Jocelyn Benson

Jocelyn Benson

Associate Professor of Law

Room 3372

(313) 577- 2926

Photo Download

jbenson@wayne.edu

http://www.twitter.com/jocelynbenson

Jocelyn Benson

Biography

Jocelyn Benson, who served as dean of Wayne Law from 2012 to 2016, is an associate professor of law and vice chair of the Levin Center at Wayne Law's advisory board. 

In September 2016, Benson was named CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, a venture led by professional sports organizations and networks, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA and ESPN, to improve race relations in America. She also serves as a special advisor on philanthropic investments to RISE founder Stephen M. Ross.

She stepped down as Wayne Law dean to join RISE but continues her affiliation with Wayne Law as vice chair of the Levin Center's advisory board. Under her leadership, the Law School founded the center in 2015 in honor of former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's distinguished career in public service. She served as director of the center from fall 2016 until August 2017.

A member of the law faculty since 2005, Benson served as dean from December 2012 to September 2016, appointed first as interim dean and later to a full term as dean. At the time of her appointment as dean, at age 36, she became the youngest woman ever to lead an accredited U.S. law school.

In October 2015, Benson was inducted into the 32nd class of the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame. She is one of the youngest women inductees in the history of the hall of fame, second only to Serena Williams, a 2012 inductee.

In April 2016, Benson earned national headlines as one of only a handful of women in history to complete the Boston Marathon in her eighth month of pregnancy.

Crain's Detroit Business named her one of Michigan's 100 most influential women in 2016.

Prior to serving as dean, Benson was an associate professor of law and associate director of the Law School's Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. In that capacity she created the Michigan Allies Project, an effort designed to track hate incidents throughout Michigan and provide legal support for victims.

She has taught courses including Legislative Oversight, Race and the Law, and Sports and Inequality.

Her areas of expertise include civil rights law, education law and election law. She has been widely quoted on those subjects in local, regional, national and international media and has written numerous book chapters and law review articles. In 2010, her book, State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process, was published. It is the first major book on the role of the secretary of state in enforcing election and campaign finance laws. That same year, she was the Democratic candidate for Michigan's secretary of state.

Benson is founder and executive director of the nonpartisan Michigan Center for Election Law, which hosts projects that support transparency and integrity in elections. In 2011, the center hosted Michigan's first "Citizens' Redistricting Competition," providing an opportunity for Michigan residents to access software and draw their own redistricting maps for the state. Also in 2011, she was selected to serve with retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the board of iCivics, a national nonprofit organization that O'Connor created to improve civics education throughout the country.

A former member of the American Bar Association's Committee on Election Law, Benson has developed and supervised three statewide nonpartisan election protection efforts in Michigan. In 2007, she successfully blocked the unlawful closure of a secretary of state branch office in Buena Vista Township. During the 2008 election, she led an effort to block the use of foreclosure lists to challenge voters' eligibility on Election Day.

Benson serves on the Southern Poverty Law Center Board of Directors and is founder and president of Military Spouses of Michigan.

Prior to joining the law faculty, Benson clerked for Judge Damon J. Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She also worked as a legal assistant to Nina Totenberg at National Public Radio and investigated hate groups and hate crimes for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After earning a bachelor of arts degree from Wellesley College, she earned a master of philosophy degree as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University and her law degree from Harvard Law School.
 

Degrees and Certifications

J.D., Harvard Law School
M.Phil., Oxford University
B.A., Wellesley College

Courses Taught

Legislative Oversight
Race and the Law
Sports and Inequality

Selected Publications

Law Review Articles

The Election Assistance Commission: We Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (work in progress)

How Serpentine Districts Became Law: Michigan Redistricting in 2011, Wayne Journal Law In Society (2011)

A Shared Existence: The Current Compatibility of the Equal Protection Clause and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 88 Nebraska Law Journal 124 (2009)

Voter Fraud or Voter Defrauded? Highlighting Courts: Inconsistent Approach to Election Fraud, 44 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 1 One Person, One Vote: Protecting the Franchise Through the Effective Administration of Election; Procedures 40 The Urban Lawyer 305 (2008) (lead article)

One Person, One Vote: Protecting the Franchise Through the Effective Administration of Election Procedures, 40 The Urban Lawyer 305 (2008) (invited submission)

Towards Full Participation: Solutions for Improvements to the Federal Language Assistance Laws, Advance, The Official Law Journal of the American Constitution Society (May 2008)

Democracy and the Secretary: The Crucial Role of State Election Administrators in Promoting Accuracy and Access to Democracy, Saint Louis University Public Law Review (2008) (invited submission)

 Election Fraud and the Initiative Process: A Study of the 2006 Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, 34 Fordham Urban Law Journal 887(2007) (invited submission).

