Inaugural Lecture of the Sir William C. Macdonald ChairConférence inaugurale de La Chaire Sir William C. Macdonald

King Rex v. Judge Judex: Adjudicating Transnational law[Notice]

  • Fabien Gélinas

Sir William C. Macdonald Professor of Law and Norton Rose Fulbright Faculty Scholar in Arbitration and Commercial Law, McGill University. The author wishes to thank doctoral candidate Oana Stefanescu and the Journal editors for their help in preparing the lecture for publication. Sir William C. Macdonald Chair Inaugural Lecture.

Citation: (2018) 64:1 McGill LJ 195

Référence : (2018) 64:1 RD McGill 195

C’est pour moi un très grand honneur de me retrouver devant vous ce soir pour marquer mon accession à la Chaire Sir William C. Macdonald. Je vous sais gré d’avoir accepté de consacrer à cet événement quelques-unes des heures trop peu nombreuses du mois de février. Je tenais à profiter de cette occasion formelle pour remercier mes collègues titulaires de chaires à la Faculté de droit au printemps de l’année 2016, et tout particulièrement notre ancien doyen Daniel Jutras, pour la confiance qu’ils m’ont témoignée en appuyant ma désignation. J’ai été, et je le suis encore, touché et honoré de cette confiance. Je remercie également notre doyen actuel pour cette initiative de redonner un élan à la tradition des leçons inaugurales. Le thème de la Chaire est un peu large, puisqu’il s’agit du droit. C’est donc de droit que je vais vous entretenir ce soir ; d’aucuns, les mauvaises langues, diront qu’il s’agit d’un rare événement pour cette Faculté. J’aborderai cette vaste question sous l’angle du droit qui se déploie à travers les frontières étatiques. Renouant avec une tradition qui remonte aux jeunes années des premières Facultés de droit en Occident, et comme le suggère le titre indiqué dans le programme, je prononcerai ma conférence en Latin, parsemé toutefois, rassurez-vous, de beaucoup de lingua franca, c’est-à-dire d’anglais. When writing a paper that is not tied to a conference, giving it a title is the last thing I do. When a conference is announced ahead of time, however, the title comes first and the next thing on the agenda is to figure out what the title could possibly mean. I have a memory, which is probably more vivid than accurate, about a series of lectures on the concept of law which I followed in England many years ago. The lectures were given by a great figure of Oxonian Jurisprudence who had much to say. In this course of lectures the great professor spent the first few weeks on the word “The”. The bulk of the rest of the term was then spent on the word “Concept”, which, as you would have guessed, left practically no time for the last of the three words in the title of the series, that is, “Law”. So I’ll try not to spend too much time on the title. Let me start with King Rex, or Rex King, to stick to Latin. Many of you will have heard of him. He’s the character used by American legal theorist Lon Fuller in his celebrated volume The Morality of Law, to introduce the components of the rule of law through the failures of Rex in establishing it. Rex is ambitious for his kingdom and wants to reform the legal system as soon as he becomes King. To do so he wants a clean slate and begins by setting aside all existing laws. He then fails in drafting a code, tries rule-free adjudication, then adjudication under a secret code, followed by the successive publication of four codes. The first code was poorly conceived and drafted, and no one, including lawyers, could understand it. The second was laden with contradictions. The third was full of requirements that were impossible for the subjects to meet. The fourth was a model of clarity and coherence, and did not demand the impossible. But it took so long for Rex to get there that as soon as the code was published, it was subjected to a daily stream of amendments. Once the code had stabilized a little, it turned out that the rules of the code were mostly honoured in the breach …

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