Mila Versteeg

  • Professor of Law
  • Director, Human Rights Program

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 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.

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 Oxford University, 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, upcoming).


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


"The Political Economy of the Constitutional Right to Asylum" (with Lucas Kowalczyk), Cornell L. Rev. (forthcoming 2017).

"Constitutions Un-Entrenched: Towards an Alternative Theory of Constitutional Design" (with Emily Zackin), Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. (forthcoming 2016).

“Do Constitutional Rights Make a Difference?” (with Adam S. Chilton), 60 Am. J. Pol. Sci. 575 (2016).

"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).

"Measuring the Rule of Law: A Comparison of Indicators" (with Tom Ginsburg), Law & Soc. Inquiry (forthcoming 2016).

"The Contours of Constitutional Approval" (with Nicholas Stephanopoulos), 94 Wash. U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016).

"Comparative International Law: Framing the Field" (with Anthea Roberts, Paul Stephan and Pierre Verdier), 109 Am. J. Int'l L. 467 (2015).
HeinOnline (PDF)

"International Law in National Legal Systems: An Empirical Exploration" (with Pierre Verdier), 109 Am. J. Int'l L. 514 (2015).

“Law versus Norms: The Impact of International Human Rights Treaties on Constitutional Rights," 171 J. Institutional & Theoretical Econ. 87 (2015).

"The Politics of Takings Clauses," 109 Nw. U. L. Rev. 695 (2015).

“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)).

“The Diffusion of Constitutional Rights” (with Benedikt Goderis), 39 Int’l Rev. L. & Econ. 1 (2014).

"Unpopular Constitutionalism," 89 Ind. L.J. 1133 (2014).

"Why Do Countries Adopt Constitutional Review?" (with Tom Ginsburg), 30 J.L. Econ. & Org. 587 (2014).

"Sham Constitutions" (with David S. Law), 101 Cal. L. Rev. 863 (2013).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)

“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).
| HeinOnline (PDF)

"The Declining Influence of the U.S. Constitution" (with David S. Law), 87 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 762 (2012). (Chinese translation in Tsinghua Rule of Law Forum (Xu Xiaofei trans., 2014)).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF) - featured in “‘We the People’ Loses Followers,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 2012, at A1, and “A Constitution That’s Losing Luster,” Int’l Herald Tribune, Feb. 7, 2012, at 1.

"Human Rights Violations After 9/11 and the Role of Constitutional Constraints" (with Benedikt Goderis), 41 J. Legal Stud. 131 (2012).

"The Evolution and Ideology of Global Constitutionalism" (with David S. Law), 99 Cal. L. Rev. 1163 (2011) (Chinese translation in Tsinghua Rule of Law Forum (Xu Xiaofei trans., 2011)).
SSRN | HeinOnline (PDF)


Comparative Constitutional Law: A Global and Interdisciplinary Approach, co-authored with Tom Ginsburg, David Landau, Ozan Varol and Will Partlett (Oxford University Press, in progress).

Comparative International Law, editor, edited book volume with Anthea Roberts, Paul Stephan and Pierre Verdier (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

"The Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions" (editor with Denis Galligan) (Cambridge University Press, 2013) (Chinese translation forthcoming with Yinlin Press/ Cambridge University Press in 2016).

Book Chapters:

"Modes of Domestic Incorporation of International Law" (with Pierre Verdier) in Handbook on the Politics of International Law (Wayne Sandholz & Chris Whytock eds., Edward Elgar, forthcoming

"Constitutional Correlates of the Rule of Law" (with Tom Ginsburg) in Rule of Law & Constitutionalism (Maurice Adams & Anne Meuwese eds., Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2016).

"Conceptualizing Comparative International Law" (with Anthea Roberts, Paul Stephan and Pierre Verdier) in Comparative International Law (Anthea Roberts et al., eds, Oxford University Press 2016).

"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 Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions 3 (Denis J. Galligan & Mila Versteeg eds., Cambridge University Press, 2013) (Chinese translation forthcoming with Yinlin Press/ Cambridge University Press in 2016).

“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) (Chinese translation forthcoming with Yinlin Press/ Cambridge University Press in 2016).

“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:

"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," Va. J. Int'l L. (forthcoming 2016).

"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).

Working Papers:

"Rights Without Resources: The Impact of Constitutional Social Rights on Social Spending" (with Adam S. Chilton).

"Just Words? The Efficacy of Constitutional Rights (with Adam Chilton) (book manuscript in progress, under contract with Oxford University Press).

"Credible Commitments in International Law" (with Pierre Verdier).

"What is Constitutional Law? And Can We Measure It?"

"The Strength of Weak Review" (with Pierre Verdier and Yonatan Lupu).

Popular Press, Non-Academic Writing:

"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 (forthcoming 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).