Professor Brenner’s research sits at the complex intersection of law and gender, focusing specifically on institutions and disparate power dynamics. Her research falls into two discrete, but not altogether unrelated areas: gender-based violence and gender inequality in the legal profession.
She studies the perpetration of sexual violence, and the related reporting, investigation, and adjudication, in closed and quasi-closed institutional settings like prisons, the military, immigration detention centers, and institutions of higher education. Her initial interest in researching these systems stems from her involvement as a co-principal investigator on a National Science Foundation funded grant that explored the reporting of sexual violence by women in prison. Recently, the Delaware Supreme Court cited professor Brenner’s research in the case, Sherman v. State Department of Public Safety, in support of its conclusion that consent is not a defense to sexual conduct that occurs between a police officer and arrestee.
Professor Brenner also focuses on addressing gender inequality in the legal profession. Her early work in this area considered, empirically, the ways in which the media portrays nominees to the United States Supreme Court through a gendered lens. Her co-authored article that emerged from this research, “Rethinking Gender Equality in the Legal Profession's Pipeline to Power: A Study on Media Coverage of Supreme Court Nominees," was selected as a winner of the 2012 AALS New Voices in Gender paper competition. A subsequent peer-reviewed essay, "Expanding the Pathways to Gender Equality in the Legal Profession," published in Legal Ethics, calls for innovative solutions to the rampant inequality that continues to plague women lawyers. More recently she has been engaged in research surrounding the experience of women who were shortlisted, but never nominated, to the United States Supreme Court.
Professor Brenner is the co-author of two forthcoming books in 2019: Shortlisted: Women, Diversity, and the Supreme Court (NYU Press), and Gender, Power, Law, and Leadership (West Academic).
Professor Brenner teaches across the curriculum and her courses intersect with her research interests. Current course offerings include Torts I, Gender, Power, Law, and Leadership, and the Clinical Externship Seminar.
Before coming to California Western, Professor Brenner was lecturer in law, director of externship programs, and co-director of the Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession at Michigan State University College of Law, where she was also a core faculty member of the Center for Gender in the Global Context and a member of the Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence. Professor Brenner also served as the first executive director of the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas School of Law. Under her leadership, the center hosted the inaugural Women's Power Summit on Law & Leadership, an event that brought together leaders from all sectors of the legal profession with the goal of developing a blueprint for the continued advancement of women in the legal profession.