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Charles R. DiSalvo

WVU Law Professor Charles DiSalvo

Woodrow A. Potesta Professor of Law 

In the news: Gandhi


  • B.A., St. John Fisher College, 1970
  • M.A., Claremont Graduate School, 1971
  • J.D., University of Southern California, 1974


Charles DiSalvo is the Woodrow A. Potesta Professor of Law at West Virginia University where he teaches one of the few law school courses in the United States on civil disobedience. He has represented civil disobedients in state and federal trial and appellate courts, written widely on the subject of civil disobedience and the law, and lectured on the subject here and abroad. He is an expert on Mohandas Gandhi’s law practice. (Before he took up the cause of Indian independence from British rule, Gandhi served as an attorney in South Africa from 1893 to 1911 – a time during which Gandhi invented and experimented with his philosophy of nonviolence.) Professor DiSalvo has published what has been called a landmark book on Gandhi’s life as a lawyer. In it, he argues that Gandhi was led into civil disobedience by the failures of the South African legal system.

Professor DiSalvo was educated at St. John Fisher College (B.A., history), Claremont Graduate School (M.A., East Asian studies), and the University of Southern California (J.D), where he was a member of the Southern California Law Review. Upon his graduation from law school, he was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship to practice poverty law for the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky.

He came to West Virginia University after serving as a Bigelow Teaching Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. In addition to teaching a course on civil disobedience and the law, he teaches courses on civil procedure and trial advocacy. He has won college, university, state, and national awards for his teaching.

He is the co-founder of the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest.

Selected Publications, Research, and Intellectual Contributions

  • "Advocate Gandhi: Race, Role, and Transformation?", presentation, Truth and Nonviolence in Post-Truth Times: An International Conference on Mohandas Gandhi, UCLA, February 2, 2020; forthcoming as book chapter
  • “Climate Change Disobedience”, Summer, 2020, University of Florida Journal of Law and Public Policy
  • “Advocate Gandhi’s Challenge”, Quarterly Bar Review, 1:3, 31, Delhi High Court Bar Association, New Delhi, October, 2019
  • Book review: Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire (Stanford University Press, 2016), 68 South African Historical Journal 672 , September, 2016.
  • Book review: Lewis Perry, Civil Disobedience: An American Tradition (Yale University Press,2013), Political Science Quarterly, Winter, 2014
  • “How the Law Changed Gandhi”, SEMINAR (Seminar Publications, New Delhi, India), October, 2014
  • M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man Before the Mahatma (University of California Press, 2013); The Man Before the Mahatma: M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law (Random House India, 2012).
  • “From Lawyer to Civil Disobedient: A Microcosm of Change”, in Tara Sethia and Anjana Narayan (eds.), The Living Gandhi: Lessons for Our Times (Penguin: New Delhi, 2013)
  • “Gandhi: The Spirituality and Politics of Suffering,” 22 Okla. City U. L. Rev. 51 (1997)
  • “Reflections on the Contents of the Lawyer’s Work: Three Models of Spirituality and Our Struggle With Them,” 27 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. 1069 (1996), reprinted in Can A Good Christian Be a Good Lawyer? (University of Notre Dame Press, 1998)
  • “Worshiping at the Altar of Technique: Manic Aggressive Medicine and the Law,” 40 Vill. L. Rev. 1365 (1995)
  • “Practicing Public Interest Law: Minority Voices in a Dominant Culture,” 96 W. Va. L. Rev. 289 (Winter 1993-94)
  • “Abortion and Consensus: The Futility of Speech, the Power of Disobedience,” 48 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 219 (Winter 1991)

Teaching Experience

  • University of Chicago Law School, Bigelow Teaching Fellow, 1978 – 1979
  • Assistant Professor, West Virginia University College of Law 1979 – 1982
  • Associate Professor, West Virginia University College of Law 1982 – 1986
  • Professor, West Virginia University College of Law 1986 – 1989
  • Woodrow A. Potesta Professor, West Virginia University College of Law 1989 – present
  • West Virginia University School of Medicine 1991-1997
  • Pittsburgh Peace Institute 1985-1991

Professional Background

  • Attorney and Directing Attorney, Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, 1974 – 1978

Awards and Honors

  • PROSE Award, Honorable Mention, Best Book in Law and Legal Studies for 2013, American Publishers Association
  • West Virginia University College of Law Professor of the Year (six times)
  • West Virginia University Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award
  • Roscoe Pound Foundation: Richard S. Jacobson Award for Excellence in Teaching Trial Advocacy
  • West Virginia University College of Law Outstanding Scholarship Award
  • West Virginia State Bar Certificate of Merit
  • Foundation Fellow, West Virginia State Bar Foundation
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