UCL Faculty of Laws


Discretion and the Rule of Law (LAWS0347)

This module invites students to critically assess the meaning, scope, and application of the rule of law in relation to public officials’ discretion in applying their powers.

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This half module introduces students to some of the main theoretical debates in relation to the rule of law and public officials’ discretion. In the first half of the module, students will be introduced to formal and substantive approaches to the rule of law and the historical contexts in which they developed. In the second half of the module, students will apply the theoretical approaches they learned to analyse and critically engage with case studies in which discretion was used by public officials, tackling a range of widely-familiar, as well as emerging, issues.

Module Syllabus

1.         Public Power and Discretion: Origins and Limits

2.         Formal Approaches to the Rule of Law

3.         Substantive Approaches to the Rule of Law

4.         Legitimate Goals and Functions

5.         Pursuing the Public’s Interests in Bad Ways

6.         Public Officials’ Duties in Wicked Legal System

7.         Discretion and Discrimination

8.         Exemptions and Accommodations

9.         Artificial Intelligence and Automated Decision-Making

10.       Private Individuals Fulfilling Public Functions


Recommended materials

Module reading lists and other materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have selected the course on enrolment.

Preliminary reading

Allan TRS, The Sovereignty of Law: Freedom, Constitution and Common Law (Oxford University Press 2013), Chapter 3;

Sossin L, ‘The Unfinished Project of Roncarelli v. Duplessis: Justiciability Discretion, and the Limits of the Rule of Law’ 55 McGill Law Journal 661 (2010).

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 credits (225 learning hours)

Dr Haim Abraham

Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:10 x 2-hour weekly seminars, Term One
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:

LLM in Human Rights Law

LLM in Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

LLM in Law and Social Justice

LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution

LLM in Public Law

Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:

Coursework (2,400 words) (80%)

Oral Presentation (10-15 minutes) (20%)