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October 15, 2020 Rapid Response

Dignity Rights and Democracy: A Conversation

Human dignity represents the inherent and equal worth of every person everywhere. Democracy is how we express our dignity; it is how we claim our rights to human flourishing and to live in a society of our own making. Dignity and democracy are intimately related; they need each other to survive. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that democracy “rests on the premise of individual dignity and choice,” while voting itself, the South African Constitutional Court, has found, “is a badge of dignity and of personhood. Quite literally, it says that everybody counts.” 

During this fraught election season, we invite a conversation about dignity and democracy. Panelists discuss voter suppression, racial electoral inequities, gerrymandering, and other impediments to the full expression of participatory dignity.

Welcome and Introduction

  • Patricia Lee Refo, President, American Bar Association; Partner, Snell & Wilmer LLP


  • Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice
  • Erin Daly, Professor of Law, Delaware Law School; Executive Director, Dignity Rights International
  • Hon. Bernice B. Donald, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Peggy Cooper Davis, John S. R. Shad Professor of Lawyering and Ethics; Director, Experiential Learning Lab, New York University School of Law 
  • Michael E. Tigar, Professor Emeritus of Law, Duke University School of Law


  • James R. May, Distinguished Professor of Law and Co-Founder, Dignity Rights Project, Delaware Law School; Co-Founder, Environmental Rights Institute, Delaware Law School

Joint Sponsor: ABA Center for Human Rights

Co-Sponsors: ABA Coalition on Racial and Ethnic JusticeDignity Rights Project


Excerpts from Mythologies of State and Monopoly Power

Essay on Dignity and Democracy

Davis v. Ermold

Advanced Introduction to Human Dignity and Law

Responsive Constitutionalism and the Idea of Dignity

Lessons for the United States from Post-Colonial Constitutionalism

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