Lisa R. Pruitt


Position Title
Distinguished Professor of Law

2111 King Hall

Before joining the King Hall faculty in 1999, Pruitt worked abroad for almost a decade in settings ranging from international organizations to private practice. She worked with lawyers in more than 30 countries, negotiating cultural conflicts in various arenas, from intellectual property rights to rape as a war crime.

Once Pruitt was granted tenure in 2004, she took the risky step of seeking to establish a new sub-discipline in legal scholarship—one that explored rural-urban difference in relation to how people engage law and the state. (She assumes this was risky because her tenure committee advised her not to undertake this work pre tenure).  Pruitt’s central premise was that law and legal scholarship has become metro-centric and that most lawyers and law professors, along with many judges, knew little about rural people and places and how they differed from what had become the implicit urban norm. Pruitt has since brought a ruralist lens to myriad legal topics, among them abortion access, substance abuse, termination of parental rights, domestic violence, access to justice, health and human services, and indigent defense.  Pruitt has also written extensively on Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), of which Article 14 guarantees particular rights to “rural women.” 

Pruitt’s work reveals how the economic, spatial, and social features of rural locales, (e.g., material spatiality, lack of anonymity) profoundly shape the lives of residents, including the junctures at which they encounter the law.  This work also considers how rurality inflects dimensions of gender, race, and ethnicity.  Indeed, the most recent thread of Pruitt’s scholarship explores critical whiteness studies as a thread of critical race theory.  Among other projects, Pruitt challenges the conflation of rurality with whiteness, while also seeking a more nuanced understanding of rural and working-class whites, especially in the era of Trump. This has led Pruitt to circle back to that early international work on cultural conflict to draw on tools she now deploys in a domestic context. 

Service Activities

California Commission on Access to Justice (2015-19); Rural Access Committee Co-Chair (2017-2020)

Member, Poverty and Geography Network (multi-disciplinary network established by the National Poverty Research Center at the Institute for Research on Poverty), 2017-22

Rural Sociological Society, Vice President, 2017-18; Council Member, 2014-2016; Chair, Rural Law and Justice RIG (2023-24); former chair or co-chair of Research Interest Groups (RIGs) on Gender (2010-2011, 2013-2014); Rural Policy (2009-2011); and Rural Studies (2008-09, 2012-13)

UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, Executive Committee, 2012-2013; Director of Undergraduate Research Assistant Program, 2013, 2014; Organizer, Poverty and Place Conference, 2014​   

Advisory Committee, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education - Honors (2013-2014)

Search Advisory Committee, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education - Honors (2013)

AALS Mid-Year Meeting, Women Rethinking Equality, Planning Committee, 2010-2011

AALS Section on Women in Legal Education, Chair, 2010

No Glass Ceiling Task Force, Sacramento Bar Association, 2005-2007 

AALS Section on Africa, Chair, 2005


Educated Arrogance

Life and Law in Rural America: Cows, Cars and Criminals, Princeton University, March 25-26, 2016

Faculty, UC Davis University Honors Program

"The Uncondemned," a documentary film about the first conviction of rape as a war crime, the case against Jean-Paul Akayesu.  Theatrical release:  October, 2016

UC Davis Center for Poverty Research's Poverty and Place Conference 


Education and Degree(s)
  • B.A. Journalism, University of Arkansas, 1986
  • J.D. University of Arkansas, 1989
  • Ph.D. Laws, University of London, 1997
Honors and Awards
  • Rural Sociological Society, Excellence in Research Award, 2021
  • 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award
  • American Law Institute, Elected Member, 2018
  • Vice President, Rural Sociological Society, 2017-18
  • Distinguished Visitor, University of Southern Queensland, 2012
  • AALS Section on Women in Legal Education, Chair, 2010
  • Distinguished Teaching Award Nominee 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013
  • Stanford-Yale Junior Faculty Forum (2002) for "No Black Names on the Letterhead? Efficient Discrimination and the South African Legal Profession"
  • AALS Section on Africa, Chair, 2005
  • Associate, Covington & Burling, London, United Kingdom 1996-98
  • Gender Consultant, International Criminal Tribunal, Kigali, Rwanda 1996
  • Legal Assistant to George H. Aldrich, Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, The Hague, The Netherlands, 1993-95
  • Law Clerk to Hon. Morris Sheppard Arnold, U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, 1992-93.
  • British Marshall Scholar, 1989-92
Research Interests & Expertise
  • Law and Rural Livelihoods
  • First-generation Students
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Feminist Jurisprudence
  • Legal Profession
  • Critical Whiteness Studies
  • Torts
Membership and Service
  • Legal Services Corporation, Rural Justice Task Force (2021- )


