UCL Faculty of Laws


The Rule of - and not by any - Law. On the Need to Explain and Defend Constitutionalism Today

13 April 2018, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

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The Current Legal Problems (CLP) lecture series and annual volume was established over fifty five years ago at the Faculty of Laws, University College London and is recognised as a major reference point for legal scholarship.

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UCL Laws


UCL Gideon Schreier LT, Bentham House, 4-8 Endsleigh Gardens, London WC1H 0EG


Justice. Prof. Dr. Susanne Baer (Justice of the German Federal Constitutional Court, Professor of Public Law and Gender Studies at Humboldt-University of Berlin, William Cook Global Law Professor, Michigan Law School)


Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, QC, FRSA, HonFRSE (House of Lords)

About the lecture:

To some, the rule of law has been an abstract promise, to others, it is a rather conservative stumbling block, and often, it is a taken for granted ingredient of modern societies, not much cared for neither looked after. Yet today, “law” is grabbed by people who plan to abuse it, in utter disregard of the social justice demands that inform the very idea. Notably, right wing politics in Germany present themselves as the “true” defenders of the “Rechtsstaat”, yet use it to frame more or less evidently racist attacks on refugees and others sufficiently “othered”. Also, neo-fascist spokespeople on U.S. and UK campuses and beyond present themselves as committed to free speech and academic freedom, yet abuse both in attacks on the very foundations of democratic debate as well as education that deserves its name. In light of this, there is a need to explain and defend constitutionalism today, as the foundation of democratic societies that deserve the name.

About the speaker:

Susanne Baer serves as Justice of the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany, elected by parliament, the Deutscher Bundestag, in 2011 to the First Senate, for a 12 years term. She is also the Professor of Public Law and Gender Studies at Humboldt University Berlin and a James W. Cook Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and has taught at CEU Budapest, in Austria, Switzerland and Canada. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan in 2014 and was elected a Coresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 2017. Justice Baer studied law and political science and joined movements against discrimination and domestic violence; she directed the GenderCompetenceCentre to advise the German federal government on gender mainstreaming 2003-2010 and co-drafted German standards for equality in research. At Humboldt University, she served as Vice-President and as Vice Dean and Director of Gender Studies, founded the Law and Society Institute Berlin and the Humboldt Law Clinic in Fundamental and Human Rights.

Publications in English include: Comparative Constitutionalism. 3rd edition, Thomson/West 2016 (with Norman Dorsen, Michel Rosenfeld, András Sajó, Susanna Mancini); Privatizing Religion, Constellations 1 (2013), 68 - 84; Equality, in: Rosenfeld/ Sajo, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, OUP 2012, 982-1001; Dignity, Liberty, Equality: A Fundamental Rights Triangle of Constitutionalism, Toronto LJ 4 (2009) 417-468; The Difference a Justice May Make: Remarks at the Symposium for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Columbia J of Gender & Law 25 (2013).

Lectures online in English: Adjudicating Inequalities (Duke University Bernstein Lecture 2013-2014); Rights Under Pressure: practising constitutional law in turbulent times (LSE London 2016); "Inequalities", with Catharine MacKinnon (ICON-S Conference 2016, Plenary Session 2); "The Future of the University Community", with Justice Sonia Sotomayor (University of Michigan, USA 2017).

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