Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Patricia Popelier

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

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 Patricia Popelier, Professor of Law at the University of Antwerp. Her bio follows below:

Patricia Popelier defended her prize-winning PhD in 1997 at the University of Antwerp, and thereafter obtained a FWO post-doctoral research grant. In 1998, she was appointed to a part-time lecturing position at the University of Antwerp, where she later became a full-time associate professor in 2000 and full professor in 2007. She was head of the research group on government and law, and chair of the Antwerp Doctoral School. She is now vice-dean for research at the faculty of law and vice-chair of the International Association of Legislation. Popelier is a member of the editorial board of several journals and book series. She has co-authored or co-edited several books, including The Constitution of Belgium: A Contextual Analysis (2015), The Effects of Judicial Decisions in Time (2014), The Role of Constitutional Courts in Multilevel Governance (2013), and Constitutional Conversations in Europe: Actors, Topics and Procedures (2012).

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

Currently I am writing a paper with my colleague Samantha Bielen, an economist, in an effort to measure and explain on an empirical basis the centralizing and decentralizing effects of the Belgian Constitutional Court in federalism disputes – and hope to expand that to courts in other countries later on. I am also finishing papers for upcoming conferences: one on the judicial enforcement of impact assessments, another on legal certainty and the effects of EU laws in time.

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

When my children were small, I was forced to use the available time as efficient as possible. This helped me in building a routine. I have two tools to help me organize my time. One is a to-do list. Another is the habit to do things immediately – or at least start them up so I have an idea of how time consuming it is – and not wait for the deadline. Usually I write in between other tasks but I regularly keep a half day available for writing at home, where I am undisturbed.

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

There are so many interesting scholars in this field of law that is constantly evolving – I could not possibly list them all. What I appreciate most is scholarship that continues to innovate in topics and methodology. In the field of legislative studies, Alberto Alemanno would be one of those scholars. Ran Hirschl is on the top of my list for his writings on the methodology of comparative constitutional law. But mainly I am interested in papers rather than authors.

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 read Lon Fuller’s The Morality of Law for a jurisprudence course when I was a last-year Erasmus student at the University of Sussex, which inspired me for my PhD on legal certainty as a principle for proper lawmaking. But even more influential were Luhmann’s books on Risk and Vertrauen. He taught me to see law as a way of dealing with time and complexity and inspired me to take a dynamic approach to legal certainty in my PhD – and to other doctrines, such as federalism, later in my career.

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

In the field of federalism studies and multilevel governance, one of the big questions that interests me is: What are the driving mechanism for the dynamics of states, the forces that have centralizing effects for some political systems and decentralizing effects for others, to the point of disintegration and secession – and can we turn these forces through constitutional engineering?


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