Faculty Research Seminar Series


Melbourne Law School's Faculty Research Seminar Series is a place to present and discuss work-in-progress, promising arguments and early drafts to interested staff, graduate researchers and visitors

In Semester 2, 2018 seminars will be organised and hosted by Adrienne Stone and Julian Sempill.

The seminars are held  weekly during semester from 1.10pm -2.00pm.

Seminars will be held in Room 920, Level 9 – Melbourne Law School.

A light refreshment will be provided from 1:00pm by Asylum Seeker Resource Centre Catering.

The presenter will speak for about 30 minutes, followed by time for questions.

  • 6 August 2018 - Associate Professor Kristen Rundle with Professor Julian Webb as discussant

    Title - New Engagements with Fuller: Form, Agency, Relationships, Design

    Overview - In this Faculty Research Seminar our colleagues Associate Professor Kristen Rundle and Professor Julian Webb will participate in a conversation about new engagements with the thought of the mid-twentieth century legal philosopher, Lon Fuller. Following from Kristen’s recent delivery of the prestigious Kobe Memorial Lecture in legal philosophy in Japan, on themes of her work on Fuller, Kristen and Julian will speak to Fuller’s concern to explore the distinctiveness of the form of legal arrangements and the demands that this form makes on human agency. They will also discuss how Fuller’s efforts to develop a program of inquiry into the implications of legal form(s) might be developed by scholars concerned to address contemporary challenges of legal institutional design, especially in the context of legal technologies and administrative law.

    Read the text of the Kobe Memorial Lecture 'Fuller's Relationships' as delivered in Kyoto on 6 July 2018.

    Chapter One extract from Kristen's 2012 book, Forms Liberate: Reclaiming the Jurisprudence of Lon L Fuller.

    Pre-reading is entirely optional for this seminar.

  • 13 August 2018 -  Dr Inbar Levy with Professor Bruce Oswald as discussant

    Title - Outcome Bias and Expertise in Investigations of Military Actions under International Humanitarian Law

    Abstract - In this article we provide an indicative example of behavioral research that holds a double focus on individual public international law-related decision-making, within the relatively specialized context of international humanitarian law (IHL). The first individual level of this double focus is that of military decision-makers – soldiers and commanders, and in many cases also legal counsel, acting in or on the field, literally and figuratively ‘calling the shots’ on operational questions that are subject to rules of IHL. Superimposed on this is the second individual level which is comprised of subsequent assessors and evaluators of the legality and appropriateness of actual military decisions and acts, in the context of military investigations. The first individual level can be understood as relating to ex ante decision-making – before an incident occurs (or rather, is initiated, as is often the case) - in conditions of uncertainty based on imperfect information. In contrast, the second level is ex post, after the fact, in which decisions are made regarding responsibility, but these decisions cannot influence operational outcomes of actions already taken (although they may indirectly influence future decisions, through mechanisms of deterrence and other behavior-forming mechanisms). In this contribution we are mainly concerned with the second level of decision-making, while cognizant of its inseverable interactions with the first one. In particular, we are interested in examining the extent to which ex post investigators of military actions take into account the actual outcomes of military operations, even though such outcomes are obviously not part of the information available to a military decision-maker contemplating an operation ex ante, and in formal IHL terms should not be part of the investigatory calculus at all.

    You can read Inbar's paper here.

  • 20 August 2018 -  Professor Sundhya Pahuja with Dr Cait Storr as discussant

    Title - Corporations, Universalism and the Domestication of Race in International Law

    Abstract -Racism has emphatically resurfaced as an operative factor in political discourse globally.  And yet race is seldom discussed in international law in favour of a universalist orientation, and ‘colourblind’ posture.  In this seminar, Sundhya Pahuja will discuss the circulated chapter with Cait Storr, ideally to open a broader conversation  with colleagues about race and international law and the erasure (but not disappearance) of ‘raciological’ forms of ordering at the global level.

    You can read Sundhya's paper online.

  • 3 September 2018 -  Dr Julian Sempill with Professor Adrienne Stone as discussant

    Title - Law, Dignity and the Elusive Promise of a Third Way

    Abstract - A chapter of my forthcoming book for Cambridge University Press (UK) will address the relationship between dignity and the law. The chapter will build on this Oxford Journal of Legal Studies article.

