Public law is like rust; it never sleeps.
Mention public law in general company and the result is quite likely to be polite disregard. It is not held to be the most galvanizing of topics. Few understand its scope, influence and importance.
And yet public law is the underpinning of our collective existence. It is the legal landscape we live in. It is so omnipresent that it is overlooked and taken for granted, until the wheels fall off. When life spins out of control it is public law we look to for reference, for a safety net.
Professor Philip Joseph of Canterbury University’s Law School is widely regarded as New Zealand’s leading authority and expert in public law. It was against the topsy-turvey, emotionally charged, physically and mentally challenging backdrop of total upheaval caused by the Christchurch earthquakes that he completed the 4th edition of his book Constitutional and Administrative Law in New Zealand.
As Professor Joseph says in the preface:
“It records a strengthening of judicial disciplines on public decision-making. There is now little patience for “tick-box” decision making. Decision-makers must exhibit genuine evaluation of the criteria hedging decision-making, using open and transparent reasoning, or risk judicial review.”
“Other legislative and judicial developments,” he explains, “are integrated throughout the discussions, as part of the general exposition of public law principles.”
The book, recently launched in Wellington and Christchurch, is testimony to the ever changing nature of its subject. “Public law,” says its author, “is like rust; it never sleeps. It marches resolutely on, stamping its mark in response to needs.”
The book is also a personal testimony to the fortitude, perseverance and scholarship of its author. This edition was commissioned eight days before the earthquake demolished Christchurch on 22nd February 2011. The Law School lost its offices and library. The back seat of Professor Joseph’s car became his office as he set off to lecture in tents. It was only at the beginning of this year that the faculty moved back into regular offices. Regardless of circumstances, the research and writing continued.
Renay Taylor (Thomson Reuters NZ), the commissioning editor managing the book, comments that the magnitude of the project cannot be understated. She says Philip’s research, writing and standards he holds himself to are phenomenal. The latter she says is borne out by many emerging authors claiming that they aspire to the standard of “the Joseph book”. Most customers, she adds, use the same expression when they order the text. Everyone knows what they mean.
That praise and esteem is echoed by those who know exactly how important public law is. At the launch of the text in Wellington, the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson QC said “Professor Joseph’s text is, I believe, one of the leading – if not the leading – text on the subject of public law.”
People and print quality
As the book’s publishers we feel privileged and proud to represent such an author.
We are also delighted to read Professor Joseph’s preface in which he acknowledges the professionalism and support he received from both Renay Taylor, (“I am indebted to her for her unflinching patience and understanding in the aftermath of the earthquakes. I confess to experiencing despair at times as my progress slowed, but Renay remained reassuring and encouraging.”), and Clare Barrett, his editor (“Clare Barrett was a joy to work alongside. Clare has the uncanny ability to combine true professionalism and genuine wit and humour.”).
We are thrilled, too, to receive a large number of compliments about the high production standards and quality of the printed book. No one, though, has been more complimentary than the author, so much so that Professor Joseph approached the artist whose art work is on the cover, Morag Stokes, and purchased the work which is now hanging in the reception of the Canterbury Law School.
Clare Barrett (editor) on working alongside Philip Joseph
The relationship between editor and author is always an interesting one. Because Professor Joseph was complimentary about working with Clare, we decided the joy of reciprocity should prevail. This is Clare’s comment about working with him.
“After the book launch for Philip Joseph’s Constitutional and Administrative Law in New Zealand (4th edition), I was going down in the lift with Geoffrey Palmer (as you do) and I said to him “You know, when I got assigned this book, I thought it was going to be very dry and heavy-going”, and he replied “Did you now” in a very school masterly, Geoffrey Palmer-ish tone.
But of course, he was right to be surprised. The subject matter is all about us, as people and as a nation; our history, our progress, our democratic path.
Philip came with a reputation of being quite particular – “Don’t change things” Renay said, “If you have any suggestions, please put them in the comments programme”.
So a 1400 page dry book and a particular author – how was this going to go? Well, the adage of not counting chickens comes to mind.
Philip is very particular – refreshingly particular. It matters to him that the book is readable and the detail correct. He was an absolute dream to work with – entertaining, always open to suggestion and an absolute master of the language.
The topic is made interesting; in fact I will say absorbing. And so much is going on in this area at the moment – maybe it’s always going on (she says, ignorantly) – that there were constant additions to keep up with the daily changes and events.
Every time I opened the paper, I’d wonder if this should go in the book; the Peter Dunne party numbers debacle for instance and the Sky City negotiations; not to mention the new Parliamentary Privilege Bill.
Philip spent three months of the time I worked on the book (September-December last year) on a research fellowship at the University of Cambridge. I start work at 6.30 am and he would be replying happily to emails at the end of his day. Sometimes he would dine at High Table at his college (Trinity) and then come back and be working away (and emailing away) into his wee small hours of the morning and my afternoon.
It was a very happy time and my only regret, with our shared love of cricket, was that my work on the book had finished before Brendon McCullum got his run of 302 (though I did think of Philip when it happened!).
As the book is a 4th edition, my task was to edit new material only and with time being of the essence, I had to stick to that and not enjoy the whole work as I was itching to. Therefore, and I have never done this before, I have purchased the book so I can enjoy reading about my country and our growth as a country, without the whip and scourge of deadlines. The book reminds me of where I stand and of a very enjoyable year at the office.”
About the launches
Wellington – 8th May
The Wellington offices of Russell McVeagh (for whom Professor Joseph is a consultant) hosted an official launch of the 4th edition Constitutional and Administrative Law in New Zealand exactly six years and six months after they had launched the 3rd edition. The launch was coordinated and introduced by Public Law and Policy Partner, Tim Clarke, who also officiated at the previous launch.
The Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson QC, spoke of the importance of the work and how it informed and challenged interpretations of the law. It was, he said, a field covering topics not far-removed from the realities of life: but central to the sort of country we have.
In addition to the Attorney-General, the event was attended by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias; judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court; leading practitioners; public law academics; and Philip’s family: his wife, and three adult children all of whom are lawyers.
Christchurch – 15th May
Professor Stephen Todd (General Editor of Todd on Tort and author of Leading Cases in Song) anchored the Christchurch event in the repaired Canterbury Law Faculty. Supreme Court Judge Sir William Young spoke, noting Philip as the leading public law academic in this country. As in Wellington, this event was attended by members of the judiciary, practitioners, legal academics, students and family.
For more information
- Constitutional and Administrative Law in NZ – link to the book in our online catalogue
- Review by Wendy McGuinness – McGuinness Institute
- Press release on Scoop
- About the author
- About the author’s research
- About the author’s multiple awards: 2012 Research Medal University of Canterbury, JF Northey Memorial Book Award, Sir Ian Barker Published Article Award
- About Morag Stokes – artist