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09:15 to 13:00
End date
30 April 2016
Haldane Room Wolfson College Linton Road Oxford OX2 6UD

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Saturday, 30 April 2016 - 9:15am to 1:00pm


Workshop: How Judges Decide

Denis Galligan, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford and Director of the FLJS, will open the workshop 'How Judges Decide'. Sir Stephen Sedley and Professor Alan Paterson OBE, will then comment on the lecture of the same title ‘How Judges Decide’, given by Justice Robert Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal, in the Leonard Wolfson Auditorium, Wolfson College, the previous evening.

This will be followed by a roundtable discussion of academics and judges, which includes contributions from judges of diverse jurisdiction and traditions, and from academics who have reflected on the wider issues relating to judicial decision-making.

As with the lecture, the workshop will examine the underlying principles, the informal guidelines, the constraints and limitations used by judges.

Participants (see below) will consider further the judicial process, the kinds of arguments and reasons that count, the constraints under which they must operate. 

Whether deciding on fundamental principles of common law, interpreting the articles of constitutions, or making sense of the explosion of human rights, courts, especially the higher and supreme courts, are called on to decide issues of importance for the common good and for the rights and interests of individual persons.

In performing this role, courts operate under principles of independence, which means they are neither directly responsive nor directly accountable to the political process. 

With this premise in mind, the question of how judges decide will be explored from both an academic and legal perspective.


Sir Stephen Sedley, a distinguished judge and academic, is former Lord Justice of Appeal. Sir Stephen is Honorary President of the Constitutional Law Group, an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, and Vice-President of the Administrative Law Bar Association. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford.

Alan Paterson OBE, LLB (Edin), DPhil (Oxon), Solicitor, FRSA, FRSE is a Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at the Strathclyde University Law School. The title for his workshop presentation is 'Appellate Judicial Decision-Making'. Prof Paterson is one of the UK’s leading researchers on the judiciary and his recent monograph on the UK Supreme Court Final Judgment: The Last Law Lords and the Supreme Court (Hart Publishing) won the Socio-Legal Studies Association’s book prize for 2015 and Inner Temple Book Prize for 2015. 

Scot Peterson, BA Colorado, MA Chicago, JD California, DPhil Oxford, is a Bingham Research Fellow in Constitutional Studies and Junior Research Fellow in the Social Sciences, Balliol College, University of Oxford. Dr Peterson works in the area of UK and US constitutional history, particularly in the area of religion, law and politics, focusing on the national religions in the UK (the Church of Scotland, the Church of England and the Church in Wales) and on non-establishment in the United States.

Daniel Smilov is Associate Professor at the Political Science Department, University of Sofia, and Programme Director at the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia. He is also Recurrent Visiting Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at the Central European University, Budapest. He holds doctorates from the University of Oxford (DPhil, 2003) and the Central European University, Budapest (SJD, 1999).

Lindsay Stirton was appointed Professor of Public Law at the University of Sussex in 2015. Before that he worked at the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester, University of East Anglia, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of the West Indies. He studied law at the University of Glasgow before proceeding to postgraduate study at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His doctoral research in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics was awarded the Lady Alma Birk prize for outstanding work in pursuance of a PhD. 

Denis Galligan is Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford and Director of the FLJS. He is a Professorial Fellow of Wolfson College and is also Jean Monnet Professor of European Public Law at the Universita’ degli Studi di Siena and is a Visiting Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Previous posts include a Tutorial Fellow at Jesus College Oxford and chairs at Southampton University and Sydney University. For several years he was a Visiting Professor at the Central European University in Budapest.

Robert J. Sharpe holds an LL.B. from the University of Toronto  and a D.Phil. from Oxford University. He was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1974 and practised civil litigation with MacKinnon, McTaggart (later McTaggart Potts). He taught at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto and served as Executive Legal Officer at the Supreme Court of Canada under then Chief Justice Brian Dickson. Justice Sharpe went on to serve as Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto before being appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), now called the Superior Court of Justice, and then to the Court of Appeal.

He has written many books and scholarly articles and has reported judgements as a trial and appellate judge in a wide variety of areas. He has also appeared as counsel before courts at all levels, including the Supreme Court of Canada.  Justice Sharpe is a frequent lecturer at continuing education programmes for lawyers and judges. He also lectures at many Canadian and international universities.

Please Note: Lunch will only be provided for invited workshop participants and not for observers.