Corpus Christi College

Merton Street, Oxford OX1 4JF


01865 276749


Liz Fisher, BA/LLB (UNSW), D Phil (Oxon) is Professor of Environmental Law at Corpus Christi College and the Faculty of Law. She researches in the areas of environmental law, risk regulation and administrative law. Much of her work has explored the interrelationship between law, administration and regulatory problems. Her work has an important comparative dimension and she focuses in particular on these issues in the legal cultures of the UK, US, Australia, the EU, and the WTO. Her 2007 book, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism, won the SLS Peter Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship 2008. Recent work has focused on the problems created by interdisciplinarity in regulatory decision-making including the use of models in environmental regulation and the operational consequences of transparency in administrative law. She won an Oxford University Teaching Award in 2009 and was shortlisted for OUP National Law Teacher of the Year Award 2011. She is General Editor of the Journal of Environmental Law and has served as the editor of the Legislation and Reports Section of the Modern Law Review. Fisher convenes the Faculty's environmental law courses and is currently Vice Dean of the Law Faculty.


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  • E Fisher, 'Making Sense of the WTO Sanitary and Phytosantiary Agreement: An Essay About Scholarly Expertise' in Bettina Lange, Finoa Haines and Dania Thomas (ed), Regulatory Transformations: Rethinking Economy-Society Interactions (Hart 2015)
    ISBN: 9781849463447
  • E 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
  • E 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.
  • E Fisher, 'Chemicials as Regulatory Objects' (2014) 23 Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law 163
    ISBN: 2050-0394
  • E Fisher, 'Exploring the Legal Architecture of Transparency' in P Ala'i and R Vaughn (ed), Research Handbook on Transparency (Edward Elgar 2014)
    ISBN: 978 1 78100 793 8
  • E 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.
  • E Fisher, B Lange and E Scotford, Environmental Law: Text, Cases and Materials ( OUP 2013)
  • Sidney Shapiro and E Fisher, 'Chevron and the Legitmacy of Public Administration' (2013) 22 William and Mary Bill of Rights Law Journal 465
  • E 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.
  • E Fisher, 'Framing Risk Regulation: A Critical Reflection' (2013) 4 European Journal of Risk Regulation 125
    ISBN: 1867-299X
  • P Pascual, W Wagner and E Fisher, 'Making Method Visible: Improving the Quality of Science-Based Regulation' (2013) 2 Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law 429
  • E Fisher, 'Risk and Governance' in David Levi-Faur (ed), Oxford Handbook of Governance (OUP 2012)
    ISBN: 9780199560530
  • E 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.
  • E 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
  • E 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
  • E Fisher, 'Transparency and Administrative Law: A Critical Evaluation' (2010) 63 Current Legal Problems 272
    ISBN: 0070-1998
  • E Fisher, 'Food Safety Crises as Crises of Administrative Constitutionalism' (2010) 20 Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine 55
    ISBN: 0748383X
  • Wendy Wagner, E Fisher, 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
  • E Fisher, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism ( Hart Publishing 2010)
    Paperback version (with new foreword) of 2007 publication
    ISBN: 9781849460880
  • E 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
  • E Fisher, 'Opening Pandora's box: contextualising the precautionary principle in the European Union' in Michelle Everson and Ellen Vos (ed), Uncertain Risks Regulated (Routledge Cavendish 2009)
    ISBN: 1-844721620
  • E 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 (ed), 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
  • E 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
  • E Fisher, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism ( Hart Publishing 2007)
    ISBN: 9781841130330



Research Interests

Environmental Law, Risk Regulation, Administrative Law, EU Law

Options taught

Administrative Law, European Union Law, Constitutional Law (Senior Status), Environmental Law, Regulation

Research projects