Phone: (312) 503-0227
Meredith Martin Rountree, J.D., Ph.D., joins Northwestern University School of Law this fall, after spending a year as a Research Fellow in the Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas Law School. Before pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, she helped found the Capital Punishment Center and co-directed itsCapital Punishment Clinic.
Dr. Rountree’s doctoral work focused in the study of crime, law and deviance, and her dissertation research, supported in part by the American Bar Foundation, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University-San Marcos, and the Proteus Action League, examined the phenomenon of death-sentenced individuals who seek their own execution. (Such prisoners, frequently labeled “volunteers” in the research literature, account for about 11% of persons executed in the United States.) She used their cases as a window onto certain criminal law and criminal justice practices in Texas, and examined the social and legal structures in which prisoners and their end-of-life decisions are embedded.
Her article examining how prisoners' desires to die become normalized in court hearings over hastening execution appeared in Law & Society Review, and she recently co-authored with Clinical Professor Robert C. Owen an article marking the tenth anniversary of the American Bar Association’s “Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases” (2003). This paper will be presented at a symposium at Hofstra Law School, and published in the Hofstra Law Review. She is currently working on a paper exploring why the law constructs a “right to die” so differently for terminally ill patients and death-sentenced prisoners, as well as a paper setting out a research agenda for future study of volunteers.
Her legal experience consists primarily of defending clients in criminal cases. She has practiced in both private firm and public interest settings, representing clients facing a wide range of charges – from fraud to environmental crimes to homicide – eventually focusing her practice on capital cases. She previously developed and taught a course at Texas on mental health issues in capital litigation.
Dr. Rountree has also been involved in a range of activities concerning conditions of confinement. After serving on the prisoners’ legal team in the final stages of the decades-long class action litigation over Texas prison conditions (Ruiz v Estelle), she founded and for three years directed a prison and jail project for the ACLU of Texas. In that capacity, she participated in litigation as well as public education and advocacy. In addition to her membership in scholarly associations such as the Law & Society Association, she is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Corrections Committee.