The First Conference on Public Law in the Common Law World: Some Impressions of an Outsider

von Anna Katharina Mangold

Apparently, public law in common law jurisdictions is coming of age. From Monday, 15th September, until Wednesday, 17th September 2014, the first major conference assembling public lawyers from common law jurisdictions around the world took place at Cambridge. The theme was “Process and Substance in Public Law” and the organisers, all from Cambridge University Law Faculty, were Prof John Bell, Dr Mark Elliott and Dr Jason Varuhas, assisted by Dr Philip Murray.

Forming a discipline

The organisers’ aim is to establish a biannual conference for public lawyers akin to the Obligations series which runs at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. The process of emancipation from private law reminds one of the formation of a distinct public law on the continent as Michael Stolleis has described for Germany, and the Cambridge conference may remind German public lawyers of the Staatsrechtslehrertagung, the annual meeting of German public law professors (whose internet appearance is in German only). Against this background, the conference provided some interesting insights into the formation of a new field of legal research.

The widely advertised call for papers invited scholars from all over the common law world to send in their proposals. The response was immense, and the organisers had to choose 50 out of 170 proposals. In the programme, the convenors tried to strike a balance between plenary sessions and parallel panels, established scholars and early career researchers, men and women, English scholars and scholars from other common law jurisdictions. Quite a challenge to put together such a programme. The result was impressive, as can be seen from the extensive and excellent twitter coverage provided by the organisers and others ...

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