Liz Fisher, BA/LLB (UNSW), D Phil (Oxon) is Professor of Environmental Law at Corpus Christi College and the Faculty of Law. Her research explores the interrelationship between law, administration and regulatory problems in different legal cultures with a particular focus on environmental problems. Her 2007 book, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism, won the SLS Peter Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship 2008. Other publications include Environmental Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2017), Fisher, Lange and Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases and Materials (2nd ed, OUP 2019), and Elizabeth Fisher and Sidney Shapiro, Administrative Competence: Reimagining Administrative Law (CUP 2020). She is General Editor of the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies and the Journal of Environmental Law (the latter until the end of 2022). She has won teaching awards, and served as Vice Dean of the Law Faculty 2013-6, HT 2019, and TT 2021 (the last being Vice Dean (Personnel)). Her current projects includes work on legal imagination and environmental futures, the craft of legal scholarship, and re-mapping English administrative law case law. 



Recent additions

  • Elizabeth Fisher, 'Legal Imagination and Teaching ' in Lavanya Rajamani and Jaqueline Peel (eds), Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (OUP 2021)
    ISBN: 9780198849155
  • Elizabeth Fisher, 'EU Environmental Law and Legal Imagination ' in Paul Craig and Grainne De Burca (eds), The Evolution of EU Law (OUP 2021)
    ISBN: 9780192846563

Chapter (21)

Elizabeth Fisher, 'EU Environmental Law and Legal Imagination ' in Paul Craig and Grainne De Burca (eds), The Evolution of EU Law (OUP 2021)
ISBN: 9780192846563
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Legal Imagination and Teaching ' in Lavanya Rajamani and Jaqueline Peel (eds), Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (OUP 2021)
ISBN: 9780198849155
Elizabeth Fisher, 'The Open Road?: Navigating Public Administration and the Failed Promise of Administrative Law' in Elizabeth Fisher, Jeff King, and Alison Young (eds), The Foundations and Future of Public Law: Essays in Honour of Paul Craig (OUP 2020)
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Through 'Thick' and 'Thin': Comparison in Administrative Law and Regulatory Studies Scholarship' in Peter Cane and others (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Administrative Law (OUP 2020)
ISBN: 9780198799986
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Sciences, Environmental Laws, and Legal Cultures: Fostering Collective Epistemic Responsibility ' in Emma Lees and Jorge Viñuales (eds), Oxford Handbook of Comparative Environmental Law (OUP 2019)
ISBN: 9780198790952
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Back to Basics: Thinking About the Craft of Environmental Law Scholarship' in Ole Pedersen (ed), Perspectives on Environmental Law Scholarship: Essays on Purpose, Shape and Discretion (Cambridge University Press 2018)
ISBN: 978-1-108-47524-2
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Blazing Upstream? Strategic Environmental Assessment as ‘Hot’ Law' in Gregory Jones and Eloise Scotford (eds), The Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive: A Plan for Success (Hart 2017)
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Expert Executive Power, Administrative Constitutionalism and Co-Production: Why They Matter' in Maria Weimer and Anniek de Ruijter (eds), Regulating Risks in the European Union The Co-production of Expert and Executive Power (Hart 2017)
ISBN: 9781849468794
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Imagining Technology and Environmental Law' in Roger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, and Karen Yeung (eds), Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology (OUP 2017)
ISBN: 9780199680832
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Environmental Impact Assessment: ‘Setting the Law Ablaze’' in Douglas Fisher (ed), Research Handbook on Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Law (Edward Elgar 2016)
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Making Sense of the WTO Sanitary and Phytosantiary Agreement: An Essay About Scholarly Expertise' in Bettina Lange, Finoa Haines and Dania Thomas (eds), Regulatory Transformations: Rethinking Economy-Society Interactions (Hart 2015)
ISBN: 9781849463447
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Exploring the Legal Architecture of Transparency' in P Ala'i and R Vaughn (eds), Research Handbook on Transparency (Edward Elgar 2014)
ISBN: 978 1 78100 793 8
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Risk and Governance' in David Levi-Faur (ed), Oxford Handbook of Governance (OUP 2012)
ISBN: 9780199560530
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Risk Regulatory Concepts and the Law' in OECD (ed), Risk and Regulatory Policy: Improving the Governance of Risk (OECD 2010)
A discussion of the different roles risk regulatory concepts are playing in public administration and the legal implications of those roles.
ISBN: 9789264082922
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Opening Pandora's box: contextualising the precautionary principle in the European Union' in Michelle Everson and Ellen Vos (eds), Uncertain Risks Regulated (Routledge Cavendish 2009)
ISBN: 1-844721620
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Administrative Law, Pluralism and the Legal Construction of Merits Review in Australian Environmental Courts and Tribunals' in Linda Pearson, Carlow Harlow and Michael Taggart (eds), Administrative Law in a Changing State: Essays in Honour of Mark Aronson (2008)
An analysis of the merits review powers of Australian environmental courts that illustrates that such powers vary dramatically and have at least four different aspects relating to scope of review, relevant considerations, procedure and evidence.
ISBN: 9781841137872
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Beyond the Science/Democracy Dichotomy: The World Trade Organisation Sanitary and PhytoSanitary Agreement and Administrative Constitutionalism' in C. Joerges & E. Petersmann (ed), Constitutionalism, Multilevel Trade Governance and Social Regulation (Hart Publishing 2006)
ISBN: 1841136654
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Risk and Environmental Law: A Beginner's Guide' in B. Richardson & S. Wood (ed), Environmental Law for Sustainability (Hart Publishing 2006)
An analysis of how 'risk' and 'risk assessment' have developed as concepts in the environmental law of different national, transnational and supranational jurisidictions.
ISBN: 1-84113-544-5
Elizabeth Fisher and Ronnie Harding, 'The precautionary principle and administrative constitutionalism: developing frameworks for implementing the precautionary principle' in E. Fisher, J. Jones & R. von Schomberg (ed), Implementing the Precautionary Principle: Perspectives and Prospects (Edward Elgar Publishing 2006)
Interdisciplinary piece looking at the relationship between frameworks for implementing the pp and understandings of good public administration
ISBN: 9780000000000
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Unpacking the Toolbox: Or Why the Public/Private Divide Is Important in EC Environmental Law' in J-B Auby and M Freedland (eds), The Public Law/Private Law Divide: une entente assez cordiale (L.G.D.J. Diffuseur 2004)
14 000 word piece analysing the role of private actors in EC environmental law and arguing the need to see their role in public law terms
ISBN: 291339728X
Elizabeth Fisher and R Harding, 'The Precautionary Principle in Australia: From Aspiration to Practice?' in T. O’Riordan, J. Cameron & A. Jordan (ed), Reinterpreting the Precautionary Principle (Cameron May Publishing 2001)
Descriptive analysis of precautionary principle in Australia.
ISBN: 1874698236

