Professor Karen Musalo directs the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies and the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic. She is lead co-author of Refugee Law and Policy: An International and Comparative Approach (4th edition), and has contributed to the evolving jurisprudence of asylum law through her scholarship, as well as her litigation of landmark cases.
Karen was lead attorney in Matter of Kasinga (fear of female genital cutting as a basis of asylum), which continues to be cited as authority in gender asylum cases by tribunals from Canada to the United Kingdom to New Zealand. She was co-counsel in the Ninth Circuit en banc decision, Abebe v. Gonzales, and attorney of record in Canas-Segovia v. INS and Ramirez-Rivas v. INS. She represented Rody Alvarado, whose case was a landmark in the struggle for the right to asylum for women fleeing domestic violence. She also represented Ms. L-R-, the asylum seeker from Mexico whose high profile victory broke additional ground on the issue of gender asylum.
Karen has been quoted extensively in the media, including The New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, and El Pais, and has been interviewed on other media, such as Nightline, CNN International, The Diane Rehm Show, and Talk of the Nation. She was featured in the PBS documentary Breaking Free: A Woman's Story, which focuses on Rody Alvarado's case. Karen is recognized for her innovative work on refugee issues. She was the first attorney to partner with psychologists in her representation of traumatized asylum seekers – a practice that has since become standard – and she edited the first handbook for practitioners on cross-cultural issues and the impact of culture on credibility in the asylum context.
Karen has received numerous advocacy awards for her pioneering legal work, including the 2010 California Lawyer of the Year Award, the 2009 Daily Journal’s recognition as one of the “Top 100” lawyers in California, and the American Lawyer's 1997 recognition as one of the forty-five outstanding young public interest lawyers. In 2012, she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Lehman College , the same year she received UC Hastings’ William Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2014 she was named the Bank of America Foundation Chair in International Law in recognition of her cutting-edge engaged scholarship and litigation, which has positively impacted so many refugees from around the world. Karen is a frequent speaker at conferences and law schools in the United States, and has lectured extensively in Europe and Latin America.