Administrative Law & Governance Colloquium 2021: Front-Line Administration (Free Registration Now Open)

The Administrative Law & Governance Colloquium is a series of seminars with world-leading experts on public law, who will discuss their scholarship in depth in sessions chaired by Professor Paul Daly, the University Research Chair in Administrative Law & Governance. Attendance is open to students, faculty members and invitees from the public and private sector. Register here.

The Colloquium’s Directed Research Project can be taken for 3 credits by uOttawa JD students. Students are expected to attend the series of seminars (save where written permission has been obtained in advance) and to produce a paper of 7,500 to 10,000 words based on the Colloquium theme. In 2021, the theme will be “Front-Line Administration”:

Hundreds of administrative agencies across Canada churn out thousands upon thousands of decisions every day, about everything from social welfare claims to the amount of French-language content on cable television. Most Canadians’ encounters with law and legislation occur in the administrative state: when they return from holidays and meet a border official; when they obtain a driver’s license; when they apply for a building permit; and, of course, when they apply for social assistance of one sort or another. Much of the time, front-line officials are individuals’ first and last points of contact with the state. Occasionally, an individual will seek an internal review, or appeal to a tribunal. Only rarely will a dispute between the individual and the state end up in court. These encounters occur – unseen to the layperson’s eye – in a legal framework. The overarching theme of the 2021 Colloquium is how front-line officials treat and should treat legal instruments, such as statutes and constitutional provisions.

Potential paper topics for students include:

  • The effect of the Supreme Court’s formulation of reasonableness review in Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov on administrative decision-making on the front lines of public administration
  • How much front-line decision-makers can rely on information technology to automate or assist their decision-making
  • Whether Doré v. Barreau du Québec should still be considered good law
  • The use of ‘soft law’, such as non-binding guidelines and policy manuals to achieve policy objectives and restrict the discretion of front-line decision-makers

Course Details

As a project-based research and writing course, students’ work will be independent and self-directed. In collaboration with the speakers, Professor Daly will provide a detailed reading list in advance of each seminar. A general reading list will also be made available. Professor Daly will meet with enrolled students twice, on an individual basis: once at the beginning of the Winter Term to discuss the student’s proposed project and once in the middle of the Winter Term to discuss the student’s progress. These individualized supervisions, along with knowledge acquired from prior study, the general reading list, the detailed reading lists and seminar attendance, will equip students to produce their papers.

The final grade will have a participation component of 10%, based exclusively on in-person attendance at the seminars (or written permission, obtained in advance, to be absent).

This year’s Colloquium will be held remotely.

Registration in this course is by application. Students interested in enrolling should email Professor Daly ( with (a) a brief statement of a proposed project; (b) a CV; and (c) an up-to-date law school transcript (official or unofficial). The deadline is January 31, 2020. Enrollment is likely to be capped at 10 students. Students must have taken, or be enrolled in for Winter 2021, Administrative Law.


The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, February 9, 2020, 11.30am to 1pm EST

Marc Hertogh (Groningen), Legal Alienation in Front-Line Decision-Making (discussing Nobody’s Law: Legal Consciousness and Legal Alienation in Everyday Life (2018))

Tuesday, February 23, 2020, 11.30am to 1pm EST

Jennifer Raso (Alberta), Reasons and Justification on the Front Lines (discussing “Unity in the Eye of the Beholder: Reasons for Decision in Theory and Practice in the Ontario Works Program” (2020))

Tuesday, March 2, 2020, 11.30am to 1pm EST

Bernardo Zacka (MIT), Public Service and Moral Agency (discussing When the State Meets the Street: Public Service and Moral Agency (2017))

Tuesday, March 16, 2020, 11.30am to 1pm EST

Margaret Doyle (Essex) and Nick O’Brien, Reimagining Administrative Justice   (discussing Reimaging Administrative Justice: Human Rights in Small Places (2019))

Tuesday, March 23, 2020, 11.30am to 1pm EST

Jennifer Nou (Chicago), Bureaucratic Resistance (discussing “Civil Servant Disobedience” (2019))

Speaker Biographies  

Margaret Doyle


Margaret Doyle is a visiting research fellow at the University of Essex School of Law in the United Kingdom. Her research interests include administrative justice, dispute resolution (in particular, mediation), special educational needs, and equalities and discrimination. She is also an independent mediator and has specialised in disputes involving equalities and disabilities for 20 years.

