Overview of the chapter

The aim of this chapter is twofold. First, I aim to document some of the existing contributions of empirical legal research to the mainstream study of public law. This, it is hoped, will have a dual benefit. Socio-legal scholars should be able to see that 'orthodox' legal scholarship has a great deal of the socio-legal in it. In return, orthodox lawyers should be able to see that so-called socio-legal scholarship has long been a core element of the public law field. This is an important message. It should help us move beyond unhelpful distinctions such as that between socio-legal and black-letter approaches to law - a distinction that risks obscuring more than it reveals.

The second aim of the chapter is to explore additional examples of empirical legal research which have, to an extent, been overlooked thus far within the public law canon. The objective here is to build on the existing use of empirical public law research and show how the additional examples might shape the study of public law further. Once we acknowledge the fact that empirical work is a core feature of orthodox public law scholarship, we should follow the mandate to approach public law empirically to the full.

The above two aims are achieved in tandem by setting out the different ways in which empirical legal research does and can enrich the teaching of public law. The suggestion is that there are three key themes within public law to which empirical work contributes: first, it offers knowledge about the structure of our constitutional arrangements - it maps out, in other words, the offices and organizations, which either exercise public power or render those exercises of power accountable; second, it reveals the ways public bodies actually operate, offering insights into what our constitutional values are and how and why these change over time; and third, it helps us examine the use and effectiveness of accountability mechanisms. Each of these contributions is considered in turn.

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