In her youth, Matiangai Sirleaf spent significant time in Liberia during the brutal civil war that began in 1989. “My childhood was informed and defined by what I saw there,” she says, “the breakdown of the rule of law and societal norms that protect human beings.” Not surprisingly, her early experiences are foundational to her work today—in areas including global public health law, international human rights law, post-conflict and transitional justice, and criminal law.
Transitional justice, one of Sirleaf’s research interests, is a burgeoning field of inquiry concerned with questions of how to remedy and heal abuses committed during conflicts or repressive regimes. Sirleaf’s work has examined the differing effectiveness of truth commissions in post-conflict versus post-authoritarian societies, environmental justice, and disparities in the way global public health emergencies are treated.
Recent events in the U.S., from the COVID-19 pandemic to the uprising for racial justice, have compelled Sirleaf to apply her international expertise to domestic events. “One of the things I’m working on now, given the current moment, is a series exploring the use of transitional justice measures in the United States, and finding ways to foster greater racial justice in the United States,” Sirleaf says.
“We are absolutely delighted that Matiangai Sirleaf is joining the faculty,” says Assoc. Dean Peter Danchin, who directs the International and Comparative Law Program. “Professor Sirleaf is a stellar scholar who is widely recognized for her work in international law, global health, human rights, and transitional justice. She is a pioneer in the literature on global health in international law and questions surrounding local, regional, and global transitional justice mechanisms in post-conflict societies. This is a truly exciting time for students interested in studying and gaining experience in our Health and International and Comparative Law programs.”
Sirleaf will offer classes in global public health law, international human rights law, and criminal law.
A graduate of Yale Law School, Sirleaf joins the faculty full-time after serving as a visiting professor last year. She has also taught at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and at Penn Law as a Sharswood Fellow. Sirleaf has published widely, including recent work in Foundations of Global Health and Human Rights, Texas Law Review, and UCLA Law Review.
“Matiangai is already well-known and very highly regarded here at Maryland Carey Law,” says Dean Donald Tobin. “It is a privilege to have her as part of our full-time faculty. She brings unique and timely expertise that will add immeasurably to our institution.”
For Sirleaf’s part, Maryland Carey Law’s legacy has not escaped her notice. “While there are few women of color in law faculty generally, Maryland Carey Law has a phenomenal legacy of Black women legal scholars,” says Sirleaf. “They’re giants, and I’m not going to be filling anyone’s shoes, but I’m honored to be a part of that rich tradition.”