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Article

The Use of Technology (and Other Measures) to Increase Court Capacity

A View from Australia

Journal International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution, Issue 2 2021
Keywords court capacity, COVID-19, Australia, online dispute resolution, open justice, procedural fairness, access to justice, online courts, justice technology, judicial function
Authors Felicity Bell, Michael Legg, Joe McIntyre e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    The COVID-19 pandemic has forced courts around the world to embrace technology and other innovative measures in order to continue functioning. This article explores how Australian courts have approached this challenge. We show how adaptations in response to the pandemic have sometimes been in tension with principles of open justice, procedural fairness and access to justice, and consider how courts have attempted to resolve that tension.


Felicity Bell
Felicity Bell is a Research Fellow for the Law Society of NSW’s Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) research stream at UNSW Law, Sydney.

Michael Legg
Michael Legg is Professor and Director of the FLIP stream at UNSW Law, Sydney.

Joe McIntyre
Joe McIntyre is a Senior Lecturer in Law at UniSA: Justice and Society, University of South Australia.

Anna Olijnyk
Anna Olijnyk is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Public Law and Policy Research Unit at Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide, South Australia.
Article

Access_open Suffering from Vulnerability

On the Relation Between Law, Contingency and Solidarity

Journal Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Issue 2 2021
Keywords Vulnerability, Contingency, Freedom and Anxiety, Solidarity, Legal concept of inclusion
Authors Benno Zabel
AbstractAuthor's information

    The COVID-19 crisis has produced or amplified disruptive processes in societies. This article wants to argue for the fact that we understand the meaning of the COVID-19 crisis only if we relate it to the fundamental vulnerability of modern life and the awareness of vulnerability of whole societies. Vulnerability in modernity are expressions of a reality of freedom that is to some extent considered contingent and therefore unsecured. It is true that law is understood today as the protective power of freedom. The thesis of the article, however, boils down to the fact that the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a new way of thinking about the protection of freedom. This also means that the principle of solidarity must be assigned a new social role. Individual and societal vulnerability refer thereafter to an interconnectedness, dependency, and a future perspective of freedom margins that, in addition to the moral one, can also indicate a need for legal protection. In this respect, law has not only a function of delimitation, but also one of inclusion.


Benno Zabel
Benno Zabel is Professor of Criminal Law and Philosophy of Law at the University of Bonn.

    This comparative study looks into the proposed “vaccine passport” initiative from various human rights aspects. It was undertaken by the Global Digital Human Rights Network, an action started under the EU’s Cooperation in Science and Technology programme. The network currently unites more than 80 scholars and practitioners from 40 countries. The findings are based on responses to questions put to the network members by the authors of this study in February 2021.


Mart Susi
Mart Susi is Professor of Human Rights Law at Tallinn University, Editor-in-Chief, Action Chair of Global Digital Human Rights Network.

Tiina Pajuste
Tiina Pajuste is Professor of International Law and Security at Tallinn University.

    This study explores the spread of disinformation relating to the Covid-19 pandemic on the internet, dubbed by some as the pandemic’s accompanying “infodemic”, and the societal reactions to this development across different countries and platforms. The study’s focus is on the role of states and platforms in combatting online disinformation.
    Through synthesizing answers to questions submitted by more than 40 researchers from 20 countries within the GDHR Network, this exploratory study provides a first overview of how states and platforms have dealt with Corona-related disinformation. This can also provide incentives for further rigorous studies of disinformation governance standards and their impact across different socio-cultural environments.
    Regarding the platforms’ willingness and efficacy in removing (presumed) disinformation, a majority of submissions identifies a shift towards more intervention in pandemic times. Most submitters assess that this shift is widely welcomed in their respective countries and more often considered as taking place too slowly (rather than being perceived as entailing dangers for unjustified restrictions of freedom of expression). The picture is less clear when it comes to enforcing non-speech related infection prevention measures.
    While the dominant platforms have been able to defend, or even solidify, their position during the pandemic, communicative practices on those platforms are changing. For officials, this includes an increasing reliance on platforms, especially social networks, for communicating infection prevention rules and recommendations. For civil society, the pandemic has brought an increasing readiness – and perceived need – to intervene against disinformation, especially through fact-checking initiatives.
    National and local contexts show great variance at whether platform-driven disinformation is conceived as a societal problem. In countries where official sources are distrusted and/or seen as disseminating disinformation criticism against private information governance by platforms remains muted. In countries where official sources are trusted disinformation present on platforms is seen more negatively.
    While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram play important roles in the pandemic communication environment, some replies point towards an increasing importance of messaging apps for the circulation of Covid-19-related disinformation. These apps, like Telegram or WhatsApp, tend to fall under the radar of researchers, because visibility of content is limited and scraping is difficult, and because they are not covered by Network Enforcement Act-type laws that usually exclude one-to-one communication platforms (even if they offer one-to-many channels).
    Vis-à-vis widespread calls for a (re)territorialization of their content governance standards and processes amid the pandemic, platform companies have maintained, by and large, global standards. Standardized, featured sections for national (health) authorities to distribute official information via platforms are exceptions thereto.


