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Ilya Rudyak

Current work:

Dr. Ilya Rudyak is Senior Fellow at the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law and Arlin M. & Neysa Adams Postdoctoral Fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. His primary scholarly interests are in domestic criminal law and international humanitarian law (IHL) and his work has appeared in traditional and peer-reviewed law journals, legislative proposals, professional reports, and formal submissions to international and state bodies. His current research advances the argument that it is critical to pay attention to whether soldiers intuitively perceive IHL and other laws regulating their behavior as just (or unjust) and shows how measuring these “soldiers’ intuitions of justice” empirically and taking them seriously can improve soldiers’ compliance with these laws and offer new ways of thinking about—and resolving—fundamental challenges related to these laws’ interpretation and reform.


Dr. Rudyak joined Penn Law SJD program after graduating with distinction and earning the LLM Excellence Award and the Exemplary Pro Bono Service Award from Penn Law’s LLM program, which he attended as 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.

SJD program:

Dissertation Title: Taking Soldiers’ Intuitions of Justice Seriously—Mobilizing Criminal Law’s Empirical Insights to Rethink International Humanitarian Law Compliance, Interpretation, and Reform.

Committee: Paul H. Robinson, Colin S. Diver Professor of Law (chair); Leo Katz, Frank Carano Professor of Law; Milton C. Regan, Jr., McDevitt Professor of Jurisprudence; Graduation Year: 2022

Impact of SJD program in your career:

The SJD program has been a pivotal period in my career. It provided me with the tools and time to think creatively and comprehensively about big-picture legal challenges I believe are critically important, to conceive and articulate new ideas and theories addressing these challenges, and to consider the details and implications of these ideas and theories thoroughly, while continuously analyzing, refining, and developing them further. The SJD program also empowered me to pursue unique professional opportunities, such as serving as Director of Research of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law and as Legislative Director of a comprehensive criminal justice reform project in the state of Delaware. Moreover, the SJD program has enabled me to engage and remain in conversation with brilliant, innovative, and experienced researchers and educators, from whom I was very fortunate to learn about legal scholarship, academy, and so much more.

What makes the SJD program at Penn unique:

What makes the SJD program at Penn Law so special is the combination of the academic brilliance of Penn Law professors with the welcoming, cordial, and unassuming approach of everyone in the Penn community. What I found especially remarkable is that SJD candidates are invited to attend faculty workshops and colloquia which helps them become immersed in the intellectual atmosphere of the law school. Moreover, it is also not uncommon that world-renowned scholars engage in lively discussions with students in the hallways, which makes for a particularly vibrant intellectual environment. Furthermore, the members of the law school staff, and especially of the graduate programs office (which manages the SJD program) are always genuinely supportive, open-minded, compassionate, and willing to go the extra mile to help.

Advice to SJD candidates:

I think it is vital to choose a topic you truly care about. Writing an SJD dissertation can be difficult at times, and it is very helpful if the topic itself serves as a powerful source of motivation for you. I also recommend trying to attend conferences in your field (very broadly defined). While it does take time away from research and writing, it is often incredibly rewarding, as the exposure to new people and ideas can enrich your thinking and immensely improve your scholarship. As for everyday SJD work, I strongly suggest using a reference management software and perhaps a writing software (I used Zotero and Scrivener but there are other options that may be better suited for your needs). The SJD is an extensive research project that requires reviewing thousands of sources; using a reference management software from the beginning of this project can help organize and analyze these sources better and makes them easier to locate, reexamine, or recall—sometimes years later, towards the project’s end. Likewise, using a dedicated writing software can help organize and streamline the different stages of the writing process, from initial outline to final draft. But perhaps the most important suggestion I have is this: try staying in regular touch with your advisor and keep the lines of communication open with your professors, SJD peers, and other members of Penn Law community. You may experience many challenges during your SJD, and having the right people by your side can make a world of difference.