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Joseph William Dellapenna (born December 28, 1942) is a Professor of Law at Villanova University School of Law.[1] He was born in Detroit.[2]


Academic BackgroundEdit

Professor Dellapenna holds a B.B.A. with distinction earned at the University of Michigan in 1965, a J.D. cum laude from the Detroit College of Law earned in 1968, an LL.M. in Public International & Comparative Law from George Washington University completed in 1969 and an LL.M. in environmental law from Columbia University completed in 1974. Dellapenna has been admitted to practice as an attorney in Michigan and also for cases before the United States Supreme Court.

Before joining the Villanova faculty in 1976, he was an Assistant Professor of Law at Willamette University College of Law and an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati. He has also held senior Fulbright lectureships at National Chengchi University in the Republic of China (Taiwan) (1978–79) and at Jilin University in the People's Republic of China (1987–88), and was a Fulbright senior researcher with the Directory General of Natural Resources of the Republic of Portugal (1990), as well as visiting professor at Detroit College of Law, Widener University, and the Ohio State University. He is a regular visiting lecturer at the University of Macau and holds a three-year appointment as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of South Australia.

Water LawEdit

Dellapenna is best known for his work on water law, ranging from the local to the national to the international levels. In addition to teaching a course of his own design on Managing the Water Environment, he has served as a consultant to governments on three continents regarding water law reform and on transboundary water disputes. He has also taught related courses on Environmental Law, International Trade and the Environment, Natural Resources Law, and Ocean and Coastal Law. He represented the Connecticut Water Works Association in City of Waterbury v. Town of Washington, 260 Conn. 506, 802 A.2d 1102 (2002), persuading the Connecticut Supreme Court to adopt a significant reinterpretation of Connecticut water law. He is also a major contributor to Waters and Water Rights (LexisNexis: Newark, NJ, multiple ed., various dates) the standard treatise of the topic, being responsible nearly the whole of volumes 1 and 3 and parts of volumes 2, 5, and 6, of the eight volume treatise. He has also written articles and books on water law, most notably "The Importance of Getting Names Right: The Myth of Markets for Water," William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, vol. 2:317-77 (2000).

Dellapenna has been Director of the Model Water Code Project of the American Society of Civil Engineers since 1996 and served as Rapporteur of the Water Resources Committee of the International Law Association from 1996 to 2004. As Director of the Model Water Code Project, he led in the drafting of the Appropriative Rights Model Water Code and the Regulated Riparian Model Water Code, and supervised the preparation of Model Agreements for Sharing and Use of Transboundary Waters and Model Water Regulations for Administration and Trading in Humid Areas. As Rapporteur, he led the revision of the Helsinki Rules, the generally recognized summary of the customary international law on water resources, a revision that resulted in the International Law Association's approval in August 2004 of the Berlin Rules on Water Resources to replace the Helsinki Rules. He has served as chair of the Water Regulatory Standards Committee of the Environment and Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers since 1996 and as Vice-Chair of the Standards Development Council of the Institute since 2006. He also is co-chair of the Committee on International Environmental Law of the Section of International Law and Practice of the American Bar Association.

International and Comparative LawEdit

Dellapenna has taught and practiced extensively in the area of international and comparative law. Among the courses he has taught in this area are: Admiralty, Chinese Law, Comparative Law, Conflicts of Law (Private International Law), Law of the Sea, Public International Law, and Transnational Litigation, as well as the already mentioned courses on International Trade and the Environment and on Ocean and Coastal Law. He has represented clients, consulted with attorneys and governments, and served as an expert witness in litigation in the United States and other countries. He is particularly well known as an expert on foreign state immunity and works frequently on such cases. His book, Suing Foreign Governments and Their Corporations (1st ed., The Bureau of National Affairs: Washington, DC 1988; 2nd ed., Transnational Publishers: Ardsley, NY 2003) was described by one book reviewer as the "bible" for liti¬gation under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. The book was cited by both Justice David Souter (writing for the majority) and Justice John Paul Stevens (writing in dissent) in Saudi Arabia v. Nelson, 507 U.S. 349 (1993), as well as in numerous lower courts, as authoritative for the interpretation of the Act. He has also written numerous other articles on the above topics.

Perhaps Dellapenna's most noteworthy litigation was as co-counsel for the family of Raoul Wallenberg in a case brought by Wallenberg's half-brother, Guy von Dardel. Von Dardel v. U.S.S.R., 623 F. Supp. 246 (D.D.C. 1985). Although the judgment subsequently was vacated, 736 F. Supp. 1 (D.D.C. 1990), the Soviet government then opened its records to the family regarding Wallenberg's fate, resulting in a report jointly released by the Swedish and Russian governments in 2000 confirming Wallenberg's murder in 1947. Dellapenna's work on this case was recognized with his award of the Wallenberg medal by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in 2008. His work was also featured prominently in a book about Wallenberg and the efforts to secure his release: Alan Gersten, A Conspiracy of Indifference: The Raoul Wallenberg Story 200-82 (2001).

Dellapenna chaired the Committee on International Litigation of the Section of International Law and Practice of the American Bar Association from 1993-1995 and the Section's Committee on Chinese Law from 1995-1999. He was a member of the Working Group of the Section of International Law and Practice of the American Bar Association that drafted a proposed set of amendments to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that the Association's House of Delegates approved in 2002.

Other Fields of Law: Dellapenna has also taught several courses on contracts and commercial law and occasionally serves as an attorney in such cases. This includes more than 20 years in teaching basic contracts. He has also developed a special interest in the history of abortion and abortion law in England and America. This led to his book, Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History (Carolina Academic Press: 2006), a book that several reviewers has described as "definitive". He has also presented amicus briefs on the history of abortion in three cases before the Supreme Court of the United States and several lower courts.


Dellapenna was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Medal by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for his work on litigation seeking to determine what became of Wallenberg, a hero of the holocaust who disappeared after World War II. He has also been selected as a distinguished lecturer several times.


  1. ^ "Joseph W. Dellapenna". Villanova Law School. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
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