Margaret Doyle’s educational background includes graduating from Barnard College, Columbia University with a Bachelor’s degree, and a Master’s degree in Research in Law and Sociolegal Studies (distinction) from Birkbeck University of London.

Margaret Doyle was a member of the team to set up the UK Administrative Justice Institute (UKAJI), a UK-wide network for administrative justice research based at the University of Essex School of Law ( She is a member of the Academic Panel of the Administrative Justice Council of the UK. She has conducted research on mediation and judicial review with the Public Law Project; on court-based mediation for the Ministry of Justice; and on mediation and ombuds for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Her most recent research is a knowledge exchange project ( exploring young people’s involvement in challenges against statutory local authority decisions on assessment of and support for their educational needs and their participation in mediation as one of the key mechanisms by which such challenges can be made.

Dr. Nick O’Brien


Dr. O’Brien is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom and a Part-time tribunal judge at HM Courts and Tribunal Service. His research interests include mental health, special educational needs and disability, and administrative justice.

Dr. O’Brien’s education background includes graduating from Hertford College, Oxford with a BA and MA in Classics and a PhD in Philosophy at the Keele University School of Law.

Dr. O’Brien has been a senior official at the Legal Services Ombudsman for England and Wales, a Director of Legal Services and Operations at the Disability Rights Commission, an adviser to the UK Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, and specialist advisor to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee for its report Time for a People’s Ombudsman Service.

Dr. O’Brien was awarded the Bernard Crick Prize for Best Piece in Political Quarterly of 2018.

Dr. Marc Hertogh


Dr. Hertogh is a Full Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His research interests include socio-legal studies, legal consciousness, legal pluralism, administrative justice, and courts and dispute resolution.

Dr. Hertogh’s education background includes an MA and a PhD in Law at Leiden University and at the London School of Economics and Political Science. During his time at the University of Groningen, he was an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, at the University of Oxford.

Dr.Hertogh is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Dutch Council for the Judiciary. He is also a member of the Law and Society Association, the Socio-Legal Studies Association, and the Dutch/Flemish Law and Society Association.

Dr. Hertogh is also Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Law in Context (Cambridge University Press) and has been published in many leading journals such as Law and Policy; Journal of Law and Society; Social & Legal Studies; International Journal of Law Crime and Justice; Jurisprudence, International Journal of Law in Context; Legisprudence; and Journal of Comparative Law. He has been adviser to several government departments and committees in the Netherlands, including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the National Ombudsman, and the Public Prosecution Service.

Jennifer Nou


Jennifer Nou is a Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. Her research interests include administrative law, executive branch dynamics, regulatory policy, and constitutional separation-of-powers. She has been a part of the University of Chicago Law School since 2018.

Jennifer Nou’s educational background includes a BA from Yale College, a MPhil in Politics from Oxford University, and a JD from Yale Law School. After law school, she was a clerk to Judge Richard Posner of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and then to Justice Stephen Breyer of the US Supreme Court. Prior to joining the faculty, she was a Public Law Fellow at the Law School and also worked as a policy analyst and special assistant at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Jennifer Nou is currently a public member of the Administrative Conference of the United States.

Some of Jennifer Nou’s publications can be found in Harvard Law Review, Duke Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Yale Law Review. She has also done editorial work for the Harvard Law Review; Journal of Legal Studies; Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization; Political Science Quarterly; University of Chicago Law Review; and Yale Law Journal.

Dr. Jennifer Raso


Dr. Raso is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. Her research interests include socio-legal Studies & Research Methods, Municipal Law, Legal Theory and Administrative Law.

