Caroline Bettinger-López

Professor of Law; Director, Human Rights Clinic; Faculty Chair, Human Rights Program

J.D. 2003, Columbia Law School
B.A. 1997, University of Michigan

Phone: (305)284-5923
Office: E256

Caroline Bettinger-López is currently on leave while serving as a Senior Advisor on Gender and Equality at the U.S. Department of Justice. In Fall 2021, she served as a Senior Advisor to the White House Gender Policy Council.  

Caroline Bettinger-López is a Professor of Law and Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law. She also serves as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and is a recipient of a Roddenberry Fellowship for her COURAGE in Policing Project (COURAGE=Community Oriented and United Responses to Address Gender Violence and Equality).

The Human Rights Clinic, under Professor Bettinger-López’s leadership, and three South Florida-based community organizations are the joint recipients of a grant from the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund to start the Voces Unidas/Vwa Ini Project, to support low-wage immigrant women workers who have experienced workplace sexual misconduct or related retaliation. 

From 2015 to 2017 Professor Bettinger-López worked in the Obama Administration, where she served as the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, a senior advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and a member of the White House Council on Women and Girls. At the White House, her responsibilities included co-chairing the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, chairing the U.S. Government Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women, co-coordinating the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, and developing the cabinet-level North American Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls (whose inaugural meeting in October 2016 included the participation of all attorneys general and indigenous affairs cabinet members from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico).

Professor Bettinger-López’s scholarship, practice, and teaching concern international human rights law and policy advocacy, violence against women, gender and race discrimination, immigrants’ rights, and clinical legal education. She focuses on the implementation of human rights norms at the domestic level, principally in the United States and Latin America. Professor Bettinger-López regularly litigates and engages in other forms of advocacy before the Inter-American Human Rights system, the United Nations, federal and state courts, and legislative bodies.

Professor Bettinger-López is lead counsel on Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2011), the first international human rights case brought by a domestic violence victim against the U.S. She has worked extensively with advocates and government officials in Canada on issues of violence against Indigenous women and girls, challenged Stand Your Ground laws before the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, collaborated with advocates in Miami and Haiti to stop U.S. deportations to post-earthquake Haiti, and litigated against the Dominican Republic for its mass expulsions of Haitian nationals and Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Her work has appeared in numerous journals, law reviews, and online and traditional media, including: Harvard Human Rights Law Journal, Columbia Human Rights Law Review, American Journal of International Law, the New York Times, the Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, and Jotwell. She is the recipient of the Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Sexual Freedom Award and was named a Champion of Change by the University of Colorado Denver’s Center on Domestic Violence, alongside her former client, Jessica Lenahan.

Prior to joining the Obama-Biden White House, Professor Bettinger-López was the founding Director of Miami Law’s Human Rights Clinic (2010-2015). Before that, she was Deputy Director of the Human Rights Institute and Lecturer-in-Law and Acting Director of the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School (2006-2010). There, she helped to coordinate the Human Rights in the U.S. Project and the Bringing Human Rights Home Lawyers' Network, a network of over 900 lawyers who are actively involved in domestic human rights strategies in the U.S. In fall 2014, she was a Visiting Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where she taught and directed the International Human Rights Clinic. Earlier, she was a Skadden Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project, where she focused on housing, employment, civil, and human rights of domestic violence survivors (2004-2006). From 2003-2004, she served as a law clerk for Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. in the Eastern District of New York.

Prior to her legal career, Professor Bettinger-López worked as an AmeriCorps member in the Miami Beach public schools, where she engaged in social services advocacy and youth education centered on women and girls’ empowerment, as well as anti-violence programming. She also lived and worked in and Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti as a secondary school teacher.

Professor Bettinger-López earned a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar; and a B.A. from the University of Michigan, where she studied cultural anthropology and earned Highest Honors for her senior thesis, which was later published as a book, Cuban-Jewish Journeys: Searching for Identity, Home, and History in Miami (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2000). She is a Miami native, and a proud alumnus of Palmetto High School, Palmetto Middle School, and Pinecrest Elementary School.