Matthias C. Kettemann
Prof. dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard) is head of the research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces” at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut.

Martin Fertmann
Martin Fertmann is a PhD student at the Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut’s research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces”.

    Terms-of-service based actions against political and state actors as both key subjects and objects of political opinion formation have become a focal point of the ongoing debates over who should set and enforce the rules for speech on online platforms.
    With minor differences depending on national contexts, state regulation of platforms creating obligations to disseminate such actors’ information is considered dangerous for the free and unhindered discursive process that leads to the formation of public opinions.
    Reactions to the suspension of Trump as not the first, but the most widely discussed action of platform companies against a politician (and incumbent president) provide a glimpse on the state of platform governance debates across participating countries.
    Across the countries surveyed politicians tend to see the exercise of content moderation policies of large platform companies very critically
    The majority of politicians in European countries seem to be critical of the deplatforming of Trump, emphasizing fundamental rights and calling for such decisions to be made by states, not private companies
    These political standpoints stand in an unresolved conflict with the constitutional realities of participating countries, where incumbents usually cannot invoke fundamental rights when acting in their official capacities and where laws with “must carry” requirements for official information do not exist for social media and would likely only be constitutional for narrowly defined, special circumstances such as disaster prevention.
    Facebooks’ referral of the Trump-decision to its Oversight Board sparked a larger debate about institutional structures for improving content governance. The majority of participating countries has experience with self- or co-regulatory press-, media- or broadcasting councils to which comparisons can be drawn, foreshadowing the possible (co-regulatory) future of governing online speech.
    Media commentators in participating countries interpreted the deplatforming of Trump as a signal that far-right parties and politicians around the world may face increasing scrutiny, while conservative politicians and governments in multiple participating countries instrumentalized the actions against Trump as supposed proof of platform’s bias against conservative opinions.
    Even without specific legal requirements on content moderation, submissions from several countries refer to a general – often: constitutional – privileging of speech of politicians and office holders. This could potentially support or even compel the decisions of platforms to leave content of political actors up even if it violates their terms of service.


Martin Fertmann
Martin Fertmann is a PhD student at the Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut’s research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces”

Matthias C. Kettemann
Prof. dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard) is head of the research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces” at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut.
Article

Sustainability in Global Supply Chains Under the CISG

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 3 2021
Keywords CISG, sustainability, supply chains, UN Global Compact, Codes of Conduct, conformity of the goods
Authors Ingeborg Schwenzer and Edgardo Muñoz
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article, the authors assert that the United Nations Convention for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) can contribute to tackling gaps in statutory legislation and defective business conduct that have been associated with unsustainable trade in Global Supply Chains (GSCs). The authors provide evidence that the CISG contains rules enabling a general legal framework for establishing uniform sustainable standards for goods concerning suppliers, sellers and buyers located in different countries. For instance, the CISG provisions on contract formation ease the incorporation of joint codes of conduct for sustainable trade in GSCs. In addition, the contracting parties’ circumstances and current trade usages are now more relevant to determine what constitutes conformity of the goods under the contract and the default warranties in Article 35 CISG. On the level of remedies, the authors show that best-efforts provisions, possibly included in a code of conduct or inferred from standards applicable to the goods, may redefine the notion of impediment in Article 79 CISG, which could lead to exoneration of liability for the seller. They also demonstrate why fundamental breach and the calculation of damages are at the centre of the discussion regarding the remedies for breach of an obligation to deliver sustainable goods.


