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Robert (Bob) Dinerstein

Commission on Disability Rights Chair Bob Dinerstein

Commission on Disability Rights Chair Bob Dinerstein

Robert Dinerstein is professor of law emeritus at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL), where he taught from 1983-2023.  He founded and directed the law school’s Disability Rights Law Clinic from 2005-2023.  He also has served as the law school’s acting dean (2020-21), associate dean for academic affairs (1997-2004), associate dean for experiential education (2012-2018), and director of the clinical program (1988-96 and 2008-2018). He specializes in the fields of clinical legal education and disability law, especially mental disabilities law (including issues of consent/choice, capacity, and alternatives to guardianship, including supported decision making), the Americans with Disabilities Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, legal representation of clients with mental disabilities, and disability and international human rights. 

Dinerstein has made numerous presentations on clinical legal education and disability law, among other topics, and has published a number of books, articles, chapters and other writing on these subjects. Selected recent publications in the disability law area include: 

  • “Implementing Legal Capacity Under Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: The Difficult Road from Guardianship to Supported Decision-Making” (Human Rights Brief, 2012); 

  • “Emerging International Practices in Guardianship Law for People with Disabilities,” 22 ILSA J. Int’l & Comp. L. 435 (Winter 2016)(with Martinis & Grewal); 

  • “The Olmstead Imperative: The Right to Live in the Community and Beyond,” 4 (1) Inclusion 16 (Winter 2016); 

  • “Supportive Decision Making as an Alternative to Guardianship,” National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) 14 (2) Frontline Initiative (2017)—Published by University of Minnesota, Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC), Institute in Community Integration,;

  • “Tales from a Supportive Guardianship,” 53(2) Court Review: The Journal of the American Judges Association 74 (2017); 

  • “Supported Decision-Making for People with Disabilities: International Origins and Influences,” 42 (3) TASH Connections 15-18 (Fall 2017);

  • “Using the ADA’s ‘Integration Mandate’ to Disrupt Mass Incarceration” (with Shira Wakschlag), 96(4) Denver Law Review 915 (2019); 

  • “Guardianships vs. Special Needs Trusts and Other Protective Arrangements: Ensuring Judicial Accountability and Beneficiary Autonomy” (with A. Frank Johns & Patricia Kefalas Dudek), 72 Syracuse L. Rev. 423-468 (2022); 

  • Stephanie Meredith, Kara Ayers, Marsha Michie, Mark W. Leach, & Robert D. Dinerstein, “Impact of the Dobbs Decision on Prenatal Disability Education and Support,” 7 HELEN: The Journal of Human Exceptionality, journal of American Academy of Developmental Medicine & Dentistry (AADMD) 26 (December 2022), available at;

  • Robert Dinerstein, Deborah Enix-Ross, Nina Kohn & Ellie Lanier,”Modern Laws and Out-of–Court Solutions Can Advance Guardianship,” Bloomberg Law News, March 9. 2023 [part of multi-part investigation of adult guardianship], available at;

  • “Representing Clients with Diminished Capacity: Challenges and Opportunities,” 40 (4) GPSolo Magazine, American Bar Association, Solo, Small Firm, and General Practice Division, July/August 2023;

  • Covid-19 and the Rights of People with Disabilities, Chapter 8, pp. 117-29, in Claire L. Parins, ed., The Legal and Social Ramifications of Pandemics on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, ABA Civil Rights and Social Justice Section (ABA, 2023) 

Dinerstein is the author/editor of two books. He is co-editor and co-author, with the late Stanley Herr and Joan O’Sullivan, of A Guide to Consent (AAMR, 1999). In the area of legal education and lawyering, he is co-author, with Ellmann, Gunning, Kruse and Shalleck, of Lawyers and Clients: Critical Issues in Interviewing and Counseling (Thomson West 2009). He has written extensively on issues of clinical pedagogy and lawyering, in particular, client-centered counseling. He has also written and presented on the US Department of Justice’s record of enforcement of the rights of persons with disabilities under several administrations.

From 1994-2001, Dinerstein served on the President's Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities. He has been an expert witness in several disability law cases and was appointed a special hearing officer in Virginia Dep’t of Education v. Riley (1996), a case involving the federal government’s proposed withholding of IDEA funds for Virginia’s alleged non-compliance with the statute. 

Internationally, he has consulted for the World Health Organization and the Open Society Foundations regarding the revision of mental health laws and was a signatory to the Montreal Declaration on Intellectual Disabilities, adopted in Montreal, Canada in October 2004. He also has consulted with the Open Society Foundations regarding disability rights clinics and disability rights curricula in Latin America and Southern Africa and was the principal investigator for the Disability and Human Rights Fellows program sponsored by the Open Society Foundations. For many years he has taught a class on Legal Capacity of People with Disabilities in the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights short course on disability law in an African context.

Domestically, he has consulted for the Ford Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation and the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Education on issues related to legal services, disability law and poverty law. Prior to joining AUWCL, Dinerstein was an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, where he handled federal court cases on the rights of people in institutions for people with psychosocial disabilities, people with intellectual disabilities and juveniles. 

Dinerstein is actively involved in organizations related to legal education nationally. He was a member (elected) of the Council of the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (2006-2011), and previously was on the section’s Standards Review Committee, where he was vice chair. He has been a member of 17 ABA-AALS joint site inspection teams, chairing four teams. Within the Association of American Law Schools, he was a member of the membership review committee and has, among other things, chaired the sections on clinical legal education, law and community, disability law and law and mental disability law, as well as the committees on clinical legal education, sections and the annual meeting, and the planning committee for the 2006 clinical teachers’ conference. 

In addition to serving as chair of the Commission, Dinerstein is co-chair of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice’s Disability Rights Committee and is the Section’s liaison to the CDR.  He is involved in several working groups within the section, including one on reform of guardianship laws and one on proposed revisions to Model Rule 1.14, Representing Clients with Diminished Capacity.

Dinerstein chairs the board of directors of the Equal Rights Center, and in the past has served on the boards of the New Hope Community, Inc. (chair, 2022-23), Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Inc. (founding board member & president, 2001-2016), Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Inc. (founding board member and long-term treasurer, 1986-2015), Advocates for Justice and Education (treasurer), the District of Columbia Bar Board of Governors (elected; 2002-05), Society of American Law Teachers (elected), Disability Rights International (founding board member), Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and the Maryland Disability Law Center. He also was a founding member of the steering committee for the Jacobus tenBroek annual disability law symposium sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and continues to present frequently at its symposia.

Among his many awards and honors, he was recognized as “Advocate, Leader, Change Agent” for years of service as board chair for Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, August 27, 2023 [“Quality Trust is proud and honored to have had you govern and lead this organization as Board President in 2002.  You have been an Ambassador of our mission and vision and we acknowledge the difference you have made for Quality Trust and people with developmental disabilities”]; been named a Fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (2016) and received the Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights (ABA, 2013); (with Shalleck) the Egon Guttman Casebook Award (2011-12) for Lawyers and Clients; the William Pincus Award for his contributions to clinical legal education (2010); American University Awards for Scholar-Teacher of the Year (2013), Outstanding Teaching in a Full-Time Appointment (2009) and Faculty-Administrator Award for Outstanding Service to the University Community (2002); and the Pro Bono Service Award from the International Human Rights Law Group (1988).

He has an A.B. degree from Cornell University and a J.D. degree from Yale Law School.