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Timothy Andrew Orville Endicott


Timothy Andrew Orville Endicott

University of Oxford United Kingdom

Professor Timothy Endicott is a Fellow in Law at Balliol College, Oxford, and has been a Professor of Legal Philosophy in the University of Oxford since 2006. From 2007 to 2015, Professor Endicott served as the first Dean of the Faculty of Law in Oxford. He teaches and writes on legal philosophy and constitutional and administrative law, with special interests in law and language and interpretation.

He is the author of Vagueness in Law (OUP 2000; translated into Spanish by Alberto del Real and Juan Vega as La Vaguedad en el Derecho (Dykinson SL, 2006)), Palabras y reglas (a collection of essays translated into Spanish by Pablo Navarro and Rodrigo Sanchez Brígido, Editorial: Fontamara, 2004), and Administrative Law, 3rd ed (OUP 2015). After graduating with the AB in Classics and English, summa cum laude, from Harvard, he completed the MPhil in Comparative Philology in Oxford, studied Law at the University of Toronto, and practised as a litigation lawyer in Toronto. He completed the DPhil in legal philosophy in Oxford in 1998.


Project:  Relations among authorities: an inquiry in the philosophy of law

The research will address fundamental questions of the ways in which authorities ought to interact, either within a normative system (such as a nation state, or the European Union, or the system of the European Convention on Human Rights), or as authorities in independent states in international law.
An authority often needs to take account of the decisions of another authority, in order to carry out its own responsibilities. The basic principle for relations among authorities is the principle of comity: an authority passing judgment on the decisions of another authority ought to act in a way that respects the capacity of the other authority to carry out its own role. A duty of comity does not depend on the correctness of the decisions of another authority, and is not essentially a matter of the rights of authorities; it results from an authority's duties to those whom it serves, and to those who are served by other authorities.
The study will seek to work out the implications of the basic principle of comity for constitutional law and for domestic and international human rights law. I will focus on fundamental legal concepts that have been used to govern relations among authorities, in particular the concepts of jurisdiction and subsidiarity, and the doctrine of a ‘margin of appreciation’ in the law of the European Court of Human Rights. I will also ask whether a doctrine of arbitrariness in judicial decision making involves considerations of comity toward the decision makers whose decisions are subject to review by judges.

To what extent is it appropriate for the European Court of Human Rights to allow a margin of appreciation to contracting states under the European Convention on Human Rights? Does it amount to allowing contracting states to violate human rights with impunity? Or is it a good technique for achieving better decisions as to the proper limits of human rights? Is it even a coherent idea, when there is deep controversy as to whether particular decisions fall within the margin or outside it? What is the relationship between the margin of appreciation and the principle of subsidiarity? And is there a range of discretion that courts ought to allow to political actors within a domestic legal system, in the interest of the separation of powers? How is such a range of discretion similar to, and different from, the margin of appreciation under the European Convention on Human Rights?
While my Catedra de Excelencia will focus on this project on the theory of constitutional law and human rights law, I will also be working on philosophy of interpretation, as I am completing a book on connections between philosophy of law and philosophy of language. The work on philosophy of interpretation is connected to the work on the philosophy of authority, as I argue that interpretive authorities ought to act with comity toward legislative authorities.

Stay period: JAN 2016 - JUN 2016