Ingeborg Schwenzer
Ingeborg Schwenzer is Dean of the Swiss International Law School (SiLS), Professor emerita of Private Law at the University of Basel (Switzerland) and past Chair of the CISG Advisory Council. Dr. iur. (Freiburg i.Br.), LLM (UC Berkeley).

Edgardo Muñoz
Edgardo Muñoz is Professor of Law, Universidad Panamericana. Facultad de Derecho. Calzada Álvaro del Portillo 49, Zapopan, Jalisco, 45010, México. PhD (Basel), LLM (UC Berkeley), LLM (Liverpool), LLB (UIA Mexico), DEUF (Lyon). This research has been funded by Universidad Panamericana through the grant ‘Fomento a la Investigación UP 2020’, under project code UP-CI-2020-GDL-04-DER.
Public Health Emergency: National, European and International Law Responses

Constitutional Rights in the Time of Pandemic

The Experience of Hungary

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Keywords state of emergency, emergency powers, restriction of fundamental rights, Fundamental Law, Constitutional Court of Hungary
Authors Lóránt Csink
AbstractAuthor's information

    Special circumstances may require special measures. This article is to highlight the importance of constitutional rights, also in the time of a pandemic. Its hypothesis is that constitutional rights are not luxuries one can only afford in peacetime, they are much rather at the core of civilization and democracy. History shows that a world without rights may easily turn into a nightmare. The article first focuses on the Hungarian constitutional basis of the state of emergency (Section 2). Next, it analyses the text of the constitution with respect to the limitation of fundamental rights and elaborates on the various interpretations through the lens of the case-law of the Constitutional Court (Sections 3-4). Finally, the article concludes that despite the rigid wording of the Hungarian Fundamental Law, constitutional rights can be restricted only if the restriction meets the necessity-proportionality test (Section 5)


Lóránt Csink
Lóránt Csink: associate professor of law, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest; counselor, Constitutional Court of Hungary, Budapest.
Public Health Emergency: National, European and International Law Responses

Defining the Common European Way of Life

Exploring the Concept of Europeanness

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Keywords European identity, Common European Way of Life, coronavirus, European citizenship, Hungary, enlargement policy, Europeanness
Authors Lilla Nóra Kiss and Orsolya Johanna Sziebig
AbstractAuthor's information

    The article focuses on the interpretation of the European Way of Life and the concept of Europeanness. Ursula von der Leyen determined the Promotion of the European Way of Life as a priority of the 2019-2024 Commission. The purpose behind this was to strengthen European democracy and place the citizens into the center of decision-making. The article examines the role of European identity, European citizenship and those historical-traditional conditions that make our way of life ‘common’. The Common European Way of Life may be defined as a value system based on the established legal basis of EU citizenship that can be grasped in the pursuit of common principles and the exercise of rights guaranteed to all EU citizens, limited only under exceptional circumstances and ensuring socio-economic convergence. The article covers general conceptual issues but also focuses on the extraordinary impact of the COVID-19. Lastly, the relevant aspects of enlargement policy are also explored.


Lilla Nóra Kiss
Lilla Nóra Kiss: Visiting Scholar at Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, Virginia, US.

Orsolya Johanna Sziebig
Orsolya Johanna Sziebig: senior lecturer, University of Szeged.
Public Health Emergency: National, European and International Law Responses

On the Constitutionality of the Punishment of Scaremongering in the Hungarian Legal System

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Keywords scaremongering, clear and present danger, COVID-19 pandemic, freedom of expression, Constitutional Court of Hungary
Authors András Koltay
AbstractAuthor's information

    Scaremongering criminalized as a limitation to freedom of speech in Hungarian law. In lack of relevant case-law, free speech commentators rarely discussed the provision until the Government took action to step up the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ensuing amendment of the Criminal Code in Spring 2020 brought the subject back to the forefront of public debate. The article analyses the constitutional issues related to the criminalization of scaremongering, taking the two available Constitutional Court decisions rendered in this subject as guideline. Though the newly introduced legislation attracted widespread criticism in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, a thorough examination of the new statutory elements makes it clear that public debate and critical opinions may not be stifled by prosecuting individuals for scaremongering. Although the applicable standard cannot yet be determined with full accuracy, the Constitutional Court’s decisions and relevant academic analysis resolve the main issues in order to protect freedom of expression, while the clarification of further details remains a matter for the case-law.


András Koltay
András Koltay: rector and professor of law, University of Public Service, Budapest; professor of law, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest.
Developments in European Law

Applicability of the GDPR on Personal Household Robots

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Keywords artificial intelligence, robots, personal data, GDPR, scenarios
Authors Gizem Gültekin Várkonyi
AbstractAuthor's information

    Recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics point to a close future collaboration between humans and machines. Even though the use of personal robots is not yet a phenomenon, findings in technical and legal literature highlight several possible risks inherent in the processing of personal data by such robots. This article contributes to the current discussions on the applicability of the GDPR to AI technologies from three aspects: (i) first, it encourages the use of a scenario method to predict possible future legal problems related to new technologies; (ii) second, it analyzes considerations with the support of the relevant case-law and present comparative expert opinions for overcoming the weak points of the GDPR relevant to AI; (iii) and finally, proposals made in the recommendations part aim to contribute to a better application of the GDPR to AI technologies in personal use.


Gizem Gültekin Várkonyi
Gizem Gültekin Várkonyi: junior research fellow, University of Szeged.
Public Health Emergency: National, European and International Law Responses

European State Aid Rules in Times of Pandemic

Distorting Competition Between European Airlines?

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Keywords state aid, air transport, airlines, COVID-19 pandemic, Ryanair
Authors Mónika Papp
AbstractAuthor's information

    The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate and profound impact on mobility and, more specifically, on air passenger transport: airlines were quickly stranded, and the Member States granted aid to air carriers subject to specific eligibility criteria. The Commission reacted swiftly to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and adopted its Temporary Framework under which vast amounts could be disbursed to market operators. The most controversial eligibility condition set by the Member States is the holding of a national license. This article’s research questions are, first, to explore the conditions under which Member States can grant large amounts of state aid to airlines, and second, to assess whether the requirement to hold a national license is compatible with EU law. By addressing these issues, this article seeks to improve our understanding of EU law’s capacity to tackle distortions of competition.


Mónika Papp
Mónika Papp: research fellow, Centre for Social Sciences, Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Budapest; senior lecturer, ELTE Law School, Budapest.
Developments in European Law

The Possibility of Using Article 72 TFEU as a Conflict-of-Law Rule

Hungary Seeking Derogation from EU Asylum Law

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Keywords Article 72 TFEU, internal security, conflict of law, Common European Asylum System, relocation decisions
Authors Ágnes Töttős
AbstractAuthor's information

    The purpose of this article is to examine how the CJEU circumscribed the room for maneuver of Member States for safeguarding their internal security and whether the use of and reference to Article 72 TFEU changed over the past years. The starting point of the analysis is the Hungarian asylum infringement case: the article looks back at earlier case-law and identifies how the reference to Article 72 TFEU shifted from considering it an implementation clause to the attempts at using it as a conflict-of-law rule. Although the article finds that the CJEU reduced the scope of possibly using Article 72 TFEU as a conflict-of-law rule and practically excludes its application by the setting high standards for this unique form of application, the article examines some extreme situations from 2020 where it could be validly referred to.


Ágnes Töttős
Ágnes Töttős: senior government counselor, Government Office of the Prime Minister, Budapest.
Editorial

Editorial Comments: COVID-19 – EU Citizenship and the Right to Free Movement in a Public Health Crisis

Foreword to Vol. 9 (2021) of the Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2021
Authors Laura Gyeney
Author's information

Laura Gyeney
Laura Gyeney: editor; associate professor of law, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest.
Article

Access_open The Common Law Remedy of Habeas Corpus Through the Prism of a Twelve-Point Construct

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2021
Keywords Habeas corpus, common law, detainee, consitution, liberty
Authors Chuks Okpaluba and Anthony Nwafor
AbstractAuthor's information

    Long before the coming of the Bill of Rights in written Constitutions, the common law has had the greatest regard for the personal liberty of the individual. In order to safeguard that liberty, the remedy of habeas corpus was always available to persons deprived of their liberty unlawfully. This ancient writ has been incorporated into the modern Constitution as a fundamental right and enforceable as other rights protected by virtue of their entrenchment in those Constitutions. This article aims to bring together the various understanding of habeas corpus at common law and the principles governing the writ in common law jurisdictions. The discussion is approached through a twelve-point construct thus providing a brief conspectus of the subject matter, such that one could have a better understanding of the subject as applied in most common law jurisdictions.


