UC Law Professor attends prestigious forum at Oxford

25 October 2011

Being invited to participate in a two-day workshop in the United Kingdom, alongside a "who's who" of the public law world, was a career highlight for Professor Philip Joseph.

UC Law Professor attends prestigious forum at Oxford - Imported from Legacy News system

Some of the delegates of the All Souls workshop on the Rule of Law. Professor Joseph is picture front row, third from right.

Being invited to participate in a two-day workshop in the United Kingdom, alongside a “who’s who” of the public law world, was a career highlight for Professor Philip Joseph.

The University of Canterbury public law expert has recently returned from a two-day workshop on the rule of law held at All Souls College, University of Oxford, organised by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law.

The centre was named after Lord Bingham of Cornhill who was the first judge to hold all three of the most senior posts in the British judiciary – Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Rolls and Senior Law Lord.  It is devoted to the study and promotion of the Rule of Law through comparative research, discussion and training.

The All Souls meeting Professor Joseph attended was held to assist the Bingham Centre in defining the rule of law in a way that could assist its practical implementation worldwide and inform the centre’s future work.

The Centre’s Director, Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC, personally invited Professor Joseph and asked him to chair his session during the workshop, which attempted to draw together the various discussions. Professor Joseph said it was without a doubt “one of the most prestigious events” he had been invited to.

“It was a ‘who’s who’ of the public law world at the retreat, with both leading academics and practitioners of public law from around the world giving it a strong international focus.”

Other invited international delegates included Judge Mattia Guyomar of the Conseil d'Etat; the Deputy Secretary of the Venice Commission (The Council of Europe's Commission for Democracy Through Law), Simona Granata-Menghini; and the German Judge on the European Court of Human Rights, Justice Angelika Nussberger. English Court of Appeal judge Sir Stephen Sedley was also in attendance, as was leading advocate at the English Bar Lord David Pannick QC. Professor Joseph said Sir Stephen was renowned internationally for his contribution to public law adjudication.

“The Rule of Law is a supranational concept that unites modern liberal democracies and is the most valuable concept underpinning our legal system,” said Professor Joseph. “International attempts at redefining the concept of the Rule of Law have proven elusive but it so fundamental to modern liberal democracy that I believe it is incumbent on the international legal community to revisit and energise the concept.” 

Professor Joseph said there was much debate among the gathered experts on how to define the rule of law.

“You can elevate the rule of law as an ideal and settle on its core meaning but beyond that it is more difficult to define and there is much disagreement around the edges,” he said. “It’s only when we contextualise the rule of law in actual situations that come before the courts that we invest it with agreed meaning.” 

Professor Joseph said his invitation would have been due in part to his recent publication on the subject, with a chapter in Modern Challenges to the Rule of Law (LexisNexis, 2011) in which he argued that “the rule of law represents the ‘default setting’ for guiding the judicial intuition where no applicable principle of law is directly in point”.

Professor Joseph has also been asked to contribute towards a publication that will record the workshop’s proceedings.

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