Sheila Foster

Professor of Public Policy, Professor of Law

B.A., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; J.D., University of California, Berkeley

Areas of Expertise:

Civil Rights and Discrimination, Comparative and Foreign Law, Environmental Law, Property

Sheila R. Foster is a Professor of Law and Public Policy (joint appointment with McCourt School of Public Policy) at Georgetown University. She joined Georgetown...

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Sheila R. Foster is a Professor of Law and Public Policy (joint appointment with McCourt School of Public Policy) at Georgetown University. She joined Georgetown after many years at Fordham University where she was University Professor and Albert A. Walsh Professor of Real Estate, Land Use and Property Law. At Fordham, she also was the Co-Director of the Fordham Urban Law Center and founder of the university-wide Fordham Urban Consortium. She served as Associate Dean and then Vice Dean of Fordham Law School from 2008-2014. Prior to joining Fordham, she was a Professor of Law at the Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey.

Professor Foster is the author of numerous books, book chapters, and law journal articles on property, land use, environmental law, and antidiscrimination law.  Much of her early work was dedicated to exploring the intersection of civil rights and environmental law, in a field called “environmental justice.” She is the coauthor (with Luke Cole) of one of the field’s leading texts, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (N.Y.U. Press), and coeditor of the 2nd edition of The Law of Environmental Justice (with Michael Gerrard 2008).  Over the last two decades, she has worked with state, federal and local agencies on environmental policy. Professor Foster serves on the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) investigating the relationship between climate change and inequality at the neighborhood level.

Her most recent work explores the emerging concept of the “urban commons” and related property, land use and urban governance issues at the local and metropolitan level. Here work in this area includes The City as a Commons (Yale Journal of Law and Policy 2016) (with Christian Iaione) and Collective Action and the Urban Commons (Notre Dame Law Review 2011), which was voted one of the 5 best (out of 100) articles on land use published that year.

Professor Foster is also the coauthor (with David Oppenheimer and Sora Han) of a groundbreaking casebook, Comparative Equality and Antidiscrimination Law: Cases, Codes, Constitutions and Commentary (Foundation Press). This casebook examines the development of laws around the world grappling with social inequality based on human differences.   She has taught and conducted research internationally in Africa, Switzerland, Italy, France, England, Austria, Colombia, Panama, and Cuba.

Professor Foster received her B.A. in English, with honors, from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her J.D. in from Berkeley Law at the University of California.   After law school, she was an attorney with Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco.

Featured Scholarship:


The Co-City: Collective Governance, Urban Commons and Experiments In Social and Economic Pooling (with Christian Iaione) (forthcoming)

Comparative Equality and Antidiscrimination Law: Cases, Codes, Constitutions and Commentary (with David Oppenheimer, UC Berkeley and Sora Han, UC Irvine) (Foundation Press, 2012)

            The Law of Environmental Justice: Theories and Procedures to Address Disproportionate Risks (2nd Edition) (co-editor with Michael B. Gerrard, esq.) (American Bar Association, 2008)

From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (NYU Press, 2001) (with Luke Cole of the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment at California Rural Legal Services)


The City as a Commons, 34 Yale Law and Policy Review 281 (2016)  (with Christian Iaione)

Breaking Up Payday: Anti-Agglomeration Zoning and Consumer Welfare,75 Ohio State Law Journal 57 (2014)

The Mobility Case for Regionalism, 47 UC Davis Law Review 63 (2013) (with Nestor Davidson)

Collective Action and the Urban Commons, 87 Notre Dame Law Review 57 (2011) (voted one of the 5 best law review articles on land use for 2011-12 year and republished in the Land Use and Environmental Law Review)

Integrative Lawyering: Navigating the Political Economy of Urban Development, 95 California Law Review 1999 (2007) (with Brian Glick)

The City as an Ecological Space: Social Capital and Urban Land Use 82 Notre Dame Law Review 527 (2006)

Causation in Antidiscrimination Law: Beyond Intent vs. Impact, 41 Houston Law Review 1469 (Spring 2005)

The World Trade Organization’s Anti-Discrimination Jurisprudence: Free Trade, National Sovereignty and Environmental Health in the Balance (with Ari Afilalo), 15 Georgetown International Environmental Law Journal 633 (2003)

Environmental Justice in an Era of Devolved Collaboration, 26 Harvard Environmental Law Review 459 (2002)

Intent and Incoherence, 72 Tulane Law Review 1065 (1998)

Justice From the Ground Up: Distributive Inequities, Grassroots Resistance and the Transformative Politics of The Environmental Justice Movement, 86 California Law Review 775 (1998)


Comparative Urban Governance for Lawyers, 42 Fordham Urban Law Journal1(2015) (with Fernanda Nicola) (Symposium Introduction)

The Social Function of Property: A Comparative Perspective (Introduction to Symposium), 80 Fordham Law Review 1003 (2011)

Environmental Justice and the Constitution, News and Analysis, 39 Environmental Law Reporter 10347 (2009) (response)

Urban Informality as a Commons Dilemma, 40 U. Miami Inter-American L.Rev. 261 (2009)

Foreword: Critical Race Lawyering, 73 Fordham Law Review 2027 (2005) (symposium)

From Harlem to Havana: Sustainable Urban Development, 16 Tulane Environmental Law Journal 783 (2003) (symposium contribution)

Meeting the Environmental Justice Challenge: Evolving Norms in Environmental Decision making, 30 Environmental Law Reporter 10992 (November 2000).



Urban Commons, Property and the Right to the City in Property From Below: Commodification of Land and the Counter-Movement (Balakrishnan Rajagopal and Olivier De Schutter, eds) (Forthcoming Routledge 2017)

Vulnerability, Equality and Environmental Justice in Handbook of Environmental Justice(eds.  Jayajit Chakraborty and Gordon Walker) (forthcoming Routledge 2017)

Human Rights and Climate Change: Building Synergies for a Common Future in The Climate Law Encyclopedia (eds. Daniel Farber and Marjan Peeters) (2016) (with Paolo Galizzi)

The Racial Subject in Legal Theory in Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics (Keith E. Whittington, R. Daniel Kelemen, Gregory A. Caldeira, eds, Oxford University Press, 2008) (with Robin Lenhardt)

Race, Agency, and Equal Protection: A Retrospective on the Warren Court in Earl Warren and the Warren Court: A 50 year Retrospect, (Lexington Press 2006)

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