Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Five Questions with Rosalind Dixon

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.

Our third edition of “Five Questions with … ” features Rosalind Dixon, Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, in Australia. Her official bio follows below:

Rosalind Dixon is a Professor of Law, at the University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law. She earned her BA and LLB from the University of New South Wales, and was an associate to the Chief Justice of Australia, the Hon. Murray Gleeson AC, before attending Harvard Law School, where she obtained an LLM and SJD. Her work focuses on comparative constitutional law and constitutional design, theories of constitutional dialogue and amendment, socio-economic rights and constitutional law and gender, and has been published in leading journals in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, including the Cornell Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, International Journal of Constitutional Law, American Journal of Comparative Law, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies and Sydney Law Review. She is co-editor, with Tom Ginsburg, of a leading handbook on comparative constitutional law, ComparativeConstitutional Law (Edward Elgar, 2011), and a related volume, Comparative Constitutional Law in Asia (Edward Elgar, 2014), co-editor (with Mark Tushnet and Susan Rose-Ackermann) of the Edward Elgar series on Constitutional and Administrative Law, on the editorial board of the Public Law Review, and associate editor of the Constitutions of the World series for Hart publishing.  Dixon is a member of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and deputy director of the Herbert Smith Freehills Initiative on Law and Economics. She previously served as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

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

I am currently working on three main projects: a project on amendment with David Landau, which extends our prior work on the unconstitutional amendment doctrine and turns to questions of constitutional design; a project with Julie Suk on constitutions and economic inequality, which explores the general absence in democratic constitutions of any direct protection against discrimination based on wealth, income or poverty; and a piece on ‘responsive judicial review’, which continues my ongoing work on strong-weak forms of judicial review.

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

I write in the office generally… and like Mark Tushnet, try and do other professional reading (teaching preparation, reading this blog and colleagues’ work etc) in coffee shops and at home.  I try and write every weekday I am not teaching more than a few hours… though of course no one with small children can ever keep to a true routine.

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

I try and keep up with a range of comparative scholars–and tend to follow themes more than names.  It is hard to keep up with everything one wants to read, though. It is a great restatement to the field that there is so much high quality work being done–and that the reading list is so long as a result.

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 continue to go back to Etienne Mureinik’s piece on the South African Constitution, on a culture of justification.  It is a short piece, and focused more on executive action than most of my own work, but captures something very deep about what I think constitutionalism stands for in a world of reasonable disagreement.  A related piece by my SJD advisor Frank Michelman, which I read early in my career and influenced me, is in the first issue of I.CON–on social rights and justification.  I am also continually re-reading work by Cass Sunstein on minimalism, Tushnet on weak review and Waldron on legislative constitutionalism.  David Strauss, my former colleague at Chicago, also wrote an excellent piece on ‘The Irrelevance of Constitutional  Amendment’ which I disagree with in large part, but which helped shape my early interest in the relationship between formal and informal constitutional change.

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

I think current political developments are pointing to a very important set of questions for all comparative constitutional scholars: how constitutions can respond to, but also guard against, the dangers inherent in the era of Brexit and Trump, i.e. isolationism, intolerance and authoritarian populism.  Leading scholars in the field,  including Sujit Choudhry, Sam Issacharoff, David Landau and now Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq, have already begun to think about these questions in the context of an important literature on dominant party democracy, democratic ‘hedging’ and ‘abusive constitutionalism’–but it is clear we have much more thinking to do in this area.  It is also equally clear that our thinking needs to extend to the economic roots of the current turn in democratic politics.  This is one reason I have recently agreed to co-lead a university wide ‘grand challenge’ at UNSW on inequality with a particular focus on economic inequality and its connection to democratic politics.


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