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Ilya Rudyak


Research Interests

  • Criminal Law
  • International Humanitarian Law
  • National Security Law
  • Public International Law
  • Law and Social Science
  • Law and Morality
  • Military Law
  • Law and the Holocaust

Ilya Rudyak

Ilya is the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) Senior Fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Ilya’s primary scholarly interests are in criminal law and international humanitarian law (IHL). Informed by his background in social science and Holocaust education, his work also draws on empirical methods and tackles normative questions. In his publications thus far, he addressed criminal doctrine, codification practices, distributive principles, and methodological innovations. His current research builds on this work and focuses on developing criminal law theory and bringing it to bear on areas as diverse as IHL, normative philosophy, and domestic policing.

In addition to his scholarly writing, Ilya actively pursues opportunities to translate research into policy and practice. Before rejoining CERL as Senior Fellow, Ilya had the honor to serve as the Legislative Director of the Delaware Criminal Code Recodification—a comprehensive criminal code reform project commissioned by the state of Delaware from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Criminal Law Research Group (CLRG). Previously, Ilya was the Director of Research at CERL, a member of CLRG’s American Criminal Code Project, and a board member of International Lawyers Organization for Human Rights

Ilya joined Penn Carey Law SJD program after graduating with distinction and earning the LLM Excellence Award from Penn Law’s LLM program (which he joined as a Dean’s Scholar). Before coming to Penn, Ilya earned his joint LLB degree in law and psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, practiced litigation at a leading Israeli law firm (Meitar), worked as an educator at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center (Yad Vashem), and served as the Head of Weapons Department aboard Israel Navy Dolphin Class submarine.


Ilya’s dissertation project develops criminal law theory and explores the original thesis that international humanitarian law (IHL) can greatly benefit from the insights of empirical desert theory (EDT) – a contemporary utilitarian theory in criminal law. The dissertation starts by examining numerous normatively-oriented criticisms raised against EDT in the criminal law literature. It demonstrates first that EDT is substantially more resilient than previously realized to criticisms alleging its potential immorality. Next, it presents an innovative proposal to reconceptualize EDT by incorporating into its scientific methodology a minimalistic normative commitment to equality and non-discrimination, and shows how the proposed reconceptualization provides EDT with further, more robust safeguards against normatively-oriented criticisms. Then, based on military-specific research in social science and law, and empirical evidence on soldiers’ attitudes and behavior, the dissertation proceeds to develop the argument that the insights of EDT (and especially of reconceptualized EDT) can be exceptionally valuable in the context of IHL. Specifically, it shows that taking these insights seriously can be uniquely effective in predicting and influencing soldiers’ compliance with IHL on and off the battlefield, and in designing new solutions to persistent scholarly and practical debates on IHL interpretation and reform.

Dissertation Committee

Paul H. Robinson, Colin S. Diver Professor of Law (supervisor)

Representative Publications

Promoting Equality Through Empirical Desert, 7 Tex. A&M L. Rev. 187-267 (2019)

The American Criminal Code: General Defenses, 7 Journal of Legal Analysis 37–126 (2015) (with Paul H. Robinson, Matthew Kussmaul, Camber Stoddard, and Andreas Kuersten) (peer-reviewed)

Final Report to the Delaware General Assembly’s Criminal Justice Improvement Committee (2019) (with Matthew Kussmaul, John S. Grimm, and Ashley Tucker) (Vol. 1, Vol. 2)

Report of the Delaware Criminal Law Recodification Project, Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law. 1746 (2017) (with Paul H. Robinson, Matthew Kussmaul, and CLRG)

Women’s Refugee Commission Submission to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations of List of Issues on the Rights of Unaccompanied Alien Children Affected by Immigration Detention in the United States (2012) (with Robyn Crowter and Cochav Elkayam-Levy)


Awards & Fellowships

National Security and Ethics Fellowship, Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Fox Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Abraham Slavitt and Sylvan Cohen Scholarship for Advanced Studies, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law

European Society Karen Iest Award, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Pro Bono Project Legacy Award, University of Pennsylvania Law School

William Donat Fellowship, Auschwitz Jewish Center

Dean’s Scholarship, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Hon. Judge Tebi Miller Award for Excellence in a Joint Degree Program, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law

Dean’s List Citation, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law