    I would be grateful for any input that might help me to improve my argument.

    What is law’s relationship to dignity? In Jeremy Waldron’s view, ‘There is an implicit commitment to dignity in the tissues and sinews of law—in the character of its normativity and in its procedures’. Waldron’s account can be read as an attempt to pursue a third way between positivism and natural law. Proponents of the third way believe that law has structural features that are intrinsically valuable. Waldron argues that law’s normativity and procedures promote dignity, and, therefore, are salutary. However, he does not ask whether their moral significance might be affected by the merits of the law’s contents. I raise doubts about Waldron’s approach and, in turn, the third way. I argue that the significance of law’s structural features may be affected by the merits of content. Where the law’s contents are dehumanising, law’s normativity and procedures may make a distinctive contribution to degradation and humiliation.

  • 10 September 2018 -  Professor Mark Taylor with Professor Megan Richardson and Dr Christine Black as discussants

    Title - Privacy through the lens of public interest: a monocle for the myopic?

    Abstract -Health research is a locus of tension between privacy protection and the use of personal data for health-related public interests. This tension can be overinterpreted to imply that the underlying concepts of privacy and public interest are necessarily opposed. They are not. Privacy and public interest are reciprocal concepts, mutually implicated in each other’s protection. Recognising this opens the way to understanding how any necessary trade-off between individual privacy and the public good in health research may be normatively reconciled. Perhaps just as importantly, viewing the concept of privacy through a public interest lens reveals the limitations of a narrow conception of privacy. There is an increasingly urgent need to appreciate that the public interest is only properly served if we acknowledge the importance of group data and its appropriate control. Failure to do so in the context of health research regulation will undermine its legitimacy: a significant failing given the increasing capacity for big data flows to fundamentally reshape the conditions under which future generations will live and be judged. Our understanding of what it means to have a confidential healthcare system will come to turn on whether the regulation of health data can acknowledge the significance of group data to the public interest.

  • 17 September 2018 -  Dr Tom Daly with Dr Lulu Weis as discussant

    Title - Democratic Decay: Conceptual Richness or Conceptual Quicksand?

    Abstract - Many terms are now used to refer to the global phenomenon of what this author calls ‘democratic decay’ – the creeping deterioration of democratic rule worldwide. Abusive constitutionalism. Populist constitutionalism. Bad faith constitutionalism. De-constitutionalism. Autocratic legalism. Constitutional retrogression. Constitutional capture. Stealth authoritarianism. Authoritarianisation. Constitutional rot. Constitutional decay. Democratic deconsolidation. Democratic backsliding. Authoritarian backsliding. Rule of law backsliding. Democratic erosion. Democratic recession. Illiberal democracy, Majoritarian autocracy. The list goes on. So many terms, in fact, that it has become a serious problem. This paper discusses the dramatic proliferation and misuse of concepts and terms coined to capture the phenomenon of democratic decay. The paper argues that duplication and laxity in application and development of concepts is seriously hampering better understanding of (and the search for solutions to) this phenomenon, especially across law, but also across political science, policy, and commentary more widely. The paper also suggests a number of ways to chart a way out of this 'conceptual quicksand' and to make better use of the richness of this conceptual development.

    You can read Tom's paper online.

  • 8 October 2018 -  Professor Adrienne Stone, Professor Sean Cooney and Dr Julian Sempill

    Title - Academic freedom and academic responsibility

    The panellists recommend you review the University of Melbourne’s Academic Freedom Policy; the Pursuit article It’s Complicated: Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech in Universities ; the highlighted sections of this paper by Julian Sempill, and the following short article. In addition to the reading, you may like to listen to a recent podcast of a conversation between Glyn Davis, Adrienne Stone and John Roskam: Policy Shop Podcast, Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech in Universities.

  • 15 October 2018 -  Dr Adil Khan with Professor Lee Godden as discussant

    Title - For "...those who...lost their Utopias...but still...rebel...": Learning from Upendra Baxi in these times of crisis

    Abstract - This paper offers a prosopography of Professor Upendra Baxi, as a Southern international lawyer, so as to draw from his conduct a training in how international lawyers could possibly authorise other worlds (and other international laws) amidst these times of crisis.

    Keywords: international legal histories; Upendra Baxi; authorisation; human rights; interregnum; tradition; Third World

    You can read Adil's paper online.