From ANU College of Law to Osgoode Hall Law School…

by Paul Maharg on 23/05/2017

I’ve moved post, from ANU College of Law in Canberra to Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, in Toronto, and I’m now in Toronto about to start my first week at Osgoode on Keele Campus and at Osgoode Professional Development (OPD) in downtown Toronto.  Really looking forward to starting.  Osgoode is a great law school, dedicated to experiential learning in many forms, and to innovation in curriculum design, and there are lots of opportunities to contribute to that fine tradition and its high standards.  Even the city sets daunting standards.  How many other parking lots in North America set out on a wall a justification for why you should obey the parking lot rules, in the form of a quotation from Tom Jones, thus requiring you to have an understanding of the development of voice in the eighteenth century English novel before you can park your car?

I’ll still be keeping in touch with ANU’s College of Law.  It’s a wonderful place, and I had many inspiring colleagues in the College with whom I’ll be continuing the good work we started in PEARL.  I learned so much from them while I was there.  I’ll remain as an Honorary Professor, with occasional visits and working online with PEARL colleagues, and assisting with the innovative online PBL JD where I can.

But for now, it’s time to sharpen pencils, brush shoes and get a collar & tie organised for my first day at Osgoode…

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nigel Duncan May 23, 2017 at 19:35

Nice move Paul. I’m glad it’s now official.
Reading this and your previous boat-building post it seems we need more time at every stage to reflect. Do Toronto folk take the time to read the Tom Jones extract and think about it? Or do they just see the rule and obey it (or not). If they do read it, perhaps it helps them come to terms with accepting authority. If they think about it a bit more deeply it may encourage them to question authority if they do not feel empowered in the democratic process. Is there a risk that it will tend to encourage simple acceptance of a rule without querying the validity or extent of the rule itself. So much legal decision-making engages an exercise of discretion. So many ethical decisions occur in a grey area or involve balancing conflicting duties. What should rules contribute to that decision-making?
Also – there are layers of rules. The ones the car parker probably reads are the ones about payment and length of stay. Others (like park in delineated spaces and don’t block the access route) are tacit, communicated only by lines on the floor and a mutual expectation of thoughtful behaviour.
Ah well – just riffing when I should be reading up for a meeting. Better get back to it. See you soon.

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2 Paul Maharg May 25, 2017 at 13:54

Thanks Nigel. I like your idea of layers of rules, especially delineates spaces etc. The car park I was walking through as a shortcut when I came upon the wall was more a building site than a proper carpark, with an attendant in a wee wooden kiosk at the entrance, which actually reinforces your idea of tacit rule following eg tidy car parking, precisely because it was all untidy, there were no lines, proper spaces, etc, and yet car parkers followed implicit rules. And because I was in a car park and I was reading a notice about laws (though it’s more of an artwork than a notice) my basic Contracts law kicked in and yes, Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd. The notice was nowhere near the entrance and I doubt very much if it was referred to in a ticket to drivers who entered the car park.

But what engaged me was that the passage goes deeper than the rules formed from the string of exemption cases cited in Thornton. It startled me, a bit like Denning’s famous statement about wide exemption clauses needing to be ‘printed in red ink with a red hand pointing to it – or something equally startling’, and did so because in Fielding’s novel you’re never really sure how to take narrator’s claim. The important words are actually the previous sentence where the novelist who was also a magistrate writes:

‘[…] I shall not look on myself as accountable to any court of critical jurisdiction whatever: for as I am, in reality, the founder of a new province of writing, so I am at liberty to make what laws I please therein.’

On one level it lectures the reader – this novel is a new-found empire, where the novelist manipulates his subjects the readers, and does so for their own good. On another, it’s funny – Fielding is having a laugh, subverting his own portentous narrative voice, slyly nudging the reader – you don’t take this seriously, do you? And there’s me, reading this on a grubby carpark wall, where the carpark is the new-found empire, the carpark owner manipulating drivers by charging them and then putting up artwork that parodies carpark notices and subverts the rule base of carpark notices by implying through humour that the rules don’t need to be followed. Surely the widest exemption clause in the history of exemption clauses!

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