A jurisprudence of the city? The Judiciary & the City.

Urban Law Center, Fordham University
14 - 15 June 2017

In conjunction with Fordham University's Urban Law Center, IRGLUS and the Urban Law Lab on 14 & 15 June 2017 convened a workshop of over 20 academics, practitioners, and policymakers to discuss how in many respects urban governance, processes, practices, spaces, and imaginaries are enacted through the judiciary. Judicial reasoning plays an important part in delineating access to and inclusion in the city. Judges have the power to set a particular narrative of the city, and how law and rights should work in relation to the urban. Competing visions of the city are articulated, both by the actors in the dispute, as well as the judge.

A jurisprudence of the city begins to emerge.

In deciding these matters, questions considered at the workshop included: do judges merely repeat traditional assumptions underlying the law vis-à-vis the city, or do judges see the law as a transformative tool in driving forth a vision of spatial justice? What is this vision? Are judges necessarily qualified to make this kind of discursive analysis – why, or why not? At what point do judges ‘overstep’ their reach and intrude on the domain of the Executive or the Legislature – if at all?

Presentations included:

  • Veronica Beck from the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro on The importance of people's participation and the judiciary's activities in urban planning.

  • Marius Pieterse from the University of the Witwatersrand on Rights-based litigation, urban governance and social justice in South Africa: The Right to Joburg.

  • Monica Nogara from the Government of the State of São Paulo on decisions by the Court of Justice of São Paulo in articulating the tension between the environment and the right to housing.

  • Michael Clark, an independent legal and research consultant based in New York on South African jurisprudence in respect of the in situ upgrading of informal settlements, and the potential in this regard for deep democracy. 

  • Vojislava Cordes from Fordham University on sanctuary cities in the United States, able to offer an inclusive polity as an alternative to the restrictive state.

  • Sarah Fox from Georgetown University and North Illinois University on the tension between cities and their surrounding states.

  • Margot Rubin from the University of the Witwatersrand on hegemonic urban projects and the apex courts in India and South Africa.

  • Melinda Maldonado from the National University of General Sarmiento on judicial activism in Buenos Aires in respect of property rights and urbanism.

  • Margaret Haltom from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville on an ecological democracy: judicial reasoning, environmental justice, and public flourishing in Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v Volpe. 

  • Bianca Tavolari from the University of São Paulo and the Brazilian Center for Analysis & Planning on how the Brazilian courts have interpreted the City Statute's right to the city.

  • Vivian Dombrowski from the Federal University of Santa Catarina and the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná on the democratic management of cities and legal decisions.

  • Pedro Galvão from Potiguar University and the University of Lincoln, Nebraska on urban compensations in view of the jurisprudence of São Paulo and Natal - what we understand, and what we expect.

  • Lilian RGM Pires and He Nem Kim Seo from Mackenzie Presbyterian University, São Paulo on Brazilian urban law jurisprudence and court decisions.

The workshop demonstrated how IRGLUS has grown over the years to include a number of new members from different disciplines and legal jurisdictions. The workshop was also charactertized by lively, informed, and engaging dialogue in an informal, intimate, and collegial manner. We were joined by a number of other parties interested simply in listening and discussing the papers, including Marlese von Broembsen from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing & Organizing (WIEGO), and Nestor Davidson from Fordham University's Urban Law Center.

A number of participants also joined us for an informal dinner at Spring Street Natural, an organic 'farm to table' restaurant in New York's Soho district. This dinner has become a bit of a tradition for IRGLUS workshops, and provided a relaxing space for participants to get to know each other a bit better. 

IRGLUS and the Urban Law Lab are grateful to Fordham University's Urban Law Center for financial and institutional support and, in particular to Wanda Ward. IRGLUS and the Urban Law Lab would also like to acknowledge the support of Guy Trangoš in developing the graphic design and identity for the workshop and its materials.