Chuks Okpaluba
Chuks Okpaluba, LLB LLM (London), PhD (West Indies), is a Research Fellow at the Free State Centre for Human Rights, University of the Free State, South Africa. Email: okpaluba@mweb.co.za.

Anthony Nwafor
Anthony O. Nwafor, LLB, LLM, (Nigeria), PhD (UniJos), BL, is Professor at the School of Law, University of Venda, South Africa. Email: Anthony.Nwafor@univen.ac.za.
Article

The Praise for a ‘Caretaker’ Leader

Gendered Press Coverage of Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès in a COVID-19 Context

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords political leadership, crisis, care, Belgium, gendered media coverage
Authors Clémence Deswert
AbstractAuthor's information

    Studies on media coverage of women politicians have underlined how the media contribute to the association of the figure of the political leader with masculinity. Yet, the social construction of leadership seems to evolve towards a more ‘femininity-inclusive’ definition. Research on the ‘glass cliff’ phenomenon suggests that stereotypical feminine attributes might be expected from political leaders in a time of crisis. We investigated the gendered construction of political leadership in the press in a COVID-19 context through the case of former Belgian Prime minister Sophie Wilmès. In line with the ‘think crisis-think female’ association, our discourse analysis shows an appreciation of traditionally feminine traits, and particularly care-related qualities, in the evaluation of what a ‘good’ leader should be in pandemic times, although some characteristics traditionally associated with masculinity are still considered valuable assets in the journalistic portrayal of Wilmès’ leadership.


Clémence Deswert
Clémence Deswert is a PhD candidate at the Political Science Department of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Her research interests include political communication and political representation of women. Declaration of interests: I confirm that this article was not submitted to or publicised in another journal. No conflict of interest exists.
Article

Access_open The Resilience of Democracy in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Democratic Compensators in Belgium, the Netherlands and France

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords COVID-19, crisis-management, democratic compensators, exceptionalism
Authors Tom Massart, Thijs Vos, Clara Egger e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since January 2020, European countries have implemented a wide range of restrictions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet governments have also implemented democratic compensators in order to offset the negative impacts of restrictions. This article aims to account for the variation of their use between Belgium, the Netherlands and France. We analyse three drivers: the strength of counterpowers, the ruling parties’ ideological leanings and political support. Building on an original data set, our results distinguish between embedded and ad hoc compensators. We find that ad hoc compensators are championed mainly by counterpowers, but also by ideology of the ruling coalitions in Belgium and the Netherlands and used strategically to maintain political support in France. Evidence on the link between embedded compensators and counterpowers is more ambiguous.


Tom Massart
Tom Massart is a PhD candidate at ULB / CEVIPOL. His research mainly focuses on European economic governance.

Thijs Vos
Thijs Vos is a political scientist and research assistant at Groningen University.

Clara Egger
Clara Egger is assistant professor in international relations at Groningen University. She is currently leading the Exceptius project on Covid19 containment policies in Europe.

Claire Dupuy
Claire Dupuy is professor of comparative politics at UCLouvain. She specializes in comparative public policy with a focus on multilevel governance, federalism and regionalization processes.

Constance Morel-Jean
Constance Morel-Jean is a master’s student at Grenoble-Alpes University. She specialises in the study of political behaviour.

Raul Magni-Berton
Raul Magni-Berton is professor of political science at Grenoble-Alpes University, PACTE research unit. His research mainly focuses on democracy, its institutions and norms.

Sébastian Roché
Sebastian Roché is CNRS Research Professor at Grenoble-Alpes University, PACTE research unit. He specializes in policing and legitimacy studies.

    In its decision rendered on 28 February 2019, the Luxembourg Court of Appeal (Cour d’appel de Luxembourg) examined under which circumstances on-call duty performed at the workplace qualifies as actual working time.
    The issue raised was whether the time spent at night by an employee (i.e. the presence of an employee at the workplace) performing the work of a live-in carer was to be considered as ‘actual working time’.
    The Court expressly referred to EU case law and decided that the concept of actual working time is defined by two criteria, namely (i) whether the employee during such a period must be at the employer’s disposal, and (ii) the interference with the employee’s freedom to choose their activities.
    In view of the working hours provided for in the employment contract and in the absence of evidence proving that the employee would not have been at the employer’s home during her working hours, the Court found that the employee stayed at the employer’s home at night and at the employer’s request. It was irrelevant in this respect whether it was for convenience or not. It was further established that the employee could not leave during the night and return to her home and go about her personal business, so that the hours she worked at night were to be considered as actual working time.
    Given that the employee’s objections regarding her salary were justified (as the conditions of her remuneration violated statutory provisions), the Court decided that the dismissal was unfair.


