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Vulnerability Theory and Access to Justice: Elaborating Possibilities for Legal System Design

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

The Department of Legal Studies cordially invites you to the upcoming Brown Bag seminar with visiting professor Andrew Pilliar on Wednesday, October 25, 12.30 – 1.30 pm. Prof. Pilliar will present his chapter “Vulnerability Theory and Access to Justice: Elaborating Possibilities for Legal System Design”, published in the edited volume Law, Vulnerability, and the Responsive State : Beyond Equality and Liberty edited by Martha Albertson Fineman and Laura Spitz (Routledge, 2023).

The seminar will be held in hybrid format.

Zoom details:

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Zoom link

Meeting ID: 979 5239 6399

Passcode: 363493

Room: D. 307



What does Martha Fineman’s vulnerability theory suggest about making the legal system itself a responsive social institution? Drawing on a recently-published chapter, this talk explores how vulnerability theory can play a key role in responding to calls for improved access to justice by developing a person-centred normative vision for the legal system. The talk touches on recent empirical research on the scope and scale of access to justice problems, and critically assesses the normative frameworks that scholars, jurists, and policy makers have deployed in addressing access to justice concerns. Vulnerability theory presents a novel normative framework for access to justice work, and one that holds the potential to reinvigorate and coordinate access to justice research and responses. The talk explores what a person-centred conception of access to justice, rooted in vulnerability theory, might look like, and the implications of such a conception for legal institutions, the delivery of legal services, and legal education. The talk will also briefly touch on future directions for this work, including further elaboration of what person-centred justice might mean, and building the scaffolding for a novel empirical sub-field: justice epidemiology.


Speaker bio

Andrew Pilliar is an Associate Professor of Law at Thompson Rivers University, located in British Columbia, Canada. He holds a JD from the University of Toronto, and LLM and PhD from the University of British Columbia. His research focusses on access to civil justice, and particularly on generating new theoretical frameworks and empirical approaches to understand and address access to justice concerns. In addition to his academic career, Andrew has been a judicial clerk, civil and commercial litigator, bankruptcy and insolvency lawyer, and family lawyer. He is visiting CEU for three months while on sabbatical, and will be working on projects relating to person-centred justice, justice epidemiology, and courts’ inherent jurisdiction. This is a return to CEU for Andrew – he visited CEU (in Budapest) while on exchange in law school in 2005. Ask him about recent experiences taking night trains through Europe with three small children.