Peter J. Hammer was named the A. Alfred Taubman Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School in fall 2018. Hammer has taught at Wayne Law since 2003 and is the director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne Law. 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. Hammer was instrumental in editing and compiling Judge Damon J. Keith’s biography, Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith (2013).
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.”
Hammer has spent more than 25 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 Center for Khmer studies and 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, Hammer is equally engaged in the community. He is a member of the board of directors of the ACLU of Michigan. He works actively with groups such as The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, We the People of Detroit and the Detroit People’s Platform.
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. Hammer received his undergraduate education at Gonzaga University and completed his professional and graduate education at the University of Michigan, where he earned 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.
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). Hammer tells the story of his experiences attempting to internally grieve the tenure denial in an article, “In the Shadow of Gratz and Grutter: Grieving Diversity at the University of Michigan.”