Journal Article (31)

Joanna Bell and Elizabeth Fisher, 'Exploring a Year of Administrative Law Adjudication in the Administrative Court' [2021] Public Law 505
This article provides an analysis of 801 decisions handed down by the Administrative Court of England and Wales in a single year, 2017. The purpose of this inductive study of a substantial body of administrative law case law is to start a conversation about "inattentional blindness" in administrative law scholarship and to identify questions to help structure discussion among administrative law scholars about how they study case law and the questions they ask about it. After providing an overview of the survey and the most significant findings from it, we identify three questions for further deliberation among administrative law scholars. First, how should administrative law scholars think about judicial review’s location in a broader legal architecture? Secondly, how can scholars better factor in the role of legislation and policy in legal reasoning into administrative law thinking? Thirdly, how should scholars understand the relationship between common and less common features of case law?
ISBN: 00333565
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Executive Environmental Law' (2020) 83 Modern Law Review 163
DOI: 10.1111/1468-2230.12456
The Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill published by DEFRA in late 2018 is part of a process of reimagining environmental law in light of Brexit. The Draft Bill creates frameworks for policy statements on environmental principles and environmental implementation plans, as well as creating a new enforcement body – the Office for Environmental Protection. This Draft Bill is, at the very least, an ineffectual response to the challenges of environmental law post‐Brexit. More alarmingly, it raises the possibility of a legal future in which the executive dominates how the norms, ambitions, and accountabilities of environmental law are defined. These are matters of concern for environmental and public lawyers alike.
ISBN: 1468-2230
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Law and Energy Transitions: Wind Turbines and Planning Law in the UK ' (2018) 38 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 528
DOI: 10.1093/ojls/gqy018
Through a study of planning law and the legal challenges to wind energy planning decisions, this article shows how law plays an important role in framing understandings of both wind energy projects and decision making with regard to such projects. Law also provides important forums for dispute resolution. These frames and forums create legal stability in the wake of the legal disruption created by the introduction of wind energy as a significant energy infrastructure. Highlighting that role raises important questions for scholars of energy transitions, planning law, and social regulation more generally.
ISBN: 0143-6503
Elizabeth Fisher, Eloise Scotford and Emily Barritt, 'The Legally Disruptive Nature of Climate Change ' (2017) 80 Modern Law Review 173
DOI: DOI: 10.1111/1468-2230.12251
Climate change gives rise to disputes and problems not easily addressed by existing legal doctrines and frameworks. This is because it is a polycentric problem; the assessment of future climate impacts must deal with uncertainty; climate change is socio-politically controversial; and addressing climate change requires recognising a dynamic physical environment. As such, climate change can be thought of as legally disruptive in that it requires lawyers and legal scholars to reconcile the legal issues raised by climate change with existing legal orders. The legal disruption catalysed by climate change has not only led to the creation of new legal regimes but also given rise to a multitude of legal disputes that require adjudication. A study of some of these cases highlights the need for active and deliberate reflection about the nature of adjudication and the legal reasoning embedded in it when confronted by a disruptive phenomenon like climate change.
ISBN: 1468-2230
Elizabeth Fisher, Pasky Pascual and Wendy Wagner, 'Rethinking Judicial Review of Expert Agencies' (2015) 93 Texas Law Review 1681
The role of generalist courts in reviewing the work of expert agencies is generally portrayed as either an institutional necessity on the one hand or a Pandora's Box on the other. Courts are expected to ensure the accountability of agency actions through their legal oversight role, yet on matters of science policy they do not have the expertise of the agencies nor can they allow themselves to become amateur policymakers in the course of their review. Given these challenges, we set out to better understand what courts are doing in their review of agency science. We conducted a qualitative examination of the courts' review of challenges to agency scientific choices in the entire set of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Our study revealed an increasingly rigorous and substantive engagement in the courts' review of scientific challenges to the EPA's NAAQS over time that tracked the Agency's own progress in developing rigorous analytical approaches. Our findings, albeit preliminary, suggest the emergence of a constructive partnership between the courts and agencies in science policy in NAAQS cases. In overseeing scientific challenges, the courts appear to serve as a necessary irritant, encouraging the agency to develop much stronger administrative governance and deliberative decisions on complex science-policy issues. Conversely, in developing stronger decision-making processes, the resulting agency efforts have a reciprocal, positive impact on the courts' own standards for review. The courts and agencies thus appear to work symbiotically through their mutual efforts on the establishment of rigorous analytical yardsticks to guide the decision process. While our findings may be limited to the NAAQS, which likely present a best case in administrative process, the findings may still offer a grounded, normative model for imagining a constructive and even vital role for generalist courts in technically complex areas of social decision making.