Domestic-Violence Service Providers Need Our Help as Reports of Abuse Surge During COVID | Opinion, with Denisse Cordova Montes, Celia Davies, Miami Herald 13A (2022).

A Client’s Crisis Becomes a Legal Crisis: A Domestic Violence Ruling Goes Global, in Crisis Lawyering: Effective Legal Advocacy in Emergency Situations (Ray Brescia & Eric K. Stearn, eds) 13 (2021).

Improving Law Enforcement Responses To Gender-Based Violence: Domestic and International Perspectives, in Handbook of Policing, Communication, and Society (Howard Giles, Edward R. Maguire & Shawn L. Hill, eds), with Tamar Ezer, 297 (2021).

Constitutionalizing Equality: The Equal Rights Amendment as a Catalyst for Change, Council on Foreign Relations (2020).

Biden, un Aliado de las Mujeres, Nuevo Herald 11A (2020).

Joe Biden Has a History of Keeping Women Safe from Domestic Violence, Miami Herald 11A (2020).

A Double Pandemic: Domestic Violence in the Age of COVID-19, Council on Foreign Relations (2020).

Gender Representation and Diversity in the Foreign Affairs Community, Council on Foreign Relations (2020).

The Effects of Anti-Immigrant Laws in the U.S. on Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Human Trafficking: A Gender-Based Human Rights Analysis, with Jamila Flomo, Amanda Suarez, 23 Harv. Latinx L. Rev. 17 (2020).

Developing a National Plan of Action on Violence Against Women and Gender-Based Violence: A Human Rights Approach, in The Politicization of Safety: Critical Perspectives on Domestic Violence Responses (Jane K. Stoever, ed.) 362 (2019).

Doctrine, Practice, and Advocacy in the Inter-American Human Rights System, with James Cavallaro, Bernard Duhaime, Clara Sandoval, Claret Vargas, Stephanie Erin Brewer, Diana Guzman, Cecelia Naddeo, Oxford Univ. Press, (2019).

Women’s Rights, Gender, and Sexuality, in Doctrine, Practice, and Advocacy in the Inter-American Human Rights System (James Cavallaro, et al. eds.) 549 (2019).

The Long Arc of Human Rights: A Case for Optimism, Foreign Affairs (2018).

Sessions’ Draconian Asylum Decision: The U.S. Turns Its Back on Domestic Violence Victims, Foreign Affairs (2018).

Violence Against Women: Normative Developments in the Inter-American Human Rights System, in The Legal Protection of Women from Violence: Normative Gaps in International Law (Rashida Manjoo & Jackie Jones, eds.) 166 (2018).

CONVERGE! Plenary 4 – Reimagining the Movement to End Gender Violence (Transcript), 5 U. Mia. Race & Soc. Just. L. Rev. 487 (2015).

"Stand Your Ground” Laws: International Human Rights Law Implications, with Ahmad Abuznaid, Charlotte Cassel, Meena Jagannath, 68 U. Mia. L. Rev. 1129 (2014).

Implementing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Domestic Violence Ruling, with Elizabeth Schneider, Lisalyn Jacobs, Margaret Drew, Mary Haviland, Julie Goldscheid, Sandra Park, Ejim Dike, 46 Clearinghouse Rev. 113 (2012).

Introduction: Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales) v. United States: Implementation, Litigation, and Mobilization Strategies, 21 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol'y & L. 207 (2012).

The Challenge of Domestic Implementation of International Human Rights Law in the Cotton Field Case, 15 CUNY L. Rev. 315 (2012).

Foreword: Gender Justice in the Americas: A Transnational Dialogue on Violence, Sexuality, Reproduction, and Human Rights, with Alma Luz Beltran y Puga, Jorge Contesse, Paola Garcia-Rey, Diana Hortsch, Risa Kaufman, Nicole Tuszynski, 65 U. Mia. L. Rev. 751 (2011).

Redefining Human Rights Lawyering Through the Lens of Critical Theory: Lessons for Pedagogy and Practice, with Deborah Weissman, Davida Finger, Sarah Paoletti, JoNel Newman, Meetali Jain, 18 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 337 (2011).

