Dr. Rafi Reznik

Areas of specialization: Criminal Law

Areas of competence:

Judicial Interpretation; Theories of Punishment; Gun Law; Jurisprudence; Law and Literature; Comparative Law


Personal website

I am a legal scholar, studying the criminal law from diverse law and humanities perspectives. My research draws on political philosophy, literary analysis, cultural theory, and rhetoric, to bring normative jurisprudence of substantive criminal law into conversation with more critical discourses.

I received my doctorate (S.J.D.) from Georgetown University Law Center. My dissertation, Self-Defense: An Insidious Institution, analyzed self-defense law, particularly in the United States, as a socio-political rather than a moral problem. As such, I argued that the cultural centrality of self-defense serves to legitimize violence through the back door, by framing personal and collective notions of identity and driving ideological struggles for control over the public sphere by competing social groups. I am currently developing several related projects, which examine the interaction between the law, the political functions and the cultural life of self-defense, from comparative and historical perspectives. In particular, I am interested in exploring whether nonviolence might constitute a viable ethical alternative.

I have taught criminal law theory at Georgetown, and in the 2022-2023 academic year will teach at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I have written on topics ranging from prison abolitionism, nonviolence, and the Second Amendment, through comparative constitutional interpretation and International Humanitarian Law, to the Bluebook. My work in English has been quoted in leading criminal law casebooks, and my work in Hebrew has been cited by the Supreme Court of Israel. I also contribute to legal blogs in both the U.S. and Israel. I hold an LL.M. in legal theory from NYU (with a Dean’s Graduate Award), and an LL.B. & B.A. (Philosophy, Magna cum Laude) from Tel Aviv University. Prior to my graduate studies, I served as a Senior Law Clerk at the Supreme Court of Israel.


  • Taking a Break from Self-Defense, 32 Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal (forthcoming 2022) [SSRN].
  • The Rise of American Conservatism in Israel, 8 Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs 383 (2020) [SSRN] (Awarded the Honorable Mention (the runner-up) for the 2019 Colin B. Picker Graduate Prize, Younger Comparativists Committee of the American Society of Comparative Law).
  • Retributive Abolitionism, 24 Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law 123 (2019) [SSRN].
  • Essay: The Auteur as Editor, 73 Stanford Law Review Online 11 (2020) [SSRN].
  • Book Review: Judith Butler, The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind, 17 Law, Culture and the Humanities 382 (2021) [WWW].