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Janos Fiala-Butora

Janos Fiala-Butora

S.J.D. 2016

Director, Central Europe Program, Harvard Law School Project on Disability

jfiala at


Reconstructing Personhood: Legal Capacity of Persons with Disabilities

My dissertation analyzes how guardianship laws lead to the violation of human rights and denial of legal personhood of persons with intellectual, psychosocial and other disabilities, and how guardianship can be overcome by incorporating supported decisions into legal capacity laws.

I argue that the existing approaches to supported decision-making are proposing ideal models which go beyond law’s ability to influence behavior and cannot be enforced in practice. A more fruitful legal analysis should concentrate on the functions of guardianship laws, and how these functions could be fulfilled by laws based on support. This approach leads to a more modest but also more realistic understanding of how law can enable rather than hinder the exercise of legal capacity. The design of new legal institutions has to take into account law’s impact on social norms, and their mutual impact on the exercise of autonomy by persons with disabilities. My dissertation examines the trade-offs in replacing current guardianship laws restricting legal capacity with laws based on supported decision-making, and offers an interpretation of the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilites (CRPD) that can incorporate the evaluation and resolution of these trade-offs by international bodies.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Law and Disability with Professor Martha Field, Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • International Human Rights with Professor Gerald Neuman, Harvard Law School
  • Comparative Disability Law with Professor William Alford and Professor Michael Stein, Harvard Law School

Additional Research Interests

  • Human Rights
  • Minority Rights
  • Nationalism
  • Mental Health Law


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. 2011-2016
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. Program 2009-2010 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, LL.M., 2004
  • Komenský University, Faculty of Law, Bratislava, Slovakia, Mgr. (LLB) 2003
  • University of Economics, Faculty of International Relations, Bratislava, Slovakia, Ing. (MA) 2002

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Harvard Law School Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Writers’ Workshop TA, 2015-2016
  • Harvard Law School, Summer Academic Fellow, 2015
  • Harvard Law School Graduate Program Fellow, Byse Fellow, 2014
  • Harvard Law School, Chayse Fellow, 2012
  • Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, Henigson Human Rights Fellow, 2010
  • Harvard Law School, Summer Academic Writing Fellow, 2010
  • Harvard Law School, Landon H. Gammon Fellow, 2009

Representative Publications

  • János Fiala-Butora, The right to independent living and its limits, in: Malcolm Langford and Michael A. Stein (eds.), Disability Social Rights, forthcoming 2016
  • János Fiala-Butora, Hungarians in Slovakia and the evolution of Hungarian-Slovakian bilateral relations – improvement or stalemate?, 12 European Yearbook of Minority Issues 156 (2015)
  • János Fiala-Butora, Michael Ashley Stein and Janet E. Lord, The democratic life of the Union: towards equal voting participation for Europeans with Disabilities, 55 Harvard International Law Journal 71 (2014)
  • János Fiala-Butora, Michael Ashley Stein and Janet E. Lord, Facilitating an Equal Right to Vote for Persons with Disabilities, 6 Oxford Journal of Human Rights Practice 115 (2014)
  • János Fiala-Butora, Disabling Torture: The Obligation to Investigate Ill-treatment of Persons with Disabilities, 45 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 214 (2013).

Additional Information

Last Updated: May 31, 2016