William D. Lay, J.D.Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Human Security
J.D. Columbia University Law School

Office: Carlson Hall Second Floor
Phone: (203) 576-4966



Prof. William D. Lay did his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) where he majored in Chemistry. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Columbia Law School, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar throughout his years of study and was Senior Editor of the Columbia Law Review. Prof. Lay served as the Law Clerk of Hon. Joseph W. Bellacosa, Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals, State of New York, the highest court in the State. Judge Bellacosa was the author of the Commentaries to McKinney’s Criminal Procedure Law, the fundamental resource on New York criminal procedure. The constitutional limit of police power is a major legal topic in the Court’s jurisprudence, and one of Judge Bellacosa’s areas of greatest experience. Prof. Lay worked closely with Judge Bellacosa on a number of key criminal law and criminal procedure decisions.

Prof. Lay practiced law for 12 years with two of the world’s premier law firms, the Fried Frank and Skadden Arps firms in New York, before opening his own law office in 2005. Prof. Lay’s substantive areas of experience include non-profit and corporate, white collar criminal, RICO, products liability and commercial law. Prof. Lay has also worked with the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City. He has taught university courses on law and criminal justice since 2002. In addition to his native English, Professor Lay also reads, writes and lectures in Spanish. Prof. Lay chairs the Criminal Justice and Human Security program, and teaches various courses in law, human security and criminal justice.

Research Interests

Prof. Lay has recently published articles on International Law and the South Chinas Sea Disputes (in the Harvard Asia Quarterly) and Human Security and Constitutional Rights (in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences) and is interested in the ways that legal philosophy gives rise to legal rules, such as the presumption of innocence, the rights of the accused, trial by jury, and the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Prof. Lay has great interest in the depiction of courtroom trials in cinema – both accurately and otherwise – and often uses movie scenes in his instruction. Prof. Lay enjoys badminton and is an avid skier, hiker, and runner. He has climbed the highest peaks in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and hikes sections of the Appalachian Trail every summer. He has also completed the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, and runs the Fairfield Half Marathon every year.

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