In October 2022, the Essex Law School launched the Constitutional and Administrative Justice Initiative (CAJI). This builds on and extends the work of the UK Administrative Justice Institute which was established in 2014 with funding from the Nuffield Foundation to kickstart the expansion of empirical research on administrative justice in the UK. Since 2018, the Institute has been funded by Essex Law School to progress the priorities set out in its Research Roadmap.
Establishing CAJI reflects the importance of connecting research and scholarship on administrative justice with Essex Law School’s broader public law scholarship on constitutional justice, judicial review, comparative public law, constitutional theory, social justice and human rights.
CAJI’s core team
Maurice Sunkin KC (Hon), Professor of Public Law and Socio-Legal Studies, is co-director of CAJI and a member of the team that originally established the UK Administrative Justice Institute.
Theodore Konstadinides, Professor of Law, co-director of CAJI.
Lee Marsons, CAJI’s research officer.
CAJI also has an advisory group comprising of colleagues from the Essex Law School as well as other departments of the University of Essex and external participants from academia and NGOs.
The importance of constitutional and administrative justice
Constitutional justice concerns matters critical to the relationship between the citizen and the state, including adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, accountability before the law and fairness in its application. At its core, it concerns state protection of our constitutional rights such as liberty, equal protection under the law and procedural due process. This requires decision-makers to respect their constitutional responsibilities: that the legislature legislates, and the executive governs according to established constitutional principles and that both branches are politically and legally accountable. Hence, constitutional justice is often discussed in the context of constitutionalism meaning that in serving the people the legislature and the executive are themselves governed by fundamental rules rooted in the consent of the people.
A commitment to the rule of law and avoidance of arbitrary exercise of power by the executive and those acting on its behalf are vital components of constitutional justice and good government. The decisions of independent courts demand respect and play a vital role in providing redress to those adversely affected by state action, constraining the unlawful exercise of state powers, and safeguarding fundamental constitutional values.
The impact of the European Union and the Council of Europe and its advisory bodies such as the Venice Commission have become key in the globalisation of constitutional justice. This development entails the consolidation of constitutional principles common to their signatories and the maintenance of coherent standards of constitutional rights protection. Recent threats to the independence of the judiciary in several European countries show that we cannot assume that appropriate constitutional standards are easily enforced.
At its core, administrative justice is about ensuring that those delivering public services act justly and make correct decisions and about what can be done when things go wrong. It encompasses matters of everyday importance that affect most of us at some point, such as education, health care housing, immigration, land use planning, social security and taxation.
We are interested in how public services are designed and delivered, how legislation is drafted, how people are consulted about laws and policies, how people can challenge decisions by public bodies, how redress bodies consider those challenges, and how learning from such challenges is used to improve delivery and decision-making in the first place. These matters are of vital importance to society.
Professor Theodore Konstadinides, CAJI co-director and Academic Lead for Public Law, stated:
“The CAJI is a research hub within the Essex Law School that builds on the legacy of the UK Administrative Justice Institute and pays tribute to all the amazing research that colleagues like Andrew Le Sueur and Maurice Sunkin have undertaken in public law and socio-legal studies.
CAJI’s research agenda is ambitious in that it draws on many issues pertaining to the exercise of public authority at all levels with the aim of improving the quality of decision making and access to justice in the UK and at international level.
While it is an active research hub of the Law School, CAJI embraces academics from multiple disciplines and acts as a forum to discuss how we conduct research where the doctrinal meets the empirical.
CAJI is also interested in how academic research can contribute on the ground by advising public bodies and NGOs about pertinent issues of public life and commenting about complex topics in a way that is accessible to the wider public. Questions related to institutional independence, just government, states’ international obligations, modern living environments, provide exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary research and postgraduate research study. Our work dovetails neatly with the University’s research priorities in social deprivation, sustainability and health and wellbeing.
We therefore invite prospective visiting researchers and PhD students to contact us in order to discuss their ideas and potential opportunities for future collaboration.”
How to find us
CAJI is based in the Essex Law School at Wivenhoe Park.
As part of this change, UKAJI’s website – available here – will be migrated to a dedicated webpage on Essex Law School’s website. All original content will be protected.
UKAJI also has a Twitter account which will be maintained during this process.