Bonavero Annual Lecture: Constitutionalism at Work. Navigating Knowledge in the Courtroom.

Event date
3 October 2024
Event time
17:30 - 19:00
Oxford week
MT -1
Bonavero Institute of Human Rights - Sir Joseph Hotung Auditorium

Susanne Baer, Humboldt University Berlin

We live in challenging times, and one of these challenges is the widespread skepticism, or even disbelief, regarding facts, and the truth. Fake facts, fake news and fake data are abundant, and the search for truth sometimes dismissed as more or less ideological nostalgia. This is not only a challenge for politics, and for social cohesion beyond one´s bubble. The knowledge crisis in skeptical societies also produces new and complicated challenges for courts. Courts now have to become authorities not only on the law, but also on the facts, on truth. The challenge will be illustrated based on experience on the bench, as a Justice of the German Federal Constitutional Court for 12 years, by taking a closer look at paradigmatic cases. They range from climate change to terrorism, from social security or welfare law to a third gender option or address disability discrimination in medical services. In all these cases, much depends on the ability of courts, and of future lawyers, prosecutors and judges, to not only apply the law, but to also navigate knowledge.

Professor Dr Susanne Baer

Professor Dr Susanne Baer

Susanne Baer is the Professor of Public Law and Gender Studies at Humboldt University Berlin, a Lea Bates Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School and Centennial Professor at London School of Economics. From 2011 until 2023, she served as Justice of the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany. She received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Michigan (2014), Hasselt (2017) and Lucerne (2018). In the UK, she is a Corresponding Fellow at the British Academy of Arts and Scienes, where she gave the Maccabean Lecture in 2019, and a member of Academia Europeae. She has taught at CEU Budapest, in Austria, Switzerland, and in Toronto, with former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella. At Humboldt, she teaches the mandatory lecture course on law and sociology, an advanced course on interdisciplinary analyses of law-making, courses on comparative constitutionalism,  and the main course on fundamental rights.

Prof Baer studied law and political science in Berlin and Michigan. She was active in movements against discrimination, including pornography, sexual harassment and domestic violence. At Humboldt University, she directed the GenderCompetenceCentre to advise the German government on gender mainstreaming 2003-2010, and has served as Vice-President for International and Student Affairs, as Director of Gender Studies and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Law. There, she initated the Law and Society Institute Berlin and the Humboldt Law Clinic of Fundamental and Human Rights. Currently, she is the director of the board of the Stiftung Forum Recht, a federal foundation of the German Bundestag to explain, defend, and reflect on rule of law.

Publications in English include: Comparative Constitutionalism (Thomson/West 2022 )(Dorsen, Rosenfeld, Sajó, Mancini); The Rule of—and not by any—Law. On Constitutionalism, Current Legal Problems 71 (2018) 335; 'The Difference a Justice May Make: Remarks at the Symposium for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg', Columbia J of Gender & Law 25 (2013), 'Equality', in: Rosenfeld/ Sajo, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (OUP 2012,) 982; 'Dignity, Liberty, Equality: A Fundamental Rights Triangle of Constitutionalism', Toronto LJ 4 (2009) 417.

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