Book Review of David Weissbrodt's The Human Rights of Noncitizens, with Bassina Farbenblum, 104 Am. J. Int'l L. 714 (2010).

The Inter-American Human Rights System: A Primer, 42 Clearinghouse Rev. 581 (2009).

Human Rights at Home: Domestic Violence as a Human Rights Violation, 40 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 19 (2008).

Jessica Gonzales v. United States: An Emerging Model for Domestic Violence & Human Rights Advocacy in the United States, 21 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 183 (2008).

International Union, U.A.W. v. Johnson Controls: The History of Litigation Alliances and Mobilization to Challenge Fetal Protection Policies, in Civil Rights Stories (Myriam Gilles & Risa Goluboff, eds), with Susan Sturm, 211 (2008).

Hebrew with a Cuban Accent, in Cuba: The Idea of a Nation Displaced (Andrea O'Reilly Herrera ed.) 107 (2007).

Castle Rock v. Gonzales and the Future of Police Protection for Victims of Domestic Violence, with Emily Martin, 11 Domestic Violence Rep. 1 (2005).

Cuban-Jewish Journeys: Searching for Identity, Home, and History in Miami, University of Tennessee Press, (2000).

The Duty to Protect Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in the Age of Covid-19 an Expanded Human Rights Framework, with Denisse Cordova Montes, Maxwell Zoberman, U. Mia. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev..

Creating a National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence: Lessons Learned From Argentina and South America, Council on Foreign Relations.

 Media Appearances

Magazine: Ms. Magazine 2021 Ms. Conversation: Jessica Lenahan, Ms. Magazine (Fall 2021).

Newspaper: News Ghana August 17 2021 UN Women: Gender-Responsive Policing, Pivotal to Confidence in Law Enforcement, News Ghana (August 17, 2021).

Newspaper: The National Tribune August 11 2021 Racial Bias Must be Addressed to Create Real Change in Police Responses to Gender-Based Violence, The National Tribune (August 11, 2021).

Newspaper: New York Times March 18 2021 Biden’s Aid Package Funnels Millions to Victims of Domestic Abuse, New York Times (March 18, 2021) (on the nexus between housing and safety for domestic violence survivors).

Internet: UNews February 22 2021 Gender-Based Violence In Latin America A Prevalent Problem, UNews ((February 22, 2021) (on best ways to get accurate data on the risk factors and burden of violence against women and children).

Internet: Business Insider January 19 2021 Presenting: Meet Joe Biden, America’s Imperfect Leader, Business Insider (January 19, 2021) (on my experience working for Joe Biden).

Newspaper: The Miami Herald October 29 2020 Domestic Violence Survivors Need More Help Than Ever During Pandemic, The Miami Herald (October 29, 2020) (on increased needs of survivors to public transportation, childcare, and schooling).

Newspaper: The Nation October 7 2020 A Reckoning Inside the Domestic-Violence Movement, The Nation (October 7, 2020) (on the critique of the criminal legal system by domestic violence advocates).

Internet: Bloomberg Law September 29 2020 Skadden Foundation Tackles Covid Legal Issues Impacting Poor, Bloomberg Law (September 29, 2020) (noting the Skadden Foundation’s support for the UM Human Rights Clinic’s COURAGE project, to examine the impact of COVID-19 on domestic violence service providers in South Florida).

Magazine: The New Statesman June 6 2020 The Shadow Pandemic: 243 Million Women Have Experienced Physical Or Sexual Abuse In The Last Year, The New Statesman (June 6, 2020) (discussing global responses to domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic).

Internet: Folha de Sao Paulo February 18 2019 Clovis Rossi, Parece vodu, mas a desgraça no Haiti é a corrupção, Folha de Sao Paulo (February 18, 2019) (discussing the current situation in Haiti about Brazil’s role in the UN Mission in Haiti).

Internet: January 9 2019 Stepahanie Thurrott, Tragedy as a Catalyst for Change, (January 9, 2019).

Internet: UNews October 13 2018 Film Chronicles a Mother’s Fight for Justice, U News@TheU (October 13, 2018) (on working on the Lenahan case since 2006).

