Maris Köpcke teaches and writes in the field of jurisprudence, broadly understood, extending to issues in criminal law, legal history, constitutional theory and comparative law. Until 2014 (before a career break), she was a Fellow and Tutor in Law at Worcester College, Oxford, teaching jurisprudence and criminal law. In 2009 she completed a D.Phil. at University College Oxford on the moral purpose of legal validity, which won the 2011 European Award for Legal Theory. Prior to coming to Oxford, Maris studied Law at ESADE (Barcelona), and read for LL.M.s at the European Academy of Legal Theory (Brussels) and Harvard Law School.


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  • M Köpcke, A Short History of Legal Validity and Invalidity: Foundations of Private and Public Law (Cambridge, Intersentia 2019) (forthcoming)
    The twin ideas of legal validity and invalidity are ubiquitous in contemporary private and public law. But their roots lie buried deep in European legal culture. This book for the first time traces and reveals these roots. In the course of a 2000-year journey through landmark texts of the Western tradition, from Roman law to modern codification and constitutionalism, the book shows that, contrary to what is often assumed, validity and invalidity originated in the domain of private transactions and only gradually came to be deployed in the domain of official power and law-making. This went hand in hand with legal thought’s acknowledgement that law-making itself can be (in)valid, because legally limited, most recently by a body of constitutionally enshrined human rights. Understanding why, not only when, the technique of validity appeared, teaches valuable lessons about the kinds of social and political transformation that this technique can help realise – particularly in our age of emerging legal orders, shifting forms of governance, and fresh challenges to the regulation of exchanges in a digitally scripted world. This accessibly written work will appeal to anyone concerned with validity or invalidity in legal scholarship and practice, whether in public or private law.
    ISBN: 9781780688152
  • M Köpcke, Legal Validity: The Fabric of Justice (Oxford, Hart Publishing 2019)
    Critical human interests are affected on a daily basis by appeal to past decisions deemed to be 'legally valid'. They include statutes, deportation orders, judgments, mortgage contracts, patents and wills. Through the technique of validity, lawyerly reasoning settles morally pressing matters in a way that largely bypasses moral argument. Legal philosophy has paid considerable attention to validity criteria, but it has neglected to explore validity’s point: whether, and if so how, the pervasive technique of validity can contribute to a legal system’s ability to realise justice and human rights. This book shows that validity can help a political community to foster justice precisely because validity does not primarily turn on moral considerations. Validity serves to both allocate, and limit, a distinct kind of power, a power that is key to forging valuable forms of enterprise and commitment in pursuit of individual and collective self-direction. By entrusting the capacity to decide to those who, in justice, ought to bear it, validity can enable persons and institutions to rally the resources and opportunities that only large-scale behavioural convergence can afford, thereby weaving a fabric of just relationships within the systemic framework of law.
    ISBN: 978-1-84946-686-8
  • GW Webber, PW Yowell, M Köpcke and R Ekins, Legislated Rights: Securing Human Rights Through Legislation (Cambridge University Press 2018)
    DOI: 10.1017/9781108551069
    The important aspects of human wellbeing outlined in human rights instruments and constitutional bills of rights can only be adequately secured as and when they are rendered the object of specific rights and corresponding duties. It is often assumed that the main responsibility for specifying the content of such genuine rights lies with courts. Legislated Rights: Securing Human Rights through Legislation argues against this assumption, by showing how legislatures can and should be at the centre of the practice of human rights. This jointly authored book explores how and why legislatures, being strategically placed within a system of positive law, can help realise human rights through modes of protection that courts cannot provide by way of judicial review.
    ISBN: 978-1-108-42657-2
  • M Köpcke, 'Validez [Validity]' in J Fabra Zamora, V Rodriguez Blanco (ed), Enciclopedia de Filosofia del Derecho y Teoria Juridica (UNAM and Rubinzal, Mexico and Buenos Aires 2015)
    ISBN: ISBN 978607026618
  • M Köpcke, 'Finnis on Legal and Moral Obligation' in John Keown, Robert George (ed), Reason, Morality, and Law: The Jurisprudence of John Finnis (Oxford University Press 2013)
    ISBN: 978-0-19-967550-0
  • M Köpcke, 'Law Does Things Differently' (2010) 55 American Journal of Jurisprudence 201
    DOI: 10.1093/ajj/55.1.201
    ISBN: 0065-8995
  • M Köpcke, 'La nueva “Tierra Prometida”: derechos humanos del inmigrante frente a la sociedad de acogida' in Antonio Marzal (ed), Migraciones masivas y derechos del hombre (J.M. Bosch, Barcelona 2002)

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Research Interests

Philosophy of Law, Constitutional Theory, Criminal Law, Criminal Law Theory, Roman Law, Comparative Private Law

Options taught

Jurisprudence, Criminal Law (Mods), Constitutional Theory, Jurisprudence and Political Theory, A Roman Introduction to Private Law

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