Sharmila  Murthy

Professor and Director of Faculty Scholarship and Research (on leave)

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Sharmila L. Murthy is Professor and Director of Faculty Scholarship and Research at Suffolk University Law School. She is currently on leave serving in the Biden Administration as Senior Counsel in the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Professor Murthy is an award-winning scholar, teacher, mentor, and leader. In recognition of her scholarship on access to drinking water and sanitation and on climate change, Professor Murthy was named the 2021 Haub Environmental Law Distinguished Junior Scholar by the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. A list of her scholarly publications is available.

Professor Murthy has also received two different teaching awards from Suffolk University. In the spring of 2020, she earned the university-wide Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching. Later that year, she was also awarded the Innovative Teaching Award from the Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence at Suffolk University.

Professor Murthy is known for her strong mentorship and dedication to her students. In 2021, the American Constitution Society recognized her nationally as its Faculty Advisor of the Year. The Suffolk Black Law Students Association also gave Professor Murthy its Appreciation Award in 2021. In addition, the Suffolk Law Women of Color Law Student Association recognized Professor Murthy in 2017 with its Woman of the Year: Faculty Division award.

Professor Murthy has held several leadership roles with the American Association of Law Schools. In 2019, she served as Chair of the Environmental Law Section, which received the AALS Section of the Year Award under her direction. In 2018, she was also Chair of the Human Rights Section.

Previously, Professor Murthy was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she served as the lead investigator for water for the Project on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development through the Sustainability Science Program. She also co-founded the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation Program as a Fellow at Harvard Kennedy Schools Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. In addition, Professor Murthy taught for many years in the Water Diplomacy Workshop. In 2014, Professor Murthy was selected as a finalist for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Professor Murthy began her legal career as a public interest poverty lawyer. She was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to work with the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, where she created the Refugee and Immigrant Partnership Program for Legal Empowerment and litigated predatory lending and foreclosure rescue scam cases. For these efforts, she received the New Advocate of the Year award from the Tennessee Alliance of Legal Services. Professor Murthy also litigated complex and class action cases as an associate with Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, where she represented members of the public in mortgage fraud and natural resource cases.

Professor Murthy received her JD from Harvard Law School, her MPA from Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and her BS in Natural Resources from Cornell University. She clerked for the Honorable Martha Craig Daughtrey on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She was also a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in India, where she studied the rural microfinance program of the Self-Employed Women's Association.

Professor Murthy also volunteers with several civic and legal organizations. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Conservation Law Foundation, on the Board of HumanRight2Water, and on the Board of Justice at Work. She is the Faculty Advisor for the Suffolk Law Chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS) and previously served as President of the Boston Lawyer ACS Chapter. In addition, she previously served as the President of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and the founding President of the Nashville Lawyer ACS Chapter.

Bar Admittance

  • MA
  • NY
  • TN



The Constitutionality of State and Local Norm Sustaining Actions on Global Climate Change: The Foreign Affairs Federalism Grey Zone, 5 U. PENN. J. L. & PUB. AFF. 35 (2020).

States and Cities as Norm Sustainers: The Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Role of Subnational Actors, 31 VIRGINIA ENVTL. L. J. 1 (2019).

Translating Legal Norms into Quantitative Indicators: Lessons from the Global Water Sector, 42 WILLIAM & MARY ENVTL. L. & POL. REV. 385 (2018).

S.L. Murthy, D. Shemie and F. Bichai, The Role of Adaptation in Mobile Technology Innovation for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, 13 WATER PRACTICE & TECHNOLOGY 143 (2018).

S.L. Murthy & F. Mendikulova, Water, Conflict and Cooperation in Central Asia: The Role of International Law and Diplomacy, 18 VERMONT J. ENVTL. L 400 (2017).

L.D. Anadon, G. Chan, A.G. Harley, K. Matus, S. Moon, S.L. Murthy & W.C. Clark, Making Technological Innovation Work for Sustainable Development, PROC. OF THE NAT. ACAD. OF SCIENCES (2016).  

A New Constitutive Commitment to Water, 36 BOSTON C. J. OF LAW & SOC. JUST.151 (2016).

F. Bichai, A. Kajenthira Grindle & S.L. Murthy, Addressing Barriers in the Water-Recycling Innovation System to Reach Water Security in Arid Countries, J. OF CLEANER PRODUCTION (2016).

