Admiralty, Human Rights, and International Law
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Admiralty offers a promising analogue to modern human rights law. Rooted in longstanding traditions of judge-made law and reference to customary international law, admiralty furnishes a template for recognizing and protecting human rights. Admiralty has a recent history of expanding remedies to personal injuries and wrongful death, both dismayingly prevalent in human rights cases. This Essay explores these analogies, dating back to the prohibition of the slave trade in the early nineteenth century, and recognizes the limitations inherent in them. Both the Rehnquist and the Roberts Courts have more recently limited the remedies in admiralty, revealing the contingency of relying upon judge-made law. As the judges change, so does the law. To survive and expand, remedies in admiralty and in human rights law depend upon the support of the political branches of government, and particularly upon claims recognized and enacted by Congress.