Plural Public Law (Inaugural Lecture): Registration Open

If you are going to be in Ottawa on March 4, 2020, you can come to my inaugural lecture (and reception), at the University of Ottawa (Fauteux Hall, Room 302, 57 Louis Pasteur Private, Ottawa K1N 6N5, at 5pm). Sign up here.

Here is the abstract:

We live in a world of increasing complexity, submerged by tidal waves of statutes, delegated legislation, soft law, judicial decisions and administrative adjudication, and swept along by vicious rip tides of technological and social change. What role can and should common law public lawyers play in a world of complexity and change? For public lawyers to remain relevant — never mind influential — requires plural public law, an approach based on a plurality of principles, sources and methodologies. 

Rejecting any conception of the legal world as a neatly ordered set of norms proceeding logically from agreed premises, I argue that public law is influenced by a plurality of principles: examining how these operate in the real world of legislation, executive action, administrative adjudication and judicial review sheds light on public law and provides public lawyers with tools to manage complexity and influence change. 

These principles are found in a plurality of sources, of which judicial decisions are only one. The legislative process, executive action and administrative adjudication also generate public law principles. With a massive volume of material pouring forth from these sources, public lawyers need to act quickly to triage the relevant from the irrelevant, a task for which social media (including blogs) are indispensable. 

Ensuring that a variety of methodological approaches are brought to bear on public law enriches our understanding of these principles. Normative, theoretical/philosophical, empirical, institutional and interdisciplinary approaches all have their place, as long as proponents of these approaches are epistemically modest enough to recognize that they probably will not be able to generate a unified field theory of public law and sensitive to the legal system’s requirements of doctrinal rigour and coherence.

I’ll post the talk after I have delivered it!

The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada, will introduce the event. The Honourable Marie-France Bich of the Quebec Court of Appeal will moderate. After my lecture there will be comments by the Honourable David Stratas of the Federal Court of Appeal and Professor Geneviève Cartier, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Université de Sherbrooke. Register to confirm your attendance.

This content has been updated on March 5, 2020 at 18:40.