Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making

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This crazy story about a university claiming that posters in a window “break the law” is a good example of how chaotic and inconsistent law-making can lead to a denial of liberty. Quick thread. #

I’ve been doing some reading on the ‘chilling effect’ recently. It’s usually used with regards to freedom of expression, but it’s a term imported from US legal thought, and can be applied to any kind of liberty or lawful activity. #

Supreme Court Justice William Brennan warned of how a ‘chill’ can be “generated by vagueness, overbreadth and unbridled discretion” of laws/state powers used to curb speech. (Dissent in Walker v City of Birmingham, 388 US 307 in 1967) # Continue reading “Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making”

Talking About Coronavirus Testing Inefficiencies on the BBC

I have some mild coronavirus-like symptoms. Its probably nothing, but now everyone in our household needs a test. Life and work are on hold while we struggle to get an appointment, and then wait for the results.

Yesterday morning I spoke to Vanessa Feltz on the BBC Radio London Breakfast show about my frustrations. You can listen below or on SoundCloud. The full show is available on BBC Sounds for 30 days.
Continue reading “Talking About Coronavirus Testing Inefficiencies on the BBC”

Cold Take: The EU Referendum Act should have included implementation provisions

For A Thing, I’ve been reading the court judgments in the controversial Brexit cases brought by Gina Miller.

The first of these was R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin) and [2017] UKSC 5.

The outcome of the case is well known. Theresa May wanted to send the Article 50 notification to Brussels, and believed she could do so without recourse to parliament, because the making and breaking of treaties is a prerogative power. The claimants disagreed, saying that parliament had created new domestic rights and a new source of law when it enacted the European Communities Act 1972, which only parliament could undo.

Continue reading “Cold Take: The EU Referendum Act should have included implementation provisions”

Accessibility, Freedom of Information and the Faulks Reports (plural)

Last month, the government announced the membership of the panel who will undertake a ‘review of administrative law’ and published some terms of reference. The chair of the panel will be Lord Edward Faulks, who many fear has already made up his mind that the boundaries of judicial review have strayed too far into political matters: in February, he wrote an article for Conservative Home in which he suggested that the Supreme Court’s decision in Miller/Cherry [2019] UKSC 41 (concerning the controversial prorogation of parliament) was “an assertion of judicial power that cannot be justified by constitutional law or principle.”

Judicial review is of crucial importance to any democracy. It allows the judicial branch of government to check the power of the executive branch of government, to ensure that elected and appointed officials do not exceed the powers given to them by the legislative branch of government. It is a means to prevent corruption and to protect the citizen against, as the Conservative Party manifesto put it [PDF, page 48], an “overbearing state.” Continue reading “Accessibility, Freedom of Information and the Faulks Reports (plural)”

If You Have Time, I Think I Would Find The Answers To These Questions Helpful

  • What is the top thing that your ideological opponents misrepresent about your position?
  • What is the top thing that your opponents say is a tenet of your position, but about which there is in fact much disagreement between you and your allies?
  • What’s the worst argument that people on your side put forward for your position?
  • What’s your opponent’s best argument?

Borges, Maynard, Funes, Harper’s and Depp

Long time followers will be aware of my love of the writing of Jorge Luis Borges. A couple of this week’s news stories have a Borgesian flavour to them. Or rather, they give rise to old themes that Borges articulates very well. #

The first of these is ‘The Letter’ – an open letter signed by prominent writers and academics published in Harper’s Magazine, bemoaning the rise of cancel culture. It seems to have divided Twitter, with many people criticising the generic text based upon those who signed it. #

Continue reading “Borges, Maynard, Funes, Harper’s and Depp”

Sometimes ‘Cancel Culture’ *Is* A Free Speech Issue

A letter in Harper’s Magazine, supporting the principle of free speech and bemoaning ‘cancel culture,’ has caused something of a stir. At least, on Twitter.

In itself, the letter is unobjectionable. However, many people think it is an ill-timed, coded rebuke to the social justice campaigns of the moment:

I think the uproar is more about the timing and the context in which this letter engages (BLM, TERF wars etc), which feels very dog whistle-y.

@sysh

Others have ridiculed its premise and the signatories. They say that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, and that if an audience reacts negatively to something they find offensive, that is merely a manifestation of free speech.

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I Made a Zine to Summarise Donoghue v Stevenson, a Landmark Case in the Tort of Negligence

I am enjoying Austin Kleon’s obsession with zines and decided to make one for myself.

I chose to summarise Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] UKHL 100, a landmark case in the development of the tort of negligence, and also for manufacturers liability for defective products. Continue reading “I Made a Zine to Summarise Donoghue v Stevenson, a Landmark Case in the Tort of Negligence”

Journalists Under Attack

I’m incredibly busy with a couple of major things at the moment made more difficult by the lockdown.

(No, not A Thousand And One Recaps — that’s ticking along just fine).

As a result of my distractions, have not had time to post about the appalling UK coronavirus death rate, the preposterous lockdown sabotage by Dominic Cummings, the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, or the atrocious glorification of violence by Donald Trump that has finally caused Twitter to place warnings next to his Tweets.

My silence on all these issues is not to be taken as due to a lack of opinion, or sufficient emotion about each of them. I just don’t have time.

Continue reading “Journalists Under Attack”