ISBN: 0040-4411
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Towards Environmental Constitutionalism: A Different Vision of the Resource Management Act 1991' (2015) Resource Management Theory and Practice 63
Elizabeth Fisher, '‘Jurisdictional’ Facts and ‘Hot’ Facts: Legal Formalism, Legal Pluralism, and the Nature of Australian Administrative Law' (2015) 38 Melbourne University Law Review 968
This article is a study of the interrelationship between two intellectual impulses in Australian administrative law — legal formalism and legal pluralism. It concerns the operation of jurisdictional fact review in planning and environmental cases, focusing on the line of case law that led to the High Court decision in Corporation of the City of Enfield v Development Assessment Commission (2000). The analysis shows that these two intellectual impulses are closely entwined in doctrine, but each operates on a different basis of what a ‘fact’ is. Facts from a legal formalist perspective are understood as objective and hard-edged while from a legal pluralist perspective they are more likely to be conceptualised as contested and uncertain.
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Chemicials as Regulatory Objects' (2014) 23 Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law 163
ISBN: 2050-0394
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Climate Change Litigation, Obsession and Expertise: Reflecting on the Scholarly Response to Massachusetts v EPA' (2013) 39 Law and Policy 236
DOI: 10.1111/lapo.12006
Climate change litigation is an obsessive preoccupation for many legal scholars. Three different “narratives” can be identified for why scholars find such litigation important to study: litigation is a response to institutional failure, legal reasoning holds authority, and litigation is a forum for the co-production of facts and social orders. The nature and consequences of these narratives are considered in the context of the first U.S. Supreme Court “climate change” case—Massachusetts v. EPA (2007). This analysis has implications for both how scholars understand their expertise in this area, and how they should foster it.
Sidney Shapiro and Elizabeth Fisher, 'Chevron and the Legitmacy of Public Administration' (2013) 22 William and Mary Bill of Rights Law Journal 465
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Environmental Law as 'Hot' Law' (2013) 25 Journal of Environmental Law 347
DOI: 10.1093/jel/eqt025
The polycentric, interdisciplinary, normative and scientifically uncertain nature of environmental problems leads to a body of environmental law in which it can be difficult to settle on a single frame for understanding a problem and thus to identify relevant parties, the relationships between them, and the courses of action that can be taken. Using Michel Callon’s terminology this can be understood as ‘hot situations’ leading to ‘hot law’. In this Introduction to the Special Issue celebrating 25 years of the Journal of Environmental Law the nature of ‘hot environmental law’ is considered, as is the role of environmental law scholarship.
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Framing Risk Regulation: A Critical Reflection' (2013) 4 European Journal of Risk Regulation 125
ISBN: 1867-299X
P Pascual, W Wagner and Elizabeth Fisher, 'Making Method Visible: Improving the Quality of Science-Based Regulation' (2013) 2 Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law 429
Elizabeth Fisher, 'The Rise of Transnational Environmental Law and the Expertise of Environmental Lawyers' (2012) 1 Transnational Environmental Law 43
DOI: 10.1017/S2047102511000021
The concept of transnational environmental law is used descriptively and prescriptively to refer to a multitude of legal processes which are distinct from transnational law in other legal areas. Hence, the rise of transnational environmental law requires environmental lawyers to reflect on their skills and knowledge and to foster both their contributory and interactional expertise in this area. That process of fostering expertise needs to be seen in light of a number of intellectual challenges, including the necessity to engage with comparative environmental law methodology, the need to not privilege one legal system over others, the need to engage with extended legal pluralism, the importance of thinking about the role of language in legal processes, and the significance of understanding the process of co-production.
Elizabeth Fisher, Pasky Pascual and Wendy Wagner, 'Understanding Environmental Models in Their Legal and Regulatory Context ' (2010) 22 Journal of Environmental Law 251
DOI: 10.1093/jel/eqq012
Environmental models are playing an increasingly important role in most jurisdictions and giving rise to disputes. Despite this fact, lawyers and policy-makers have overlooked models and not engaged critically with them. This is a problematic state of affairs. Modelling is a semi-autonomous, interdisciplinary activity concerned with developing representations of systems and is used to evaluate regulatory behaviour to ensure it is legitimate. Models are thus relevant to lawyers and policy-makers but need to be engaged with critically due to technical, institutional, interdisciplinary and evaluative complexities in their operation. Lawyers and policy-makers must thus think more carefully about models and in doing so reflect on the nature of their own disciplines and fields.