Michel Molitor
Michel Molitor is the managing partner of MOLITOR Avocats à la Cour SARL in Luxembourg, www.molitorlegal.lu.

    On 22 May 2020, fifty-two members of the Hungarian parliament petitioned the Constitutional Court which was requested to establish the unconstitutionality of Section 6(4) of Government Decree no. 47/2020 (III. 18), its conflict with an international treaty and to annul it with retroactive effect to the date of its entry into force. According to Section 6(4) of the Decree “in a separate agreement, the employee and the employer may depart from the provisions of the Labour Code” (i.e. ‘absolute dispositivity’). The petition, among other things, alleged the violation of equal treatment and the right to rest and leisure. The Constitutional Court rejected the motion to establish the unconstitutionality of Section 6(4) and its annulment, since it was repealed on 18 June 2020. The Constitutional Court may, as a general rule, examine the unconstitutionality of the legislation in force, however it was no longer possible to examine the challenged piece of legislation in the framework of a posterior abstract norm control.


Kristof Toth
Kristof Toth is PhD student at the Karoli Gaspar University in Hungary.
Article

Democratic Scrutiny of COVID-19 Laws

Are Parliamentary Committees Up to the Job?

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords parliament, scrutiny, committees, COVID-19, rights, legislation, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom
Authors Sarah Moulds
AbstractAuthor's information

    In response to the complex and potentially devastating threat posed by COVID-19, parliaments around the world have transferred unprecedented powers to executive governments and their agencies (Edgar, ‘Law-making in a Crisis’, 2020), often with the full support of the communities they represent. These laws were passed within days, sometimes hours, with limited safeguards and a heavy reliance on sunsetting provisions, some of which are dependent on the pandemic being officially called to an end. While parliaments themselves have suspended or reduced sitting days (Twomey, ‘A Virtual Australian Parliament is Possible’, 2020), parliamentary committees have emerged as the forum of choice when it comes to providing some form of parliamentary oversight of executive action.
    This article aims to evaluate the capacity of parliamentary committees established within the Australian, New Zealand (NZ) and United Kingdom (UK) parliaments to effectively scrutinize and review governments’ responses to COVID-19. It does this by comparing the legal framework underpinning the relevant committees in each jurisdiction and examining the work of these committees with a view to offering some preliminary views as to their impact on the shape of the laws made in response to COVID-19 in those jurisdictions. The article concludes by offering some preliminary observations about the scrutiny capacity of the parliamentary committee systems in Australia, NZ and the UK in the context of emergency lawmaking and flags areas for further research, evaluation and reform.


Sarah Moulds
Dr. Sarah Moulds, University of South Australia.
Article

Access_open Approach with Caution

Sunset Clauses as Safeguards of Democracy?

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords emergency legislation, sunset clauses, post-legislative review, COVID-19
Authors Sean Molloy
AbstractAuthor's information

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders across the globe scrambled to adopt emergency legislation. Amongst other things, these measures gave significant powers to governments in order to curb the spreading of a virus, which has shown itself to be both indiscriminate and deadly. Nevertheless, exceptional measures, however necessary in the short term, can have adverse consequences both on the enjoyment of human rights specifically and democracy more generally. Not only are liberties severely restricted and normal processes of democratic deliberation and accountability constrained but the duration of exceptional powers is also often unclear. One potentially ameliorating measure is the use of sunset clauses: dispositions that determine the expiry of a law or regulation within a predetermined period unless a review determines that there are reasons for extension. The article argues that without effective review processes, far from safeguarding rights and limiting state power, sunset clauses can be utilized to facilitate the transferring of emergency powers whilst failing to guarantee the very problems of normalized emergency they are included to prevent. Thus, sunset clauses and the review processes that attach to them should be approached with caution.


Sean Molloy
Dr Sean Molloy is a Lecturer in Law at Northumbria University.
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