Distinguished Professor of Law and Robert E. Knowlton Scholar
Vera Bergelson
Rutgers Law School
S.I. Newhouse Center for Law and Justice
123 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102

Vera Bergelson specializes in criminal law theory. She has written about consent, provocation, self-defense, necessity, victimless crime, and human trafficking. Her book about the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim raises questions about comparative liability in criminal law.  Professor Bergelson has received the Greg Lastowka Memorial Award for Scholarly Excellence.  She was a Fulbright Specialist at Hebrew University, a visiting scholar at Melbourne University Law School and has participated in numerous international conferences.

  • Biography
  • Publications
  • Courses Taught
  • Expertise

Professor Bergelson earned her diploma in Slavic languages and literatures with distinction from Moscow State University and her Ph.D. in philology from the Institute of Slavic and Balkan Studies in Moscow, Russia. She earned her J.D. cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was on the Law Review and was named to the Order of the Coif.

Before joining the Rutgers faculty in 2001, Professor Bergelson was an associate with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York. She is fluent in Russian and Polish and has a reading proficiency in Bulgarian, Belorussian, and Ukranian.


Professor Bergelson’s book Victims’ Rights and Victims’ Wrongs: A Theory of Comparative Criminal Liability was published in 2009 by Stanford University Press.

Her most recent work includes “United States of America,” in: Sexual Offenses (Substantive Issues in Criminal Law) (Routledge Publishing, forthcoming in 2024); “United States of America,” in: Causation in Criminal Law (Substantive Issues in Criminal Law) (Routledge Publishing, forthcoming in 2023); “Sex and Sensibility:  The Meaning of Sexual Consent,” in: Sexual Assault and Rape – What Can We Learn From and For Law Reform? (Oxford University Press) (2023); “United States of America,” in: Fault in Criminal Law:  Domestic and Comparative Perspectives (Substantive Issues in Criminal Law) (Routledge Publishing, 2022); “The Depths of Malice,” 53 Arizona St. L. J. 399 (2021); “Rationales—Rejected, Imagined, and Real.  Provocation, Loss of Control, and Extreme Mental or Emotional Disturbance,” 72 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 363 (2021); “Justice and Mercy,” 71 Rutgers L. Rev. 959 (2020); “Vulnerability, Exploitation, and Choice” in: What is Wrong with Human Trafficking? (Hart Publishing 2019); “Duress is No Excuse,” 15 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 395 (2018); “Consent to Pain” in: The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Consent (Routledge Publishing, 2018); “United States of America,” in: Homicide:  Domestic and Comparative Perspectives (Substantive Issues in Criminal Law) (Routledge Publishing, 2018); “Does Fault Matter?” 12 Crim. L. and Phil’y 375 (2018); “United States of America,” in: Consent:  Domestic and Comparative Perspectives (Substantive Issues in Criminal Law) (Routledge Publishing, 2017); “Sex, Lies, and Law:  Rethinking Rape-by-Fraud” in: Legal Perspectives on State Power:  Consent and Control (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016); and “Self-Defense and Risks,” in: The Ethics of Self-Defense (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Among other recent articles are:  “The Meaning of Consent,” 12 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 171 (2014); “The Boundaries of the Criminal Law,” 7 Crim. L. and Phil’y 383 (2013); “The Duty to Protect the Victim – or the Duty to Suffer Punishment?” 32 Law and Phil’y 199 (2013); “Victimless Crimes,” in International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Hugh LaFollette et al., eds.) (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013); “Vice Is Nice but Incest Is Best: Problem of a Moral Taboo,” 7 Criminal Law and Philosophy 43 (2013); “Choice of Evils: In Search of a Viable Rationale,” 6 Crim. L. and Phil’y 289 (2012); “A Fair Punishment for Humbert Humbert: Strict Liability and Affirmative Defenses,” 14 New Crim. L. Rev. 55 (2011); “Justification or Excuse? Exploring the Meaning of Provocation,” 42 Texas Tech. L. Rev. 307 (2009); “The Case of Weak Will and Wayward Desire” in Criminal Law and Philosophy (2009); “Consent to Harm” in the Pace Law Review and also in The Ethics of Consent Theory and Practice (Alan Wertheimer & Franklin G. Miller, eds., Oxford University Press, 2009); “Justification or Excuse? Exploring the Meaning of Provocation” in the Texas Tech Law Review (2009); “The Right to Be Hurt: Testing the Boundaries of Consent” in the George Washington Law Review (2007); and “Rights, Wrongs, and Comparative Justifications” in the Cardozo Law Review (2007) and also in Law of Privileges — Journalists and Executives (R. Satyanarayana, ed., ICFAI University Press, 2009).

Professor Bergelson has served as a chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Jurisprudence. As a Fulbright Specialist, she visited Hebrew University Law School in 2013, and as a Visiting Scholar, Melbourne University Law School in 2014. Professor Bergelson is on the editorial boards of Studies in Penal Theory and Ethics; BdeF and Edisofer (Buenos Aires and Madrid); Law and Philosophy; and The Journal of Criminal Law.  Professor Bergelson is a 2018 winner of the Greg Lastowka Award for Scholarly Excellence.


Courses Taught
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Sentencing
  • Jurisprudence
  • Philosophy (Law &)
  • Property