Aya Gruber

Harold Medill Heimbaugh Professor of Law
Last Updated: January 16, 2024

Aya Gruber is an expert on criminal law and procedure, violence against women and critical theory. Before joining the USC Gould School of Law faculty, Gruber taught at the University of Colorado Law School, where she was the Ira C. Rothgerber Professor of Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice.

Prior to joining Colorado Law in 2010, Gruber was a professor at the University of Iowa School of Law and a founding faculty member at Florida International University Law School. In 2012, the Colorado Law students honored her with the Outstanding New Faculty Member Award. She also delivered the annual Austin W. Scott, Jr. Lecture in 2013 and was awarded the Gilbert Goldstein Fellowship for scholarship in 2015 at Colorado Law. Gruber received the Jules Milstein Award, given to the best Colorado Law faculty work of scholarship in 2017 and 2020. In 2017, Gruber was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, where she taught first-year criminal law and a seminar on feminism and crime control.

Gruber received her BA in philosophy from University of California, Berkeley, summa cum laude and her law degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she was an editor on the Harvard Women’s Law Journal and Harvard International Law Journal and the founder of the Interracial Law Students’ Association. After law school, Gruber clerked for U.S. District Court judge James L. King in Miami, Fla., and then served as a felony trial attorney with the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., and the Federal Public Defender in Miami.

Gruber teaches and writes in the areas of criminal law and procedure, critical theory, feminism and comparative/international law. Much of her scholarship focuses on feminist efforts to strengthen carceral responses to crimes against women. Her widely taught and cited articles combine insights from practicing as a public defender with extensive research to articulate a feminist critique of authoritarian laws on violence against women. They appear in leading journals including Stanford Law ReviewCalifornia Law Review and Northwestern Law Review. Her latest article, “Sex Exceptionalism in Criminal Law” (Stanford, 2023) explores why the law treats sex crimes as categorically different from other crimes.

In 2020, Gruber released her debut monograph The Feminist War On Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration (UC Press), which PEN America called “an exciting and brave book that tackles the cause and effect between gender-based violence, mass incarceration, and a broken legal system.” The book details how feminists, in their quest to secure women’s protection from domestic violence and rape, became soldiers in the war on crime and sketches a path to opposing gender violence without exacerbating American mass incarceration. She is writing a new book tentatively titled The Crime of Sex (Basic Books, forthcoming) that explores the American fascination with criminalizing sexual behavior. In addition to her writing on gender and crime, Gruber has written a book on comparative criminal procedure, articles on treaty law and human rights, and articles on criminal procedure and privacy. Her scholarship has been covered in diverse publications, including the New York TimesSlateThe GuardianReason Magazine, the Harvard Law Review and the Michigan Law Review.

Gruber was elected to membership in the American Law Institute in 2016 and has been an adviser to the ALI Model Penal Code sexual assault project since 2012. A frequent public speaker on criminal justice, Gruber has appeared on PBS, Fox News, ABC, CBS’ 48 hours, and is quoted in various news outlets, including the New YorkerSlate and the New York Times. In 2023, she was featured in the MSNBC film The Recall: Reframed, which critically examines the recall of Judge Aaron Persky who presided over the infamous Brock Turner case.