Internet: NBC News October 3 2018 Kristina Puga, ‘Home Truth’ shows a mother's fight for justice after her husband killed their 3 daughters, NBC News (October 3, 2018) (discussing new documentary film about my client).

Newspaper: The Miami Herald September 27 2018 Colleen Wright and Alex Harris, Kavanaugh’s judiciary hearing becomes teachable moment for UM, FIU students, The Miami Herald (September 27, 2018).

Internet: HuffPost February 12 2018 Dana Liebelson, In Rob Porter Case, Trump Sends A Message: We Will Protect Powerful Alleged Abusers, HuffPost (February 12, 2018) (domestic violence workplace policies and the White House).

TV: Canada’s CBC News Network February 12 2018 Interview re Rob Porter domestic violence story and the White House response.

Internet: The Guardian February 11 2018 Lois Beckett, Domestic Violence Group Describes ‘Heartbreaking’ Decline in Progress Under Trump, The Guardian (February 11, 2018) (domestic violence and the Trump White House).

TV: Human Rights Watch Film Festival June 2017 Home Truth:: The Chronicling of the Life and Work of Jessica Gonzales Lenahan and the First-Ever Case Brought by a Domestic Violence Survivor Against the United States of America in a Human Rights Tribunal (Documentary Film, premiered June 2017 at Human Rights Watch Film Festival; PBS premier forthcoming, Fall 2018).

Internet: BUZZFEED April 13 2017 Tyler Kingkade, Meet the Teen Sexual Assault Survivors Who Took on Their School District and Won (concerning sexual assault in high schools).

Internet: BUZZFEED April 03 2017 Tyler Kingkade, Members of Congress Are Starting a Bipartisan Task Force on Sexual Violence (addressing federal government initiatives on violence against women).

Other: INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST March 8 2017 Sasha Chavkin, Lawsuit: World Bank Arm Aided Firm that Hired ‘Death Squads’ (concerning immunity challenges to alleged human rights abuses in Honduras).

Internet: October 13 2016 White House Hosts Meeting on Violence Against Indigenous Women.

Other: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary October 13 2016 White House to Host Inaugural North American Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women & Girls Meeting.

Other: Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Treatment October 7 2016 Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Treatment Board Meeting Minutes

Other: MeriTalk October 6 2016 Open Data Helps Police, Victims in Violence Against Women Cases

Other: ABA Journal October 1 2016 Campuses that Handle Sexual Assaults Must Balance Victims’ Rights, Due Process

Other: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice July 29 2016 NIJ’s Research for the Real World Seminar Series: National Institute of Justice

Other: Sunlight Foundation May 4 2016 Lessons learned from a year of opening police data

Newspaper: The Daily Orange April 2016 Documentary Screening and Panel About Sexual Assault Held as Part of ‘It’s On Us’ National Week of Action

Other: DC Volunteer Lawyers Project April 22 2016 Voices Against Violence Press Release

Internet: April 16 2016 Shelter for Abused Women & Children: Day 13 - Shelter for Abused Women & Child

Other: Organization of American States March 8 2016 Breaking Barriers to Justice: Ending Violence Against Women in the Americas

Internet: February 9 2016 Assessing Campus Climate to Change Campus Culture

Radio: Local News – 90.7 WMFE January 27 2016 OPD [Orlando Police Dept.] to Make Public Data on Sexual Assaults And Other Crimes

Other: City of Orlando January 26 2016 The City of Orlando Previews Open Data Website with Representatives from the White House

Other: PAHO WHO December 2 2015 Experts point to progress, challenges in ending the global epidemic of violence against women

Other: Columbia Law School October 19 2015 Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute Celebrates Human Rights at Home

Other: Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma September 2015 Building a Trauma-Informed Nation Moving the Conversation into Action

TV: The Women of Color Network (WOCN) September 1 2015 First Anniversary Advocating for the Lives of Women and Families in Communities of Color

Other: Hall of Americas - Organization of American States June 19 2015 Violence, Health, and Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Internet: Convo Labs June 14 2015 President Obama Designates June 15th Elder Abuse Day

Other: California Coalition Against Sexual Assault June 3 2015 Impressions on the 2015 Women of Color Network National Call to Action Summit and Conference

