Research Groups

The Research Center Lisbon Public Law is organized into the following Research Groups:

a) Constitutional Law and Political Science;

b) Administrative Law;

c) International and European Public Law;

d) Legal Theory and Philosophy of Law.

Constitutional Law and Political Science

The Research Group on Constitutional Law & Political Science gathers an alliance between two different scientific disciplines for the research on political institutions and fundamental rights.

Recent and rather disparate events have put the Constitution back in the order of the day and in the centre of the political spotlight. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have demanded a reconsideration of the equation between freedom and security, challenging many of the assumptions about the rule of law and civil rights as the bedrock of the modern constitutional state. In states with weaker economic performances, the financial crisis precipitated the sovereign debt crisis and resulted in international financial assistance from international and supranational organisations. The memoranda of understanding that materialised such assistance were adopted without even passing through national Parliaments and required the implementation of certain public policies by the beneficiary states. In some cases, these policies have met resistance from the Constitutional Courts, such as the Portuguese one. In medium-income countries with booming economies and marked social inequalities, such as Brazil, the highest bodies of the judiciary have decided to take up the task of materialising social justice themselves by delivering activist rulings on issues related to welfare rights. In the USA, a severe budget crisis linked with the federal government “shutdown” has called for a new perspective to frame political representation. Within the European Union, the setback of the European constituent process followed by the German Federal Constitutional Court’s 2009 ruling on the Treaty of Lisbon operated as a centrifugal force that returned the final word to national Constitutional Courts. In a globalised world where sovereignty seems to fade, the Constitution of the Nation state still is, after all and somewhat counter intuitively, the last stronghold in many issues of the contemporary polity.

The group focused its research on two broad subjects: first, separation of what belongs to the Constitution and to the judicial and the legislative branches, and second the challenges to fundamental rights.

Regarding the separation of what belongs in the Constitution and to the judicial and the legislative branches, there are four research projects. “Informal changes to the constitution” accounts for the implications of the transformations and changes that occur, without any amendments, to the constitutional law of states with paramount written constitutions. “The protection of social rights and the challenges of the economic and financial crisis” aims to determine what the institutional conditions and the limits for the materialisation of social justice needs and wants, and what is the role of the constitutional jurisdiction therein. “Judicial activism in Europe and in the United States” brings together the practice of constitutional jurisdictions in both sides of the Atlantic so as to determine common trends. Lastly, “The political presuppositions of Public Law concepts” seeks to verify their epistemologically autonomous configuration.

The new technologies and fundamental rights research stratum will be bifurcated in two research projects. “Constitutional law in the cyberspace” will focus on the interface between privacy and regulation in a dematerialised universal space. “Human dignity” will inquire what the core of such concept is.

Administrative Law

The quest for the balance between a rigorous scientific approach to Administrative Law, its contemporary challenges, and the production of outputs that are of relevance for the society are at the heart of the purpose of the Administrative Law Research Group.

Few legal disciplines have gone through as many changes over the past 40 years as Administrative Law has. Born with the modern concept of State, it was originally concerned with the execution of the law by means of unilateral acts of public authority, to be practised in the name of what the national administration deemed to be the public interest. Due to the unparalleled growth of privatisation and contracting out, the public-private divide has become fuzzy. Simultaneously, the increasing recourse to negotiation and to contracts has made the public administration evolve from a model of coercion composed of command-and-control to one of persuasion and consensus. The traditional bilateral administrative agencies/citizen relationship has been substituted: on the public end, by a plurality of autonomous public bodies; on the private end, by the recognition of the polygonal effects of administrative acts, affecting a plurality of individuals in different fashions. The univocal quasi-sacred concept of public interest has made room to a comprehensive understanding of the existence of several (conflicting) public interests, in permanent tension among them and with private interests, which are also afforded constitutional protection. The resort to informal acts, such as warnings and recommendations, has complemented the typical forms of administrative action. The increase of participation and of duties to hear and provide reasons has provided new sources of legitimacy to administrative agencies. European integration and globalisation have demonstrated that Administrative Law flourishes beyond the state, anywhere where there are administrative apparatuses.

With this backdrop, the group has chosen to focus its research on two areas of the modern Administrative Law: (i) governance and (ii) public policies. Both will be treated from an interdisciplinary perspective, with the analysis of economic figures and the recourse to statistics, the cooperation of urban planning and engineering experts, as well as law and economics insights.

International and European Public Law

The International and European Law Research Group (RG:IEL)’s approach fits within CIDP’s research strategy in its quest for transnational cutting edge themes that can bring fresh scientific outputs to academia and to society itself.

International Public Law scholars are devoting increasing attention to the issues related to globalisation and the sovereignty of states, discussing whether globalisation has thwarted the sovereignty of states, which has served as the central tenet of the international legal order since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. At the same time, the international legal order has changed its landscape, with the mushrooming of international organisations and courts, side by side with private actors such as multinational corporations and non-governmental organisations. In addition to all this, the status of the human person as a subject of International Law has faced a radical transformation, evolving from mostly being the object of the state’s duty of diplomatic protection to being herself a rights and duties holder.

Within Public International Law, the group has chosen to focus its research on an intergenerational justice Research Project. Its relevance is patent in the current institutional and financial deadlock, which seems to be causing an incontrollable disrespect for fundamental rights, but also a major rift between countries and generations in a space-time axis. The idea of attributing rights to unborn generations as well as protecting the interests of the younger ones is flourishing and has been the object of several soft law instruments, such as UNESCO’s Declaration on the responsibilities of the present generations towards future generations. The International and European Public Law group will look into its legal content, as well as into the consequences of its entrenchment as a principle of International Law.

The European focus of the group, in turn, will be centred on the multilevel and pluralist system protection of fundamental rights in the European space (encompassing both the European Union and the greater Europe of the Council of Europe). Although Europe has been considered a leading example for regional human rights mechanisms, these guarantees are far from simple. The co-existence of four distinct yet intertwined layers of human rights protection stands out as a unique feature of this geographic space in the world: those that stem from (General) International Human Rights Law, from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), from the (now binding) Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and from national Constitutions. At an historic moment when the EU is about to accede to the ECHR, the research group will delve into the different paths and mechanisms of judicial dialogue among these courts, from the original German Constitutional Court’s “so long as an effective protection is ensured” to the more recent ECtHR’s “equivalent protection” in a dedicated Research Project. In addition, there will also be another Research Project on the protection of minorities in the European legal space.

Legal Theory and Philosophy of Law

The Lisbon Legal Theory  Group (LxLTG) is a research group set up within the University of Lisbon School of Law with the institutional support of the Lisbon Public Law. Its primary purpose is to develop research and promote a public and academic debate over different subjects related to Legal Theory.

Inserted within the analytic approach to law and normative systems in general, the LxLTG is mainly formed by scholars and researchers from the University of Lisbon, accommodating as well visiting scholars and other non-permanent researchers. Amongst its several initiatives, the LxLTG promotes monthly a Reading Group and a Permanent Workshop, and annually a Legal Theory Meeting and the already prestigious Lx Law Lecture.