Peter Hammer

Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights; Professor of Law Wayne Law
Phone: (313) 577-0830


A professor at Wayne State University Law School since 2003, Peter Hammer is the director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. The Keith Center is dedicated to promoting the educational, economic and political empowerment of under-represented communities in urban areas and to ensuring that the phrase "equal justice under law" applies to all members of society. Professor Hammer was instrumental in editing and compiling Judge Damon J. Keith's new biography, Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith (2013). Professor Hammer has become a leading voice on the economic and social issues impacting the city of Detroit, and has added new courses to the law school curriculum on "Race, Law and Social Change in Southeast Michigan" and "Re-Imagining Development in Detroit: Institutions, Law & Society."

Professor Hammer has expertise in the fields of domestic health law and policy, as well as international public health and economic development. He is a recipient of an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and served as lead editor for Uncertain Times: Kenneth Arrow and the Changing Economics of Health Care, a book published by Duke University Press (2003). Combining his training as an economist and a lawyer, his most recent book, Change and Continuity at the World Bank: Reforming Paradoxes of Economic Development (2013), takes on questions of international economic growth and development. His scholarship also has examined the role of global health initiatives in health system development and how international law might further the objectives of global child health.

Professor Hammer has spent more than 20 years engaging issues of human rights, law and development in Cambodia. He was a founding board member and past president of Legal Aid of Cambodia, an organization providing free legal services to Cambodia's poor. He is presently a board member of the Life & Hope Association, an organization in Siem Reap, Cambodia, founded and run by Buddhists monks to address the needs of orphans, vulnerable children and at-risk young women.

When in Southeast Michigan rather than Southeast Asia, Professor Hammer is equally engaged in the community. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Michigan. He sits on the Population Health Council of the Detroit-Wayne County Health Authority, as well as serving on the Advisory Board of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Housing Project Partnership of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

Prior to entering academia, he was an associate at the Los Angeles office of O'Melveny & Myers, where he maintained an active practice in antitrust, health law, and the presentation of expert economic testimony. Professor Hammer received his undergraduate education at Gonzaga University and completed his professional and graduate education at the University of Michigan, where he received a J.D. and a Ph.D. (economics). Before entering private practice, he clerked for the Hon. Alfred T. Goodwin, former chief judge of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Professor Hammer spent eight years on the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School. He was the first openly gay professor ever to be considered for tenure at the law school and the first male in the living memory of the institution to be denied tenure. The final vote was 18 in favor of tenure and 12 opposed (2 votes short of the required two-thirds majority). Professor Hammer tells the story of his experiences attempting to internally grieve the tenure denial in his recent article, "In the Shadow of Gratz and Grutter: Grieving Diversity at the University of MIchigan." For nearly a decade, he has been waging a battle in state court against his former employer alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Documents in the court case are available on a website maintained by the Wayne State University Law School Outlaws Student Group.

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