ISBN: 0952-8873
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Transparency and Administrative Law: A Critical Evaluation' (2010) 63 Current Legal Problems 272
ISBN: 0070-1998
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Food Safety Crises as Crises of Administrative Constitutionalism' (2010) 20 Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine 55
ISBN: 0748383X
Wendy Wagner, Elizabeth Fisher and Pasky Pascual, 'Misunderstanding Models in Environmental and Health Regulation' (2010) 18 New York University Environmental Law Journal 293
Computational models are fundamental to environmental regulation, yet their capabilities tend to be misunderstood by policymakers. Rather than rely on models to illuminate dynamic and uncertain relationships in natural settings, policymakers too often use models as “answer machines.” This fundamental misperception that models can generate decisive facts leads to a perverse negative feedback loop that begins with policymaking itself and radiates into the science of modeling and into regulatory deliberations where participants can exploit the misunderstanding in strategic ways. This paper documents the pervasive misperception of models as truth machines in U.S. regulation and the multi-layered problems that result from this misunderstanding. The paper concludes with a series of proposals for making better use of models in environmental policy analysis.
ISBN: 1061-8651
Elizabeth Fisher, Bettina Lange, Eloise Scotford and Cinnamon Carlarne, 'Maturity and Methodology: Starting a Debate about Environmental Law Scholarship' (2009) 21 Journal of Environmental Law 213
DOI: 10.1093/jel/eqp012
Many environmental law scholars perceive environmental law scholarship as immature. We discuss why this self-perception has arisen and argue that a common theme is methodology. We argue that the subject can only mature when we face its methodological challenges head on, and we identify four particular issues that have given rise to these challenges: the speed and scale of legal/regulatory change, the interdisciplinary nature of the subject, the heavy reliance in environmental law on a diverse range of governance arrangements and the multi-jurisdictional nature of the subject. We argue that there is a need for debate in the face of these challenges and identify some starting points for that debate.
ISBN: 0952-8873
Elizabeth Fisher, 'The 'perfect storm' of REACH: charting regulatory controversy in the age of information, sustainable development, and globalization' (2008) 11 Journal of Risk Research 541
DOI: 10.1080/13669870802086547
The European Union's new chemicals regulation, REACH, has been one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in EU history. Indeed, the debate over REACH is akin to a 'perfect storm' in that the intense controversy over it has been caused by three regulatory aspects of the regime. First, REACH privatizes information collection, provision and assessment. Second, REACH represents a significant application of sustainable development and in so doing, redefines the conditions on which the EU chemicals market operates. Third, REACH will inevitably have inter-jurisdictional impacts for both supranational and national legal cultures including trade law implications, REACH being a template for international initiatives, it being a policy/legal irritant in other jurisdictions, and it providing information for public and private action in other jurisdictions. A charting of these different aspects of the regime not only provides a more nuanced account of REACH but also provides a clearer understanding of the challenges of regulating environmental and health risks in an era of market globalization
ISBN: 1366-9877
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Law, Precaution and Principles of Good Administration' (2005) 52(6) Water Science and Technology 19
3,500 word article for a non-lawyer audience on the interface between public administration and the precautionary principle in the EU
ISBN: 0273-1223
Elizabeth Fisher, 'The Rise of the Risk Commonwealth and the Challenge for Administrative Law' [2003] 2003(Autumn) Public Law 455
ISBN: 0033-3565
Elizabeth Fisher, 'Precaution, Precaution Everywhere: Developing a 'Common Understanding' of the Precautionary Principle in the European Community' (2002) 9 Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 21
Criticism of "precaution spotting" because it ignores legal nature of the precautionary principle and role of legal culture.Principle gives rise to concerns of administrative constitutionalism and constitutional sovereignty.
ISBN: 1023-263X
Elizabeth Fisher and P Schmidt,, 'Seeing the ‘Blind Spots’ in Administrative Law: Theory, Practice, and Rulemaking Settlements in the United States' (2001) 30 Common Law World Review 272
ISBN: 1473-7795
Elizabeth Fisher, Warwick Gullett, Chris Paterson and Elizabeth Fisher, 'Substantive Precautionary Decision-Making: The Australian Fisheries Management Authority's 'Lawful Pursuit' of the Precautionary Principle' (2001) 7 Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy 40
Fish!A review of recent Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions concerning AFMA`s exercise of discretion pursuant to their legislative objective of the precautionary principle.
ISBN: 1320-5323

