JAMES R MAY portrait
  • Visiting Professor, College Of Law - Dean


James R. May is Distinguished Professor of Law, Founder of the Global Environmental Rights Institute, and co-Founder of the Dignity Rights Project at Widener University, where he has served on the President’s Executive Team, and as inaugural Chief Sustainability Officer, co-chair of the University Sustainability Council, Adjunct Professor of Graduate Engineering, Board member of Phi Kappa Phi, and the H. Albert Young Fellow in Constitutional Law. 


May has taught 20 courses, founded or co-founded three law centers, four non-profit environmental organizations and a joint degree program, directed an environmental law clinic, and held numerous visiting appointments, including as faculty at the Pakistan College of Law, Universidade do Vale do Itajaí Brazil, Georgetown University Law Center, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, University of Kansas School of Law, Duquesne University School of Law, National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne University, University of Hawai’i Richardson School of Law, National Judicial College, and Vermont Law School, and as a Fellow of The Environmental Law Institute, Essex University (UK), and University of A Coruña (Spain).  


May is the President and Founder of Dignity Rights International, and a Board member of the Normandy Chair for Peace, the Earth Law Center, and Delaware GreenWatch. He serves as the Special Representative on Harmony With Nature for the International Council of Environmental Law, as well as a member of the Global Pandemic Network and the World Commission on Environmental Law. He chairs the American Bar Association Section on Environment, Energy and Resources’ Task Force on Environmental Justice, and co-Chairs the Section’s Committee on Professional Responsibility. He is an inductee of the American College of Environmental Lawyers, the Delaware Valley Environmental Inn of Court, and the National Judicial College 


May is the author of Modern Administrative Law, editor of Principles of Constitutional Environmental Law (2013), and coeditor of Environmental Rights: The Development of Standards (2019) and Shale Gas and the Future of Energy (2016). With Professor Daly, he has also co-authored or co-edited numerous volumes, including the first books on dignity law: Dignity Law: Global Recognition, Cases, and Perspectives (W.S. Hein 2020) and Advanced Introduction to Human Dignity and Law (Edward Elgar 2020), and various titles on environmental constitutionalism: Global Environmental Constitutionalism (Cambridge 2015), Implementing Environmental Constitutionalism (Cambridge 2018), Encyclopedia of Human Rights and the Environment: Legality, Indivisibility, Dignity and Geography (Edward Elgar 2019);Judicial Handbook on Environmental Constitutionalism (3d. Ed. United Nations 2019)Judicial Handbook on Environmental Constitutionalism: Compendium of Cases (2d ed. United Nations 2019)New Frontiers in Environmental Constitutionalism (United Nations 2016, here), and Environmental Constitutionalism (Edward Elgar, here) 


He was also a federal civil practice litigator for nearly 20 years, prosecuting hundreds of public interest claims on behalf of civil society and vulnerable communities. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including from the Sierra Club, American Canoe Association, and Pace University Haub School of Law, and LawDragon as one of the world’s most influential environmental lawyersAs a law student, he graduated at the top of his class at Pace University Haub School of Law, and was a national champion at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. Before lawyering, he served as a nuclear weapons engineer in national defense on top-secret projects.