Dr. Raso’s educational background includes a BA from Concordia University, an LLB from University of Victoria, and an SJD from University of Toronto, Faculty of Law. Before pursuing graduate studies, she litigated social welfare, administrative, and human rights matters with the City of Toronto’s Legal Services Division.

 Dr. Raso’s research has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada) and the Endeavour Fellowships Program (Australia). Her research has been recognized by the Canadian Law and Society Association (best article prize, 2018) and the University of Cambridge (Richard Hart Prize, 2016).

Dr. Raso’s scholarship appears in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, the Journal of Law & Equality, and PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.

Dr. Bernardo Zacka


Dr. Zacka is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at MIT. His research interests include political theory, social theory, political anthropology, bureaucracy, ethnographic methods, and architecture and urbanism. He has been with MIT since 2018.

Dr. Zacka’s educational background includes a PhD and MA from Harvard University and a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. Prior to his PhD at Harvard, he worked as a consultant for McKinsey and Company in New York, serving clients in the banking, pharmaceutical, and telecom sectors. Prior to MIT, Dr. Zacka was a Junior Research Fellow at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University.

Bernardo Zacka is a political theorist with an interest in ethnographic methods. His research focuses on the normative challenges that arise in the course of public policy implementation. He is interested in understanding how the organizational environment in which public officials are situated affects their capacity to operate as sound and balanced moral agents.

Zacka’s first bookWhen the State Meets the Street: Public Service and Moral Agency, was published by Harvard University Press in 2017. It won the 2018 Charles Taylor book award from the Interpretive Methodologies and Methods group of the American Political Science Association, and it builds on his doctoral dissertation, which won the 2015 Robert Noxon Toppan prize for the best dissertation on a subject of political science at Harvard University.

General Reading List


Michael Adler (ed), Administrative Justice in Context (Hart, Oxford, 2010)

John Gilliom, Overseers of the Poor: Surveillance, Resistance, and the Limits of Privacy (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2001)

Simon Halliday, Judicial Review and Compliance with Administrative Law (Hart, Oxford, 2004)

Keith Hawkins (ed), The Uses of Discretion (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991)

Marc Hertogh, Robert Thomas, Richard Kirkham and Joe Tomlinson eds., The Oxford Handbook on Administrative Justice (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2021)

Michael Lipsky, Street Level Bureaucrats: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Service (Sage, 1980)

Steven Maynard-Moody and Michael Musheno, Cops, Teachers, Counselors: Stories from the Front Lines of Public Service (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2003)

Zach Richards, Responsive Legality: The New Administrative Justice (Routledge, Abingdon, 2019)


Geneviève Cartier, “Administrative Discretion and the Spirit of Legality: From Theory to Practice” (2009) 24 Canadian Law & Society Review 313

Paul Daly, “Discretion and Judgement on the Front Lines of the Administrative State” [2021] Journal of Commonwealth Law 100

Jerry L. Mashaw,Norms, Practices, and the Paradox of Deference: A Preliminary Inquiry Into Agency Statutory Interpretation” (2005) 57 Administrative Law Review 501

Nick O’Brien, “Administrative Justice in the Wake of I, Daniel Blake” (2018) 89 Political Quarterly 82

Lorne Sossin and Laurie Pottie, “Demystifying the Boundaries of Public Law: Policy, Discretion, and Social Welfare” (2005) 38 University of British Columbia Law Review 147

Richard Titmuss, “Welfare ‘Rights’, Law and Discretion” (1970) 42 Political Quarterly 113


Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Vavilov 2019 SCC 65

Doré v Barreau du Québec 2012 SCC 12, [2012] 1 SCR 395

Law Society of British Columbia v Trinity Western University 2018 SCC 32, [2018] 2 SCR 293

Pong Marketing and Promotions Inc v Ontario Media Development Corporation 2018 ONCA 555

This content has been updated on February 6, 2021 at 14:28.