Book (6)

Elizabeth Fisher, Bettina Lange and Eloise Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases and Materials (2nd Ed OUP 2019)
ISBN: 9780198811077
Elizabeth Fisher, Environmental Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP 2017)
ISBN: 9780198794189
Elizabeth Fisher, B Lange and E Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases and Materials (OUP 2013)
Elizabeth Fisher, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism (Hart Publishing 2010)
Paperback version (with new foreword) of 2007 publication
ISBN: 9781849460880
Elizabeth Fisher, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism (Hart Publishing 2007)
ISBN: 9781841130330

Edited Book (2)

Elizabeth Fisher, Jeff King and Alison Young (eds), The Foundations and Future of Public Law: Essays in Honour of Paul Craig (OUP 2020)
Elizabeth Fisher, Judith Jones and Rene von Schomberg (eds) (eds), Implementing the Precautionary Principle: Perspectives and Prospects (Edward Elgar 2006)
336 edited book bringing together academics from the US, Australia and Europe to examine the implementation of the precautionary principle
ISBN: 978 1 845427023

Case Note (1)

Joanna Bell and Elizabeth Fisher, 'The ‘Heathrow’ Case: Polycentricity, Legislation, and the Standard of Review' (2020) 83 Modern Law Review early view [Case Note]
The recent Court of Appeal decision in the ‘Heathrow’ case, Plan B Earth v Secretary of State for Transport is an illustration of the challenges of reviewing polycentric and expert decision‐making. The issues raised in the case concerning the Planning Act 2008 are an illustration of a court's expository role in such contexts. The Court tackled directly a series of interpretive questions concerning the Planning Act 2008's obligations regarding the consideration of climate change. The Habitats and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive issues raised in the appeal, in contrast, were presented with the question of the intensity of review foregrounded in legal argument. The Court therefore sought to articulate the ‘standard of review’ and to apply it to the government's decisions. This way of framing the issue unfortunately sidelined the courts’ expository role in relation to intepreting the Habitats and SEA Directives, leaving key provisions under‐analysed.
ISBN: 1468-2230

Other (1)

Review (1)

Elizabeth Fisher, 'The Enigma of Expertise' (2016) 28 Journal of Environmental Law 551 [Review]
DOI: 10.1093/jel/eqw020
ISBN: 1464-374X

Research programmes

Research projects

Research Interests

Environmental Law, Administrative Law

Options taught

Administrative Law, European Union Law, Environmental Law

Research projects