2023 Liberty Bell Award Goes to Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy

Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy, Executive Director, World Without Genocide. 2023 Liberty Bell Award Recipient

The RCBA Liberty Bell Award is given each year to recognize non-lawyers who have been involved in activities that promote a better understanding of the law and our government. The 2023 recipient is Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy. Kennedy is the founder and executive director of World Without Genocide, a human rights organization at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

As a professor, Dr. Kennedy explores with law students the legal mechanisms for prosecuting genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, educating them about human rights issues at the state, national, and international levels. Dr. Kennedy’s classes are hands-on and help students engage on a deeper level with the legal avenues for addressing human rights abuses. Her classes include speakers who have served as judges on international tribunals; experts working on investigations around the world; and lawyers prosecuting people for international human rights abuses.  

Dr. Kennedy also established the Benjamin B. Ferencz Fellowships in Human Rights and Law program in 2013. This program engages recent law school graduates and Minnesota law students in advocacy for state, national, and international mechanisms to promote human rights. Fellows receive unique opportunities to advocate for human rights, including speaking to city councils, testifying at the Minnesota state legislature, and even attending the International Criminal Court’s annual administrative meetings in the Netherlands. All these opportunities for budding human rights advocates are possible because of Dr. Kennedy’s tireless work and mentorship. 

Much of Dr. Kennedy's advocacy addresses human rights issues in our local community, including felon disenfranchisement; transgender rights and challenges; the incarceration, disappearance, and forced sterilization of Native American people; the climate crisis; and stopping the spread of antisemitism, xenophobia, and hate. She has equipped students, lawyers, and community members with "toolkits" of resources available to the public to influence government and address human rights issues, both locally and internationally. Dr. Kennedy educates her community in a variety of ways, empowering everyone to act through our state and federal legislative and legal systems.