Leigh Bienen


Leigh B. Bienen is a senior lecturer at Northwestern University School of Law and a criminal defense attorney whose areas of expertise include capital punishment, sex crimes, and rape reform legislation. She has taught law at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and D.C and a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court.

Currently, she is the Director of the Chicago Historical Homicide Project, work involving the analysis and exegesis of a hand written data set kept by the Chicago Police of more than 11,000 homicides in Chicago from 1870-1930. The original data set along with contextual and archival materials is available on an interactive web site, History of Homicide in Chicago, 1870-1930. This Project has been generously supported by grants from The Joyce Foundation, The MacArthur Foundation, The McCormick Tribune Foundation and Northwestern University School of Law.

Recent publications include: “Learning From the Past, Living in the Present,” (with Brandon Rottinghaus) Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 92, No’s 3 and 4 (2002). Crimes of the Century, (with Gilbert Geis) (Northeastern University Press, 1998); “The Quality of Justice in Capital Cases: Illinois as a Case Study,” Law and Contemporary Problems (Duke University School of Law) Vol. 61, No. 4 (1998); “Defining Incest,” Northwestern University Law Review, “The Proportionality Review of Capital Cases by State High Courts after Gregg: Only the Appearance of Justice?” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 87, No. 1 (1996). She directed an empirical study of all homicide cases in New Jersey after the reimposition of capital punishment in that state and drafted the model sex offense statute which was the basis for rape reform legislation in a number of states and enacted in New Jersey in 1979. Other publications include: “Rape III, Recent Developments in Rape Reform Legislation” Women’s Rights Law Reporter (1981); Jurors and Rape (with H. Field) (Lexington Press, D.C. Heath & Co.,1980); “Mistakes” Philosophy and Public Affairs (1978); L. Bienen, N. Weiner, D. Denno, P. Allision and D. Mills, “The Reimposition of Capital Punishment in New Jersey: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion,” 41 Rutgers L. Review 27 (1988) and L. Bienen, N. Weiner, P. Allison, and D. Mills, “The Reimposition of Capital Punishment in New Jersey: Felony Murder Cases,” 54 Albany L. Review 709 (1990) and other articles on homicide, capital punishment, and rape.

A graduate of Cornell University, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Rutgers-Newark School of Law, she has worked as a journalist and an editor and published fiction and essays in TriQuarterly, The Ontario Review, Transition, and The O’Henry Prize Stories. A short play of hers was included in Winters’ Tales 1994, McCarter Theatre’s New Play Festival. In 2001 her first book length collection of fiction, The Left Handed Marriage, was published by Ontario Review Press, Princeton, New Jersey.