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About Joseph W. Dellapenna

Professor Dellapenna's scholarly interests focus on water management and on international and comparative law. His books include: Sueing Foreign Governments and Their Corporations (2nd ed. 2002; 1st ed. 1988); Waters and Water Rights (2001)(Co-author); Water Rights in the Eastern United States (1998) (co-author); Natural Resources Law Manual (1997) (co-author); and Abortion and the Constitution (1987) (co-author). Waters and Water Rights is the standard reference work on water law in the United States. Professor Dellapenna also has written many scholarly articles on a broad range of constitutional, environmental and international subjects, and he has made public presentations at numerous national and international meetings.
Professor Dellapenna has taught and held positions at several universities both here and abroad. He is the only person ever to be a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Law in both the People's Republic of China (at Jilin University, 1987-88) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) (at National Chengchi University, 1978-79). He was also a Fulbright Senior Researcher in Law at the Directory-General of Natural Resources, Republic of Portugal (1990). Professor Dellapenna has lectured widely at other foreign universities, and was previously a member of the faculty at Willamette University College of Law and at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He has been a member of the faculty at Villanova University since 1976.
Professor Dellapenna is the Rapporteur for the Water Resources Committee of the International Law Association with the charge to redraft the Helsinki Rules on transboundary water management in light of developments in international water law and international environmental law over the 35 years since the original Helsinki Rules were approved. He has been an active member for more than ten years of the Task Committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for drafting two Model Water Codes and chaired the working group that drafted the Regulated Riparian Model Water Code. He ascended in 1995 to the chair of the Water Regulatory Standards Committee of ASCE to direct completion of the Model Water Codes and the follow up standards, and also supervises the working group for the drafting of a Model Interstate Water Compact. He has also represented persons and groups in water litigation and consulted with governmental and private bodies on drafting water laws and regulations.
Professor Dellapenna is also an expert on transitional litigation in the United States, and has worked as attorney, consultant, and expert witness in many such cases. His book, Suing Foreign Governments and Their Corporations has been described by one book reviewer as the “bible” for litigation under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (the "Immunities Act"). The book was cited by both Justice Souter (writing for the majority) and Justice Stevens (writing in dissent) in Saudi Arabia v. Nelson, 507 U.S. 349 (1993) as authoritative for the inter­pretation of the Act. A second edition of this book was published in 2002. In addition, he has chaired the Committee on International Litigation from 1993-1995 and the Committee on Chinese Law from 1995-1999, both under the aegis of the Section of International Law and Practice of the American Bar Association. He has also been the chair of the Law of the Pacific Region Interest Group of the American Society of International Law since 1993.
Professor Dellapenna has served as consultant to numerous private parties and foreign governments, including o the Water Sector of the National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change of the United States Government, to the Water Commission of the World Humanities Action Trust, Joint Management of Shared Aquifers Project of the Palestine Consultancy Group and of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Associates for Middle East Research, Inc., the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China. Among the honors he has received, he is an elected member of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Foundation.


Present Professor of Law, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law

Curriculum Vitae




  • Admiralty
  • Chinese Law
  • Comparative Law
  • Managing the Water Environment
  • Transnational Litigation

Contact Information

Phone: 610-519-7075
Fax: 610-519-6282


Articles (83)