“Legal Deserts and Criminal Justice:  A Case Study from Rural Washington,” Yale Law Journal Forum (forthcoming 2024) (with Jennifer Sherman and Jennifer Schwartz) (invited for a special issue “The Siren Song of Procedure”).

Mustering the Political Will to Help Left Behind Places in a Polarized United States,” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society (forthcoming 2024) (invited for special issue on Left Behind Places).

Fostering First-Generation Student Success in Law School,” 75 Alabama Law Review 741 (2024) (co-authored with Nirav Bhardwaj) (invited for symposium on making legal education more inclusive).

The Rural Lawyer Shortage as (Surprising) Scholarly Impetus,” 69 South Dakota Law Review (forthcoming 2024) (invited for symposium on 10th anniversary of Project Rural Practice).

Rural Bashing, 57 University of Richmond Law Review 963 (2023) (with Kaceylee Klein).

A Survey of Policy Responses to the Rural Attorney Shortage in the United States,” in Rural Access to Justice: An International Collection (Daniel Newman and Faith Gordon, eds.) Hart Publishing, forthcoming 2023 (with Kelly V. Beskin).

Investigating Access to Justice, the Rural Lawyer Shortage, and Implications for Civil and Criminal Legal Systems,” 67-78 in Research Methods for Rural Criminologists (Ralph Weisheit, Artur Pytlarz, and Jessica Peterson, eds.) (Routledge, 2022) (with Andrew Davies).

Access to Higher Education in New Mexico: Racial, Ethnic and Geographic Disparities,” in Race and Racism in Rural America, (Kenneth Robinson, Angie Carter, Keiko Tanaka and Mark Harvey, eds.) (with Diana E. Flores).

“What  Hillbilly Elegy Reveals about Race in 21st Century America,” 105-133, in  Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy (Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll, eds) West Virginia University Press (2019).

Legal Deserts:  A Multi-State Perspective on Rural Access to Justice, 12 Harvard Law and Policy Review 15 (2018) (co-authored with Danielle M. Conway, Hannah Haksgaard, Amanda Kool, Lauren Sudeall and Michele Statz).

The Women Feminism Forgot:  Rural and Working-Class White Women in the Era of Trump, 49 Toledo Law Review 537 (2018).

To Recognize the Tyranny of Distance: A Spatial Reading of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt,  51 Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 1105-1127 (2018).

A Case Study in Rural Community Economic Development: Hill Country Health & Wellness Center  26 Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law 73 (2017).

Protecting People, Protecting Places:  What Environmental Litigation Conceals and Reveals about Rurality, 47 Journal of Rural Studies 326-36 (2016) (co-authored with Linda T. Sobczynski) (special issue on Rural Dimensions of Environmental Injustice).

Welfare Queens and White Trash, 25 Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 289 (2016) (“Reframing the Welfare Queen” symposium).

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in U.S. Feminist Judgments:  Re-written Opinions of the United States Supreme Court (Kathryn Stanchi et al. eds, Cambridge University Press 2016) (volume collecting feminist re-writes of germinal U.S. Supreme Court decisions about gender and women).  

The False Choice Between Race and Class and Other Affirmative Action Myths, 63 Buffalo Law Review 981 (2015).

Justice in the Hinterlands:  Arkansas As a Case Study for the Rural Lawyer Shortage and Evidence-Based Solutions to Alleviate It, 37 Univ. of Arkansas Little Rock Law Journal 573 (2015) (co-authored with J. Cliff McKinney and Bart Calhoun) (Access to Justice Symposium).

Who's Afraid of White Class Migrants? On Denial, Discrediting and Disdain (and Toward a Richer Conception of Diversity) 31 Columbia Journal of Gender and Law 196 (2015).

