapists See That Judges May Miss: A Unique Guide to Custody Decisions When Spouse Abuse is Charged, The Judges Journal 9 (Spring, 1988) (co-authored with Laura Crites).


 News / Media

Professors Donna Coker and Zanita Fenton opine in "International child abductions: There's more to the story" in The Miami Herald.

Professor Donna Coker is interviewed on Aljazeera on the Violence Against Women Act.

Professor Donna Coker in "What's Wrong with the Violence Against Women Act?" in

Professor Donna Coker, "Mandatory Policies Can Be a Threat to Women" in The New York Times.


Phone: 305-284-3041
Office: G383
Faculty Assistant

Gonzalez, Ana

Phone: 305-284-2052
Office: G387