 Su Voto Es Su Voz! Incorporating Limited English Proficient Voters into American Democracy, 48 Boston College Law Review (2007)

 Preparing for 2007: Legal and Legislative Issues Surrounding the Reauthorization of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 67 University of Pittsburgh Law Review 125 (2005).

 Note: Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Making Georgia v. Ashcroft the Mobile v. Bolden of 2007, 39 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 485 (2004)

 Book Chapters

 Expanding the Language Protections of the Voting Rights Act to Additional Communities in James Tucker, "The Battle Over Bilingual Ballots," Ashgate Publications (2009).

Section 203: Language Minority Assistance Provisions of the Voting Rights Act Amendments of 2006 in "America Votes!" American Bar Association (2008)

Developing Uniform Standards for Partisan Involvement in Election Administration in "America Votes!" Ben Griffith, Ed. (2008)

 Representative Equality: Constituencies & Districting International Election Principles, "The Rule Of Law In Democratic Elections," American Bar Association, Jack Young, Ed. (2008)

Voting Rights in "Encyclopedia of the United States Constitution," (David Schultz, ed.)NY: Facts on File, Inc, 2008

 Language Protections for All? Extending and Expanding the Language Protections of the Voting Rights Act in "Democracy, Participation and Power: Perspectives on Reauthorization of the Voting Rightrs Act," Berkeley Public Policy Press (2006).

Books

  • State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process (Ashgate) 2010

    Nearly a decade after the 2000 presidential elections invited a firestorm of questions about the sanctity of our democratic process, there continues to be a heightened interest in the role of state-wide elections officials, typically the state's Secretary of State. This book looks into their pivotal role in the promotion of a healthy democracy.

    Much past interest has resulted in overly critical coverage of election errors, ignoring the tireless efforts that ensure the American citizens benefit from a democratic, inclusive and accountable election process. Through a series of case studies, anecdotes, and interviews with current and recent secretaries, State Secretaries of State author Jocelyn Benson readdresses this balance by providing the first in-depth study of the Secretary's role in registering voters, enforcing voting laws and regulations, overseeing elections, and certifying results. As such, it represents a much-needed contribution to the study of U.S. elections, both in practice and in law.

    View book

Accomplishments

  • Jocelyn Benson

    was named one of Crain's Detroit Business' 40 Under 40. 

  • Jocelyn Benson

    was appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights Michigan Advisory Committee.

  • Jocelyn Benson

    will be the keynote speaker at the 2017 Matrix Awards presented by the Detroit Chapter of the Association for Women in Communications to honor outstanding achievements.

  • Jocelyn Benson

    director of the Levin Center at Wayne Law and CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, will serve as the 2017 Joyce Ivy Foundation Leader of the Year. Benson was chosen for the honor because she exemplifies the values of the Joyce Ivy Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the academic advancement of talented female high school students from the Midwest. Benson will be honored at the 12th Annual Joyce Ivy Foundation Summer Scholars Gala Dinner in May.

  • Jocelyn Benson

    was selected by Crain's Detroit Business as one of the Most Influential Women in Michigan for 2016. Read more here.

  • Jocelyn Benson

    participated in a Super Bowl town hall discussion, "Beyond the Game, Tackling Race," which was broadcast on Sirius XM Business Radio powered by The Wharton School, channel 111. This town hall was sponsored by the Ross Initiative for Sports and Equality, created by Stephen Ross, '65, developer, philanthropist and owner of the Miami Dolphins. The broadcast also featured current and former NFL players Harry Carson, Rashad Jennings, Willie Lanier, Justin Tuck and Doug Williams.

  • Jocelyn Benson

    was the keynote speaker at an event to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The event, "MLK: The Fight Against Hate Crimes," took place in East Lansing.

  • Jocelyn Benson

    spoke at the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region Women's Empowerment Symposium. Her talk was titled, "Backwards and in High Heels: Challenges Facing Female Executives Today."

     

  • Jocelyn Benson

    moderated a Constitution Day debate at Macomb Community College about the meaning and interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The event was sponsored by the Macomb County Bar Association.

