Mel Greenlee


Mel Greenlee received her PhD in Linguistics and her J.D. from the University of California-Berkeley. Subsequently, she conducted research on language acquisition, bilingualism and other sociolinguistic topics at CUNY’s Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, UCLA and Stanford, before returning to academia as a law student, where she focused on criminal defense and immigration law. Later, as a senior staff attorney at the California Appellate Project (CAP) in San Francisco, her defense work of over two decades centered on legal assistance to California capital appeals and in habeas corpus matters, aiding the ever-growing number of prisoners sentenced to death in challenging their convictions and sentences at the post-conviction stage. For many years, she has also conducted trainings and workshops on the role of language in capital trials and presented linguistic analysis of courtroom language to U.S. and international fora, addressing, for example, interpreter error, implications of prosecutors’ arguments, defense objections, and the role of language in determining a defendant’s competence to stand trial or for self-representation. Her work has appeared in such diverse journals as Language & Law/Linguagem e DireitoApplied Psycholinguistics, and the Journal of Pragmatics. Currently, having retired from her CAP attorney role, she continues her research and publication on sociolinguistic aspects of criminal cases, particularly as these affect capital proceedings.