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Five Questions with Lorenza Violini

Richard Albert, The University of Texas at Austin

In “Five Questions” here at I-CONnect, we invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.

This edition of “Five Questions” features Lorenza Violini, Professor of Law at the University of Milan. Her full bio follows below:

Lorenza Violini is a professor of law at the State University of Milan. She was trained in Italy, Germany, and the United States, where she received a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She researches and teaches in the fields of human rights, comparative law, and constitutional law.

Professor Violini has been appointed as head of the Department of Italian and Supranational Public Law of the State University of Milan and formerly served as director of the Department of Public, Civil Procedure, International, and European Law of the same university (2010–12). She has been a member of the Management Board of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Scientific Committee for Family of the Lombardy Region, and the Union of the Italian Catholic Jurists. In 2013 she served as a member of the Italian Government Committee for Constitutional Reform. Currently she serves as a member of the Bioethics Commission of the National Research Council and she is a member of the Board of the Italian Association of Constitutional Law.

Professor Violini’s written works include Human Dignity and Right to Life (2013, with Marilena Gennusa), Legal Traditions in Dialogue: Elementary Experience Tested by Diversity (2012, with Paolo Carozza), and Bioethics and Laicity (2008).

1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.

I am currently working on three main projects:

The first deals with the role of non-judicial bodies (Agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, Monitoring bodies etc.) as key actors for a global fundamental rights protection policy. This non-judicial approach is intended to help developing a comprehensive fundamental rights protection, which cannot be limited to the role of the judiciary.

Secondly, I am working on the relationship between Constitutionalism and Sustainable Development and in particular on the implementation of Goal 16 of the UN 2030 Agenda (a project recently financed by the Italian Ministry of Education within the Department of Excellence Program).

A third stream of my research is focused on the institutional relations between State and Regions in the light of the EU integration process and as an answer to the quest of autonomy which is widespread in European member states, as the case of Catalonia clearly shows.

2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?

I do not have a routine. I try to find some time to write between meetings, academic commitments and also family obligations (having five kids makes it difficult to have a routine).

I can write wherever I find the time: at home, on the train, in coffee shops, at the airport. Noise never disturbs me. On the contrary, it is a challenge to my concentration and I like challenges.

But, as everybody knows, the main issue in our profession is not to write but to read. Since my childhood I have always been a “compulsive” reader, a “reading addict”, forgetting everything when having in my hands a book or a newspaper. One of the privileges of our profession is the duty of staying updated: experiencing ideas flowing from reading as the basis for our writing is one of the activities that is most similar to contemplating the mystery of nature and of human life.

3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new? 

I love reading J.H.H.Weiler, Armin Von Bogdandy, Bruce Ackermann, Bruno de Witte, Ran Hirschl, Sabino Cassese, Jan Wouters, and among my Italian colleagues Andrea Morrone and Nicolò Zanon.

4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?

I owe a lot to my two first mentors, Prof. Giovanni Grottanelli de Santi and Prof. Gianfranco Mor. Prof. Giovanni Grottanelli de Santi’s Introduction of Constitutional Law (1982) has been very important for his realistic approach to the basic principles of public law, which connected constitutional law with administrative law, the latter as the natural development of the former.

The Division of Powers by Prof. Giovanni Bognetti, has always been a source of inspiration for its deep comparative perspective.

Several essays by Prof. E.W. Böckenförde in his book Staat, Gesellschaft, Freiheit have been the basis of my first full course in constitutional law, back in the eighties. I used to start my classes exploring with my students his critique to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. His writings on the role of constitutional courts in the protection of rights have anticipated the present debate on judicialization.

Finally, let me mention two wonderful German novels: Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich Von Kleist and Die Letze am Schafott by Gertrud von Le Fort: both of them describe man’s struggle and failures in pursuing justice.

5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?

The future of constitutionalism in its links to democracy as a device for limiting and controlling the exercise of political power is certainly a key question for our contemporary debate. How do constitutional principles face the problem of making democracy “sustainable”? Moreover, how can we meet the needs of future generations?

The relationship between law and science is also a fascinating field of research, which raises very important questions. How can scientific knowledge interact with legal decisions? What is the impact of scientific progress on our legal systems? These are open questions that need to be further explored.

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Published on May 11, 2018
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