S. Murthy & M. Mahin, “Constitutional Impediments to Decentralization in the World’s Largest Federal Country,” Duke J. of Comp. and Int. L. (2016). 
S. Murthy, “Can International Water Law be a Tool for ‘Water Diplomacy’?,” 27 J. for Int. Law of Peace and Armed Conflict 17 (2014).

S. Murthy, “The Human Right(s) to Water and Sanitation: History, Meaning and the Controversy over Privatization,” 31 Berkeley J. of Int. Law Vol. 89 (2013).

S. Murthy et al., “The Human Right to Water in Israel: A Case Study of the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev,” 46 Israel L. Rev. 25 (2013).

M. Williams & S. Murthy, “Reconciling the Carbon Market and the Human Right to Water: The Role of Suppressed Demand under Clean Development Mechanism and the Gold Standard,” 43 Env. L. 517 (2013).

A. Kajenthira & S. Murthy, “Exploring Urban Water Challenges in the Middle East: Integrating Islamic Principles with Demand Management Strategies,” in Water Governance: An Evaluation of Alternative Architectures, 164-192 (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2013).

S. Murthy, “Land Security and the Challenges of Realizing the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in the Slums of Mumbai, India,” 14 Health and Hum. Rights J. 1 (2012).

S. Murthy, “Iraq’s Constitutional Mandate to Justly Distribute Water: The Implications of Federalism, Islam, International Law and Human Rights,” 42 The Geo. Wash. Int’l L. Rev. 749 (2010).

S. Murthy, “The Self-Employed Women’s Association’s (SEWA) Rural Savings and Credit Program in Gujarat, India,” Harvard Kennedy School of Govt. Rev. (2000).

Op-Eds and Blogs

"The U.S. Rejoins the Paris Agreement: Symbolism or Success?", The American Constitution Society Expert Forum (February 25, 2021).

California's Cap-and-Trade Agreement with Quebec: Surviving Constitutional Scrutiny, HARVARD ENV. & ENERGY LAW PROGRAM BLOG (November 4, 2019).

"Why We Need National Water Affordability Legislation," Harvard L. & Pol. Rev. Blog(March 21, 2016).  

"Lessons from Flint’s Water Crisis," Cognoscenti (February 8, 2016). 

S.L. Murthy, "The Right to Water in the Slums of Mumbai, India," 93 Bulletin of the World Health Organization 815 (2015) (peer reviewed). 

"Opening The Taps: The Case For Water Affordability Legislation," Cognoscenti (March 20, 2015). "In India, Dying To Go: Why Access To Toilets Is A Women’s Rights Issue," Cognoscenti(June 25, 2014).

"Iraqi Elections are of Strategic Interest to U.S," Op-Ed, The Tennessean (3/6/2009). 

Working Papers and Reports

Analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals from the Perspective of the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation,” prepared for the Sisters of Mercy on behalf of the NGO Mining Working Group at the United Nations, June 2016.  

"Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development: Diagnosing Weaknesses and Identifying Interventions in the Transnational Arena." (6th author of 19). Sustainability Science Program Working Paper 2014-01. Sustainability Science Program and Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

"Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development: A Global Systems Perspective." (2nd author of 8). Report of a workshop conducted at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, April 24, 2014. Sustainability Science Program Working Paper 2014-02. Sustainability Science Program and Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

"Water Sector Discussion Paper: Background Paper for the Project on Innovation and Access to Technologies for Sustainable Development." (lead author of 6). Sustainability Science Program Working Paper No. 2013-01, September. Sustainability Science Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

"The Role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Helping Decision-Makers Meet Food, Energy and Water (FEW) Needs," report from a workshop held at Harvard Kennedy School of Government on May 18, 2013 (lead author of 8). Sustainability Science Program Working Paper No. 2013-02, November. Sustainability Science Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

"Human Rights to Water and Sanitation: From Theory to Practice," report from a Radcliffe Exploratory Seminar held at Harvard University (1/2013).

"The Complex Nature of Stigma: Realizing the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation for Bedouins in the Negev, Israel," report submitted to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (1/2012) (lead author of 2).

"Report on the October 25, 2011 Roundtable Meeting with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque," Harvard Kennedy School (10/2011) (second author of 2).

Book Review

Review of C. Leb, Cooperation in the Law of Transboundary Water Resources, Anthem EnviroExperts Review (November 5, 2013).


  • BS, Cornell University
  • MPA, JD, Harvard University
Professor of Law Sharmilla Murthy

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Courses Taught

  • Property
  • International Environmental Law & Policy
  • Environmental Law Survey