  • Jocelyn Benson

    was named as a 2015 inductee into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, making her one of the youngest people to receive the honor. She is being recognized for her leadership as Wayne Law's 11th dean, for co-founding Military Spouses of Michigan and for her service as a board member of the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

In the news

  • Jocelyn Benson

    wrote “What Parkland's survivors can learn from Selma marchers” for the Detroit Free Press.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    wrote, "Citizens United on steroids," for The Detroit News.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    wrote, "Election administrators must take the lead in assuring citizens that their personal data is secure," for the Detroit Free Press.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was featured in Crain's Detroit Business for its report, "Gilbert, Ross donate $5 million each to Wayne State law school."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted by the Detroit Free Press for its report, "Gilbert, Ross each donate $5 million to Wayne State Law."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was cited in dbusiness for its report, "Stephen Ross, Dan Gilbert donate $10 million to WSU Law School."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted by The Detroit News for its report, "Gilbert, Ross to donate $5M each to Wayne Law."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was cited in an Associated Press report, "Gilbert, Ross each donate $5 million to Wayne State Law." It ran in a variety of media outlets including the Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle and The Herald (Rock Hill, South Carolina) and on WDIV-TV, WXYZ-TV, WMYD-TV and WWJ-AM.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was featured in several media outlets including the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, Crain's Detroit Business and WDIV-Detroit about her decision to step down as dean of Wayne Law.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was featured in a report at Law.com titled, "Law dean takes job with race-equality sports institute."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    spoke with Stephen Henderson on WDET's Detroit Today about her decision to leave Wayne Law and head up a race initiative.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    wrote a column for Politico, "When poll-watching crosses the line."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted by The Detroit News for its report, "Mich.'s straight-ticket fight echoes national debate."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was featured in Crain's Detroit Business as one of its 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan for 2016.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was featured on WXYZ Detroit, 7 ABC for its report, "Wayne State Law School dean runs Boston Marathon 8 months pregnant."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was featured in the Detroit Legal News report, "Wayne Law dean completes Boston Marathon while 8 months pregnant."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was a guest on Michigan's Big Show starring Michael Patrick Shiels. She talked about her accomplishment completing the Boston Marathon at 8 months pregnant.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was mentioned on WWJ-AM Detroit radio for her accomplishment finishing the Boston Marathon while eight months pregnant.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was featured in the Detroit News report, "WSU's Benson runs Boston Marathon 8 months pregnant."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was mentioned on Local 4 News Today's morning program for her accomplishment completing the Boston Marathon eight months pregnant.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was mentioned in Crain's Detroit Business report, "Lansing exhibit features notable Michigan women."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    talked about nominating a new Supreme Court justice with WWJ reporter Charlie Langton during a segment of "The Langton Briefs."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    wrote an op-ed column titled "Scalia vacancy chance to actually govern," which appeared in The Detroit News.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    participated in a panel discussion on the Fox 2 News program, "Let it Rip." The topics were Trump vs. the Pope and replacing Justice Antonin Scalia.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    is cited in The Macomb Daily News for its report, "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration held at Dakota."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    wrote a guest opinion column titled, "New bills boost legislators' attack on democracy," for the Detroit Free Press. 

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    is quoted in the Grand Rapids Business Journal for its report, "Law school partners with university." 

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    is quoted in The Economist for its report, "Expect more democratic states to adopt a system that favors Democrats."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    is mentioned in a Midland Daily News report listing the speakers at this year's YWCA Women's Empowerment Symposium. 

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    is quoted in The Detroit Free Press report, "U-M mega donor to tackle racism, bullying in sports."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted by The Legal News in its report, "Oakland University and Wayne Law partner to offer accelerated program." 

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted by The Detroit News in its report, "Oakland U., WSU partner to fast-track law degrees."

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was interviewed by WWJ AM on the Wayne Law, Oakland University partnership to offer students the option to earn both a bachelor's degree and law degree in six years.

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted in the Rochester-Rochester Hills Patch report, "Wayne State, Oakland U Deal Cuts Time to Get Law Degree." 

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted in the Oakland Press News report, "Oakland, Wayne State universities partner for accelerated law degree." 

    Read article
  • Jocelyn Benson

    was quoted in The Detroit Free Press report, "Wayne State, OU to offer shorter path to law degree."

    Read article

Training the next generation of lawyers, advocates and leaders

150 years in the heart of Detroit