University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law


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Lee Kovarsky

Professor of Law

Phone: (410) 706-7437
lkovarsky @

Office: 436

BA, 1999, Yale University
JD, 2004, University of Virginia

Curriculum Vitae

Biography | Selected Publications | In the News

Professor Kovarsky joined the School of Law in 2011. The focus of his teaching and scholarship includes conflicts of law, criminal procedure, federal jurisdiction, habeas corpus, civil procedure, constitutional law, and the death penalty. His most recent articles are forthcoming or have been published in the California Law Review, the Cornell Law Review, the Duke Law Journal, the Notre Dame Law Review (twice), the Vanderbilt Law Review, and the Virginia Law Review (twice). His shorter, more recent essays appear in online formats for the Chicago Law Review, the Cornell Law Review, and the Minnesota Law Review. He co-wrote the Foundation Press case book on Habeas Corpus (2013) (with Brandon L. Garrett), and he is also writing a book on capital punishment with Professor Garrett (due out in 2018). He was voted Most Outstanding Faculty Member in 2015.

Professor Kovarsky remains an active habeas and capital litigator. He regularly represents capital prisoners during federal appellate and Supreme Court review of their sentences, and he has worked on many dozens of penalty cases. He argued Ayestas v. Davis before the United States Supreme Court during the October 2017 term, with the Court deciding unanimously in the capital inmate's favor. He has also represented various professional organizations as federal amicus counsel, including the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and the American Bar Association (ABA). He co-wrote the ABA’s Supreme Court Brief in Martinez v. Ryan (2012), the landmark case announcing that a federal court may conduct merits review of certain state sentences if a prisoner’s state post-conviction lawyer was ineffective.

Professor Kovarsky been quoted on death penalty and criminal procedure issues in the Dallas Morning News, The Guardian, The Houston Chronicle, the Nation, the New York Daily News, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Reuters, theGrio, the Texas Tribune, and U.S. News and World Report.

He has appeared as a guest to talk about capital punishment on, among other programs, NPR's Studio360, Democracy Now!, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. He has also published on the death penalty in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, Salon, and Slate.

Professor Kovarsky joined the School of Law after a three-year appointment as an Acting Assistant Professor at New York University School of Law. Before joining NYU, Professor Kovarsky was a Supreme Court and appellate practitioner in private practice. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable Jerry E. Smith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was an Articles Editor for the Virginia Law Review and a John M. Olin Scholar. Prior to law school, he was a Senior Data Analytics Associate at what is now the Microsoft ad-serving platform. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale, earning awards of Academic Distinction in both Political Science and Economics.


The Death Penalty: Concepts and Insights (2018) (with Brandon Garrett).

Federal Habeas Corpus: Executive Detention and Post-Conviction Litigation (2013) (with Brandon Garrett). [Abstract]

Book Chapters

Federal Circuit Practice, in Federal Appellate Practice (2009) (with others).

Beyond Consent: Applying Alter Ego And Arbitration Doctrines To Bind Sovereign Parents, in Multiple Party Actions in Investment Arbitration (2009) (with Rebecca K. Stewart & Timothy J. Tyler).


Structural Change in State Postconviction Review, 93 Notre Dame Law Review 443 (2017).

Muscle Memory and the Local Concentration of Capital Punishment, 66 Duke Law Journal 259 (2016). [Full Text]

Justice Scalia's Innocence Tetralogy, 101 University of Minnesota Law Review Headnotes 94 (2016).

Preclusion and Criminal Judgment, 92 Notre Dame Law Review 637 (2016).

Prisoners and Habeas Privileges Under the Fourteenth Amendment, 67 Vanderbilt Law Review 609 (2014). [Full Text]

The Habeas Optimist, 81 University of Chicago Law Review Dialogue 108 (2014).

A Constitutional Theory of Habeas Power, 99 Virginia Law Review 753 (2013). [Full Text]

Habeas Verité, 47 Tulsa Law Review 13 (2011) (book review). [Full Text]

Original Habeas Redux, 97 Virginia Law Review 61 (2011). [Full Text]

Death Ineligibility and Habeas Corpus, 95 Cornell Law Review 329 (2010). [Full Text]

AEDPA’s (Imaginary) Purposes: Comity, Finality, and Federalism, 82 Tulane Law Review 443 (2007). [Full Text]

A Technological Theory of the Arms Race, 81 Indiana Law Journal 917 (2006). [Full Text]

Recent News featuring Lee Kovarsky

June 3, 2018

Professor Lee Kovarsky discusses the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit in the Washington Times.

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Admissions: PHONE: (410) 706-3492 FAX: (410) 706-1793

Copyright © 2018, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved