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Professor Philip Joseph

28 July 2023

Professor Philip Joseph is regarded as one of the country’s leading scholars in public law. It is this stellar reputation in Joseph’s field of expertise that led him to be awarded the prestigious University of Canterbury Research Medal for 2012.


UC Research Medal Winner 2012 - Professor Philip Joseph “I was naturally delighted to be awarded the Research Medal. It reflects positively on the research depth of the Law School, so I am very pleased. It is certainly one of the highlights of my career.”

Receiving the medal is an honour that Joseph admits is a “highlight” of his 33-year career researching the nuances of constitutional and administrative law. There is no doubt that his passion for public law makes him one of the top scholars in his field.

“Because we are an applied discipline in law what we do is not simply of academic interest, it has application and real consequences in people’s lives. Our research as legal academics has the potential to influence public decisionmaking and developments in the law,” he says. “I was naturally delighted to be awarded the Research Medal. It reflects positively on the research depth of the Law School, so I am very pleased. It is certainly one of the highlights of my career.”

Joseph, a UC law graduate with a postgraduate degree from the University of British Colombia, has written about 150 publications in books and legal periodicals published in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He is also a member of the New Zealand Law Society’s Rule of Law Committee tasked with monitoring government decision-making, and is regularly called to appear before Parliament’s select committees to share his insights on legislative initiatives in the field of public law.

Joseph’s research has centred on his book, Constitutional and Administrative Law in New Zealand (third edition), which is the leading text on public law in the country. Joseph describes his book as his “magnum opus”. It is regarded as the most comprehensive legal text published in New Zealand by a sole author.

The first edition was published in 1993 and took six years to write. Since then, Joseph has completed two more editions and is currently revising the text for a fourth edition, which he hopes to complete in time for the 2014 academic year.

“It is without doubt my most influential work. My text is used in all of the law schools in New Zealand, as either prescribed or recommended reading. It’s regularly cited in judgments of the New Zealand courts, including the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court. It’s used by barristers in preparing statements of claim in public law cases and presenting argument in the courts, and it’s used extensively in government throughout the central government departments and public decisionmaking bodies,” he says.

Joseph’s first edition of the book was awarded the JF Northey Memorial Book Award for the best text or monograph published by a New Zealandbased legal academic in 1993. Joseph was also awarded the Sir Ian Barker Published Article Award for his chapter, “The Constitutional State”, which is an award for the best article or discrete book chapter published in any year by a New Zealand-based legal academic.

“I was greatly buoyed by these awards. They are administered by the New Zealand Legal Research Foundation and are the two highest honours a New Zealand legal academic can be bestowed,” he says.

Joseph was also conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws in 2004 by UC in recognition of the contribution made by his text and other published writings.

Considering his passion for public law, it is not surprising that all three of Joseph’s children have gone on to study law, and with considerable success. Two of his children were awarded the Gold Medal in Law for the top UC law graduate of their year. Both went on to win scholarships to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to undertake postgraduate study. Joseph’s third child also graduated from UC with First Class Honours in law.

Since his initial foray into law, Joseph has carved out an admirable reputation that is clear from those who supported his nomination for the Canterbury Research Medal for 2012.

Professor Sir Jeffrey Jowell KCMG QC, Director of The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law in London, describes Joseph quite simply as, “one of the leading public law scholars in the common law world today”.

“This is not only because of his clear, cogent and original expositions of New Zealand law contained in a number of his articles, but particularly in his seminal Constitutional and Administrative Law in New Zealand. It is also because he has pioneered ideas about how democratic constitutions contain inherent principles, based on the rule of law in its deepest sense,” he says.

The Honourable Justice John Fogarty adds that Joseph’s book, and life’s work, can be found in every judge’s chambers. “He is regarded as not only the author of the authoritative textbook but also as the leading scholar in New Zealand on public law, and recognised as a New Zealand scholar with an international reputation. He is now plainly recognised as an international scholar by the public law establishment in the United Kingdom.

This is no mean feat. It is recognition of the quality, not only of his text, but also of his publications. He is now in the vanguard of how to frame contemporary public.

Philip Joseph research profile

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