—Richard Albert, Boston College Law School
“Five Questions with … ” is a brand new feature at I-CONnect. We will periodically invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.
Victor Ferreres Comella, Professor of Constitutional Law, Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona) obtained his JSD at Yale Law School, with a thesis on Judicial Review and Democracy (1996). His work has focused on constitutional courts, fundamental rights, European supranational structures, and arbitration. His most recent books are Constitutional Courts and Democratic Values. A European Perspective (Yale University Press, 2009), and The Constitution of Spain: A Contextual Analysis (Hart Publishing, 2013). He has also written two books in Spanish: Justicia constitucional y democracia (Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, 1997), which won the “Francisco Tomás y Valiente” Prize, and El principio de taxatividad en material penal y el valor normativo de la jurisprudencia (Civitas, 2002). As a visiting professor, he has taught at New York University School of Law (2001, 2003, and 2007), and at the University of Texas School of Law (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016). For ten years (2001-2011) he also taught at the Spanish Judicial School.
1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.
I am currently working on a book on arbitration, which seeks to explore the most important constitutional issues that the growing practice of arbitration raises. My discussion covers arbitration in private law, in the field of investment law, and in the domain of public international law.
2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?
I normally have a book project to work on, and I try not to be distracted with too many commitments to write on other topics. However, I do not write every day. I devote long periods to do background reading, and then I spend time on intense writing. I always have a document, however, where I register the main ideas as I go on with my research. I also like to keep notes of all the important books and articles that are relevant. I do not use all those notes for the book, but I find it very useful to keep that material as a source of basic information. It is also helpful to use that material to prepare courses or seminars on the subject.
3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new?
There are several authors in the area of constitutional and legal theory whose work has always interested me: Bruce Ackerman, Owen Fiss, Lawrence Sager, Sanford Levinson, Cass Sunstein, Mark Tushnet, Vicki Jackson, Ronald Dworkin, Jeremy Waldron quickly come to mind.
4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a law student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?
I wrote my doctoral dissertation at Yale Law School on the potential tension between judicial review and democracy. The classical work that triggered the modern discussion on this issue in the United States is Alexander Bickel’s book, “The Least Dangerous Branch”. I was very impressed by it. Bickel offered interesting ideas, such as his defense of the “passive virtues”. My own work on constitutional courts in Europe was shaped, in part, as a response to Bickel. I tried to make the case that constitutional courts patterned after the centralized model have an “anti-Bickellian” tendency, for they are structurally designed to be relatively activist, not passive.
5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?
I think one of the largest questions on the table is how to make sense of the role of domestic constitutions in the context of globalization and regionalization. There is still a lot of interdisciplinary work that needs to be done in this area, especially in order to better understand the forms of democracy in our present and future world.