Penny M. Venetis

Penny M. Venetis

Executive Vice President and Legal Director
Penny Venetis

Penny Venetis is Executive Vice President and Legal Director of Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has been defending girl’s and women’s rights since 1970. Penny leads Legal Momentum’s litigation, policy and other advocacy that address inequality, violence against women, employment equity, and economic security. She also develops ways to fight human trafficking, and prevent sexual assaults on campuses. She has a lifelong passion for using the law as a tool for social change.

Penny is taking a leave of absence from Rutgers Law School, where she has taught since 1994, as Clinical Professor of Law, Director of the International Human Rights Clinic, and Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise Scholar. Her scholarship focuses on the interplay between constitutional law and international law. She has educated hundreds in her over 20 years of teaching to use the law as a tool for social change. She specializes in civil rights and international human rights impact litigation. She developed human trafficking advocacy projects, and recruited and supervised pro bono attorneys from major law firms to work on the Clinic’s landmark cases.

Prior to joining Rutgers, Penny clerked for Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. She also practiced law with the firm O’Melveny & Myers. Penny worked for the United Nations Special Rapporteur Investigating War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia, investigating systematic rape and genocide and working to formulate the first international war crimes tribunal since World War II. 

Penny is the author of numerous articles on the topic of enforcing human rights in the United States. She has received many prestigious awards for her work, including the Clinical Legal Education Association’s “Best Case of the Year” award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Jersey Law Journal. Her work has been featured in a number of documentaries, including most recently, the film Did I Vote?, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016. 

Penny received her bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, her master’s degrees from Columbia University and her J.D. (cum laude) from Boston College. She is a member of the bar for New York, New Jersey, and is also admitted to practice before federal courts throughout the United States, including the United States Supreme Court.

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