Public Law Conference 2016: The Unity of Public Law?

I attended the excellent inaugural Public Law Conference in 2014 at the University of Cambridge. The second in the series has now been announced. It will be held from September 12 to 14 (Monday to Wednesday), 2016, again at the University of Cambridge. Here is the call for papers:

The theme for the 2016 Conference is “The Unity of Public Law?”.

The theme is intended to be multi-dimensional and we welcome proposals which engage with it from any one of a number of different perspectives.

One possible perspective is comparative. Without intending to be prescriptive examples of topics might include: to what extent are specific doctrines, particular public law fields, public institutions, or systems of public law as a whole diverging or converging across common law jurisdictions? What are the drivers of divergence and convergence? To what extent do common law systems share a common public law heritage, and is this shared heritage worth retaining? Is it feasible and/or desirable to search for common solutions to shared problems? To what extent is legal development in particular common law jurisdictions shaped by developments in other common law systems, and to what extent should judges take into account and give weight to comparative materials in public law adjudication? What are the limits and dangers of comparativism in public law?

The theme also raises theoretical, doctrinal and institutional questions. Without intending to be prescriptive examples of topics include: is public law a normatively unified field or is it a mere doctrinal category of little normative significance? If public law is a unified field what gives it unity, and what distinguishes it from other fields, such as private law, if anything? What follows from any conclusion that public law is a unified field? What does public law encompass and what does it exclude; for example is international law a branch of public law, should private entities be bound by public law, and should public entities always be subject to public law? Is public law as a whole, or are distinct fields of public law or particular doctrines, increasingly being unified around common ideas, such as “rights” or “values”, or methods, such as proportionality balancing, or is public law becoming an ever more diverse field, and what are the drivers of change? To what extent is organisation of the field around a common set of goals, ideas or principles desirable? What is the nature of the interconnections and interrelationships between different public law fields such as constitutional law and regulation, or administrative law and human rights law, or different systems of public law, such as judicial review and ombudsmen, tribunals or public inquiries?

The focus of the conference is common law jurisdictions.

Submitting an Abstract

Anyone who is interested in giving a paper at the 2016 Conference should submit an abstract by 30 November 2015. Abstracts should be submitted using the template that is available online. They should be sent by email to the conference convenors at Those whose papers are accepted will need to register for the conference and pay the conference fee in the usual way.

Doctoral Students

There will be special early morning conference sessions featuring the work of doctoral students. Doctoral students whose papers are accepted for inclusion in one of these sessions will be able to register for the conference free of charge. Doctoral students should submit their papers in the way described above, indicating their status in the relevant place on the submission form.

The addition of a doctoral student stream is particularly noteworthy, as it provides an excellent opportunity for younger academics to present their work and to network in a high-profile setting.

Here is some more information about the Conference:

Public Law Conference 2016: The Unity of Public Law?

Building on the success of the inaugural Public Law Conference that was held in 2014, the Centre for Public Law at the University of Cambridge will next year host  the second in this series of biennial international conferences. The conference will take place from Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 September 2016 under the theme: “The Unity of Public Law?” Convened by Professor John Bell, Dr Mark Elliott, Dr Jason Varuhas and Dr Shona Wilson Stark, the conference will examine, through comparative, doctrinal, institutional and theoretical lenses, whether Public Law can or ought to be conceived of as a unified discipline. The focus of the conference will be on common law jurisdictions. The convenors hope to welcome up to 300 delegates to Cambridge and anticipate that approximately 50 papers will be delivered in a combination of plenary and parallel panel sessions.

The conference will begin on the afternoon of Monday 12 September with contributions by The Rt Hon Lord Reed (Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom) and The Hon Robert French (Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia). They will reflect, from their vantage points as judges of British and Australian apex courts, on the extent to which courts in common law systems do and ought to make use of comparative materials when adjudicating upon public law matters. There will then be two full days on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 September, commencing with a keynote address by The Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias (Chief Justice of New Zealand).

Other keynote speakers include: Professor TRS Allan (Professor of Jurisprudence and Public Law, University of Cambridge); Professor Johannes Chan (Professor of Law, University of Hong Kong); Professor Danwood Chirwa (Professor of Law, University of Cape Town); Professor Claudia Geiringer (Professor of Public Law, Victoria University of Wellington); Professor Janet Hiebert (Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario); The Hon Grant Huscroft (Judge of the Court of Appeal for Ontario); Professor Aileen McHarg (Professor of Public Law, University of Strathclyde); Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta (President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi), and Professor Cheryl Saunders (Laureate Professor Emeritus, University of Melbourne).

The conference convenors have now issued a call for papers. Prospective speakers are invited to submit abstracts of not more than 500 words addressing any aspect of the conference theme. Further details about the theme and information about how to submit an abstract can be found on the conference website. Please note that those who have their papers accepted will have to meet their own expenses and pay the conference fee in the ordinary way. A fee-waiver programme has been established for the benefit of doctoral candidates whose papers are accepted; a concessionary rate is available for other doctoral students.

Conference registration is now open. Delegates who opt for residential packages will be accommodated in Cambridge Colleges located very close to the Faculty of Law Building, where the conference itself will take place. A conference dinner will be held on the evening of Tuesday 13 September in St John’s College. Further information about the conference fees and accommodation can be found on the conference website.

The 2014 Public Law Conference was kindly sponsored by Hart Publishing. The convenors are grateful to Hart Publishing for continuing to support the Public Law series by sponsoring the 2016 conference.  An edited collection featuring some of the papers delivered at the 2014 conference — Bell, Elliott, Varuhas and Murray (eds), Public Law Adjudication in Common Law Systems: Process and Substance — will be published in early 2016 by Hart Publishing. It is hoped that a similar volume will be published following the 2016 conference.

I certainly plan to attend. I hope to see many of you there.

This content has been updated on September 9, 2015 at 18:35.