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Peter Edelman

Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy

Georgetown University Law Center

Washington, DC, USA

Peter Edelman
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Peter Edelman’s Biography

Peter Edelman is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law and poverty law and is Faculty Director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Peter has also served in all three branches of government. During President Clinton's first term, he was Counsellor to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Assistant Secretary for Planning & Evaluation. He has held numerous legislative positions, including serving as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He was a Law Clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and worked in the U.S. Department of Justice as Special Assistant to Assistant Attorney General John Douglas.

Author of several books, his most recent is titled "Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of America". He is the author of many articles on poverty, constitutional law, and issues pertaining to children and youth. His article in the Atlantic Monthly, titled "The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done," received the Harry Chapin Media Award. Peter has chaired and served as a Board Member of many organizations and foundations and is currently Chair of the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission and the National Center for Youth Law. Formerly, he was Board Chair of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and the Public Welfare Foundation, Board President Emeritus of the New Israel Fund, and a board member of the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and a half dozen other nonprofit organizations.

He has been a United States-Japan Leadership Program Fellow, was the J. Skelly Wright Memorial Fellow at Yale Law School and has received numerous honors and awards for his work.

Peter’s Newsfeed

How The Pandemic Is Challenging Our Understanding Of Poverty

Peter Edelman joins Under the Radar to speak on the state of America’s impoverished population and how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the social landscape of the poverty line for Americans.

Law Center Celebrates 150 Years

Georgetown University Law Center launched celebrations for its 150th anniversary this month, kicking off a year of celebration of the Law Center’s growth from a small program for a handful of students to a world-renowned school with a stated commitment to justice. 

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Peter’s Background

Georgetown University Law Center
Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy
1982 - Present
Washington, DC, USA
Peter teaches constitutional law and poverty law at Georgetown University Law Center, the second largest law school in the United States.
Georgetown Law, The Center on Poverty and Inequality
Faculty Director
1982 - Present
Washington, DC, USA
Georgetown University's Law School is the second largest law school in the United States.
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Current Board Positions

The Districrt of Columbia Access to Justice Commission
Foundation Board President & Chair
Washington, DC, USA
The DC Access to Justice Commission seeks to increase significantly the resources for civil legal services, reduce barriers that prevent equal access to justice by low and moderate income residents, advocate for increased pro bono work by local attorneys & improve planning and coordination of legal services delivery.
National Center for Youth Law
Washington, DC, USA
The National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) is a non-profit law firm that helps low-income children achieve their potential, by transforming the public agencies that serve them.

Previous Board Positions

Center for Law and Social Policy
Board Member
Washington, DC, USA
Center for Law and Social Policy, CLASP, is a national non-partisan anti-poverty non-profit, advancing policy solutions for low income people. They develop practical and visionary strategies for reducing poverty, addressing barriers faced by people of color and promoting economic opportunity.
The US-Japan Leadership Program
Program Fellow
Washington, DC, USA
The purpose of the U.S.-Japan Leadership Program (USJLP) is to develop a network of communication, friendship & understanding among the next generation of leaders in each country. The relationship between two of the world’s most powerful democracies and economies has become so complex and broad-ranging , that it is beyond the ability of governments or specialists to manage.
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RFK / Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Board Member
New York, NY, USA
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, founded in 1968, is led by human rights activist and lawyer Kerry Kennedy and advocates for a more just and peaceful world. Working alongside local activists to ensure lasting positive change in governments and corporations, the RFK team includes leading attorneys, advocates, entrepreneurs and writers united by a commitment to social justice.
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Trustee Advisory Board
Jan 1990 - Present
Washington, DC, USA
The Center for American Progress Action Fund is an independent, non-partisan policy institute and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans, through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action.


Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope
Panel Moderator
May 2018
Washington, DC, USA
Peter Edelman, Georgetown law professor and former advisor to Senator Robert F. Kennedy, moderated a panel on Kerry Kennedy’s new book ‘Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope’, a collection of interviews with world leaders, activists, and celebrities about her father’s influence.
After Words with Peter Edelman
Nov 2017
Washington, DC, USA
Professor Peter Edelman talked about his book 'Not a Crime to Be Poor', in which he argues that courts are exploiting the poor by charging excessive fines and fees for minor crimes. He was interviewed by Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA).
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Not a Crime to Be Poor The Criminalization of Poverty in America
Winner of a special Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert writes, “If there is one essential book on the great tragedy of poverty and inequality in America, this is it.”
So Rich, So Poor | Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America
Peter Edelman's book explains that if the nation’s gross national income of over $14 trillion were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression.
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Speaking Engagements

1968 Poor People's Campaign Organizers
Panel Member
Jul 2018
Washington, DC, USA
Peter Edelman, former staffer to Robert F. Kennedy, and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee founding member Bernard Lafayette spoke at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.
Lecture by Peter Edelman: "Not A Crime To Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America"
Apr 2018
South Bend, IN, USA
In a lecture sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture and presented at the University of Notre Dame, Peter Edelman discusses his book "Not A Crime To Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America".
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