This course explores the nature of constitutional government by studying how the constitutional arrangements of different states – especially Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – frame and discipline the exercise of public power. The course considers the foundations of constitutional law and practice, the idea of constitutionalism, and constitutional principles including the separation of powers and the rule of law. It also looks at some main questions of institutional design including legislative-executive relations, federalism and devolution, bicameralism and judicial review. The course addresses how constitutions change, how judges (and others) interpret the constitution, and how/if comparative constitutional law itself should inform these processes.

Topics covered include:

  • the political foundations of constitutions
  • types of constitution
  • constitution-making and constituent power
  • sources of constitutional law and practice
  • political vs legal constitutionalism
  • the principle of the separation of powers
  • the principle of the rule of law
  • parliamentary vs presidential systems
  • bicameralism
  • federalism and devolution
  • international law and the constitution
  • amendment
  • constitutional interpretation
  • strong and weak-form judicial review
  • proportionality and rights adjudication
  • statutory interpretation and the constitution.

Associate Professor Richard Ekins

Professor Ekins is a Tutorial Fellow in Law at St John's College, the University of Oxford, and teaches administrative law, constitutional law and theory, human rights law, and jurisprudence. His research interests lie in constitutional law and theory and in legal and political philosophy, with a particular focus on the exercise of legislative authority. Richard is the author of The Nature of Legislative Intent (2012, OUP, Oxford) and editor of Modern Challenges to the Rule of Law (2011, LexisNexis, Wellington).

Course information

Course code

27, 28, 29, 30 April 2017