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The Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy and Law is delighted host the 2023 Annual Jurisprudence Lecture. Join us for this in person event which will be delivered by Professor Seana Shiffrin (UCLA).


Lecture title:

'Reliance Arguments and Democratic Law: On abortion, same-sex intimacy, guns, and freedom of contract'.



16.00 - 18.00 Lecture

18.00 - 19.00 Drinks Reception



Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, last year’s US Supreme Court decision that revoked the constitutional right to abortion, has raised the prospect that legislatures and courts will revisit other due process guarantees upon which individuals have organized their lives, including the constitutional rights to same-sex intimacy and marriage. These potential upheavals in the hard-won legal infrastructure of basic social status call for a sustained look at the reliance argument for sustaining constitutional precedent. When does the reliance of people or groups on a previous judicial decision provide reason for a court to sustain a precedent in the face of serious doubts or convictions that the decision was seriously mistaken on the original merits?


Reliance arguments in the public law domain face distinctive challenges in light of our democratic commitments to making room for change and moral progress that do not burden reliance arguments in the private law domain. A persuasive account of a reliance argument in the public law context must offer a merits-independent rationale identifying limited circumstances in which reliance on a prior decision would justify honoring a prior (mistaken) decision and honoring it prospectively, into the future. I offer a democratic account to explain why reliance on abortion, contraception, and same-sex intimacy rights warrant their continued affirmation but why reliance on other announced rights, including rights to gun ownership and freedom of contract do not.


Speaker bio:

Seana Valentine Shiffrin is Professor of Philosophy and Pete Kameron Professor of Law and Social Justice at UCLA, where she has taught since 1992. Shiffrin received her B.A. degree from UC Berkeley where she was the University Medalist. She attended Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar and received the B.Phil. with Distinction and the D.Phil. in Philosophy. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She teaches courses on moral and political philosophy as well as contracts, freedom of speech, constitutional rights and individual autonomy, remedies and legal theory. She served for sixteen years as an associate editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs and serves as co-director of the UCLA Law and Philosophy Program. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2016, she received the UCLA School of Law's Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Her research addresses issues in moral, political and legal philosophy, as well as matters of legal doctrine, that concern equality, autonomy, and the social conditions for their realization. She has written extensively on the morality of promising and the role of law in facilitating and fostering moral character, with a special emphasis on the connection between contracts and promises. Her recent book, Speech Matters, explored the ethics of communication and the connection between the prohibition on lying, freedom of speech, and moral progress.


The event is generously supported by The Dickson Poon School of Law and Francis & Taylor publishers of Jurisprudence: An International Journal of Legal and Political Thought. 

At this event


Professor in Law

Event details

River Room
Strand Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS