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Dignity Rights Project Report Contributes to ABA Resolution


By Dean Rod Smolla

On August 18th, the American Bar Association's House of Delegates unanimously approved a resolution affirming “that human dignity — the inherent, equal, and inalienable worth of every person — is foundational to a just rule of law” and urging “governments to ensure that ‘dignity rights’ – the principle that human dignity is fundamental to all areas of law and policy — be reflected in the exercise of their legislative, executive, and judicial functions.”

The Report supporting the Resolution was developed as a project of the Dignity Rights Project Practicum offered at Delaware Law in the Fall of 2018 and drew heavily from Professor Erin Daly’s 2013 book, Dignity Rights:  Courts, Constitutions, and the Worth of the Human Person (Penn 2013) and on the work that Professor Jim May and Professor Daly have been doing through the Dignity Rights Project in recent years.  

One of our recent Delaware Law graduates, Sara Evans '19, wrote the initial draft of the resolution as a student in the Dignity Rights class. 

The Resolution was initiated by the Honorable Judge Bernice Donald (6th Circuit Court of Appeals) and President of the ABA Center for Human Rights.  Judge Donald was a keynote speaker at the Symposium on Dignity Rights and Environmental Justice held at Delaware Law School in April 2018.  Her writing on the subject was recently published in the Widener Law Review.

According to the Report, the Resolution will have the immediate effect of strengthening the ABA’s work in several ways.  First, it will ensure that the ABA is on solid policy ground when it condemns practices, such as torture, humiliation and invidious discrimination.  Second, it will provide support for ABA activities that are designed to advance human dignity, policies and practices that promote rule of law, democratic and political rights, and other civil rights. Third, it will provide a vocabulary for defending liberty and pursuing justice.  Fourth, it will serve as a unifying principal to reflect what matters most to Association:  “Defending liberty and pursuing justice.”   

This is an extraordinary example of our professors and our students engaging in collaborative and impactful teaching and scholarship to advance human rights and the rule of law worldwide.

Congratulations to Professors Daly and May, as well as to Ms. Evans, the Widener Law Review, and all within the Delaware Law School Community who contributed to this extraordinary achievement.