Mary Ellen O’Connell
Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law
Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution
A vice president of the American Society of International Law—the leading organization of its kind in the world—Mary Ellen O’Connell is the Robert and Marion Short Chair in Law and research professor of international dispute resolution at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 2005, O’Connell is a noted participant in debates on the law and morality of using military force. She chairs the International Law Association’s Committee on the Use of Force, which just completed a five-year study of the definition of armed conflict. She has testified before Congress and spoken to a wide variety of audiences about the international legal restraints on the use of force and the origins of those restraints in the Catholic Church’s Just War Doctrine.
O’Connell has sought to raise public awareness of the new technology of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
“The C.I.A. uses drones to target enemy leaders on its ‘watch list,’” O’Connell stated in an article published in the March 15 issue of America magazine, “but the attacks inevitably kill many people who are not on the list, including innocent women and children.”
A prolific scholar who also is doing pioneering work in the field of international legal theory, O’Connell is the author of "The Power and Purpose of International Law," an explication of the foundations of international law and an answer to those who deny its status as law. She has edited several collections of essays as well as student texts on international law, international dispute resolution, and international law on the use of force.
A passionate teacher, O’Connell seeks to instill in her students the importance of service to others toward the goal of a more peaceful, just, and humane world. With her full support, dozens of her students have chosen careers in the armed services. Having been a teacher of international law for the Department of Defense and married to a highly decorated combat veteran, O’Connell knows the good a well-trained lawyer can do toward winning peace on the battlefield.