Internet: War on Domestic Terrorism May 27 2015 Letter to White House - VAW Advisor Carrie Bettinger-Lopez - Women's Rights

Magazine: The Atlantic May 15 2015 Carrie Bettinger-Lopez is White House Adviser on Violence Against Women in the Office of the Vice President

Internet: May 4 2015 Bettinger-Lopez named White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Other: Futures Without Violence April 28 2015 Open Square Summit

Other: U S Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri April 23 2015 New White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Sits Down with McCaskill to Talk Policy

Newspaper: The Miami Herald March 4 2015 UM Associate Professor Appointed White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Internet: Human Rights at Home Blog February 17 2015 Human Rights Lawyer to Serve as White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Other: MSNBC September 17 2014 Irin Carmon, How the Supreme Court turned its back on domestic violence (discussing legal gaps in the context of violence against women)

Radio: WLRN, Miami Herald News, Latin America Report September 17 2014 Tim Padgett, Does Escaping El Salvador's Nightmare Abortion Law Mean Flying To Miami? (discussing El Salvador’s draconian anti-abortion laws and practice)

TV: Jamaican News Network March 25 2014 Beyond the Headlines (discussing Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing on U.S. Stand Your Ground laws).

TV: Investigation Discovery March 17 2014 Stalked: Someone’s Watching (featuring the case of Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.)

TV: Jamaican News Network October 10 2013 Beyond the Headlines (discussing Haitians rendered stateless in the Dominican Republic).

TV: Al Jazeera Television October 2 2013 Al Jazeera (addressing the Dominican Republic Constitutional Tribunal’s decision stripping Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship).

Internet: IRISH INDEPENDENT May 26 2013 Carol Hunt, We Must Tend to Our Issues on the Home Front, (addressing women’s human rights at the international and domestic levels).

Radio: Pacifica Radio January 12 2012 Global Movements’ Urban Struggles (discussing the Miami Human Rights Clinic’s work on deportations to Haiti).

Radio: National Public Radio May 9 2011 The Kojo Nnamdi Show (discussing post-earthquake deportations from the U.S. to Haiti).

Internet: New York Times March 21 2011 Strangers in a Strange Land (video documenting Haitian deportations from the U.S. and Miami Law Human Rights Clinic’s work on the issue).

Internet: N.Y. TIMES January 19 2011 Kristopher Rios, After Long Fight, Farmworkers in Florida Win an Increase in Pay (citation to statement concerning new labor code of conduct/farmworker agreement in Florida’s tomato industry).

Radio: National Public Radio January 14 2011 WLRN Miami Herald News (discussing fact-finding trip to Haiti re U.S. deportations to Haiti).

Radio: Public Radio International January 14 2011 The World: U.S. Resumes Haitian Deportations (discussing U.S. deportations to Haiti).

TV: Telemundo October 27 2009 Perdió a Sus Hijas y Busca Justicia (She Lost Her Daughters and Searches for Justice) (feature story about Jessica Lenahan (Gonzales)).

Internet: LISTIN DIARIO July 6 2009 Corte Conoce Caso Familias Haitianas Expulsadas de RD (Court Hears the Case of Haitian Families Expelled from the Dominican Republic), (describing case before Inter-American Court of Human Rights concerning mass expulsions of ethnic Haitians from the Dominican Republic).

Radio: Radio Netherlands July 4 2008 The State We’re In: What’s in a Name? (addressing nationality rights of ethnic Haitians born in the Dominican Republic).

Radio: Colorado Public Radio October 22 2007 Colorado Matters (discussing case of Jessica Gonzales v. U.S.).

Internet: COLORADO COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS October 18 2007 Mother Haunted by Daughters’ Deaths (describing Jessica Lenahan v. U.S. case).

Phone: (305)284-5923
Office: E256
Faculty Assistant

Dominguez, Rose

Phone: (305)284-4542
Office: E270
Faculty Assistant

Estrabao, Dalgys

Phone: (305) 284-8537
Faculty Assistant


Area of Expertise

  • Gender and the Law
  • International Human Rights
  • Police and Law Enforcement