Urbanormativity, Spatial Privilege, and Judicial Blind Spots in Abortion Law, 30 Berkeley Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 76 (2015) (co-authored with Marta R. Vanegas).

Law Stretched Thin: Access to Justice in Rural America, 59 South Dakota Law Review 466 (2014) (co-authored with Bradley E. Showman) (Project Rural Practice Symposium).

Acting White? Or Acting Affluent? A Book Review of Carbado & Gulati's  Acting White? Rethinking Race in 'Post Racial' America, 18 Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 159 (2015).

The Rural Lawscape: Space Tames Law Tames Space, in  The Expanding Spaces of Law: A Timely Legal Geography, (Nicholas Blomley, Irus Braverman, David Delaney, and Sandy Kedar, eds.; Stanford University Press 2014).

CEDAW and Rural Development: Empowering Women with Law from the Top Down, Activism from the Bottom Up, 41 Baltimore Law Review 263 (2012) (co-authored with Marta R. Vanegas) ("Applying Feminism Globally" symposium).

Judging Parents, Judging Place:  Poverty, Rurality and Termination of Parental Rights, 77 Missouri Law Review 95 (2012) (co-authored with Janet L. Wallace).

The Geography of the Class Culture Wars, 34 Seattle University Law Review 767 (2011) (Colloquy about Joan Williams,  Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter, 2010).

Human Rights and Development for India's Rural Remnant: A Capabilities-Based Assessment, 44 UC Davis Law Review 803 (2011) (Symposium on "The Asian Century?").

Deconstructing CEDAW's Article 14: Naming and Explaining Rural Difference, 17 William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law 347 (2011) (invited).

Justice Deserts: Spatial Inequality and Local Funding of Indigent Defense, 52 Arizona Law Review 219 (2010) ("Funding Justice" symposium) (co-authored with Beth A. Colgan).

How You Gonna' Keep Her Down on the Farm ..., 78 University of Missouri at Kansas City Law Review 1085 (2010) ("One-L Revisited" Issue).

Spatial Inequality as Constitutional Infirmity: Equal Protection, Child Poverty and Place, 71 Montana Law Review 1 (2010) (“Rural Law” symposium).

Migration, Development and the Promise of CEDAW for Rural Women, 30 Michigan Journal of International Law 707 (2009) (“Territory without Boundaries” symposium).

Latina/os, Locality and Law in the Rural South, 12 Harvard Latino Law Review 135 (2009).

The Forgotten Fifth: Rural Youth and Substance Abuse, 20 Stanford Law and Policy Review 359 (2009) (symposium on drug policy).

Gender, Geography & Rural Justice, 23 Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law and Justice 338 (2008).

Place Matters: Domestic Violence and Rural Difference, 23 Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender and Society 347 (2008) (symposium celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Feminism and Legal Theory Project).

Rural Families and Work-Family Issues, Sloan Work and Family Encyclopedia (2008).

Toward a Feminist Theory of the Rural, 2007 Utah Law Review 421.

Missing the Mark: Welfare Reform and Rural Poverty, 10 Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 439 (2007) (symposium on welfare reform).

Rural Rhetoric, 39 Connecticut Law Review 159 (2006).

A Kinder, Gentler Law School? Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Legal Education at King Hall, 38 UC Davis Law Review 1209 (2005) (co-authored with Celestial S.D. Cassman).

Her Own Good Name: Two Centuries of Talk about Chastity, 63 Maryland Law Review 401 (2004).

"On the Chastity of Women All Property in the World Depends": Injury from Sexual Slander in the Nineteenth Century, 78 Indiana Law Journal 965 (2003).

No Black Names on the Letterhead? Efficient Discrimination and the South African Legal Profession, 23 Michigan Journal of International Law 545 (2002).

Law Review Story, 50 Arkansas Law Review 77 (1997).

Contributing Editor, Yearbook of Commercial Arbitration, Volume XX (1995); Volume XXI (1996).

A Survey of Feminist Jurisprudence, 16 University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review 183 (1994).

Privacy Jurisprudence of the Press Complaints Commission, 1994 Anglo-American Law Review 133 (co-authored).

Gender & Bureaucracy, 3 Business Ethics: A European Journal 71 (1994).

The Law of Defamation: An Arkansas Primer, 42 Arkansas Law Review 915 (1989).