Participants at the John Willis Conference

Conference Honours Canada's Foremost Public Law Scholar 

On September 16 and 17, the Faculty hosted a conference to commemorate the life and scholarship of Professor John Willis (1907-1997), Canada's foremost scholar of public law. Prof. Willis taught at U of T's Faculty of Law for nearly 20 years.

The conference brought together scholars from New Zealand, England, the United States of America as well as Canada, and was organized by Professors Harry Arthurs (Osgoode), David Dyzenhaus (Toronto), Martin Loughlin (LSE), and Mike Taggart (Auckland). In a departure, authors did not present their own papers but rather at each of the four panels, a graduate student presented a total of four to five papers and provided comments. This allowed considerable time for discussion on issues ranging from the rule of law to globalization.

Prof. Willis was an important part of the Faculty's history. In 1949, he and colleagues 'Caesar' Wright and Bora Laskin resigned from Osgoode Hall law school and joined the University of Toronto. Together, they helped persuade the Law Society of Upper Canada to recognize the LL.B. degree that had been newly established at U of T's Faculty of Law. Prof. Willis went on to teach law at U of T from 1949-1952 and again from 1959 to 1972. He was considered by his students to be among the best teachers they encountered. His first book, The Parliamentary Powers of English Government Departments, published in 1933, is still regarded as a classic. Many of his most influential articles were published in the University of Toronto Law Journal, which is planning to gather the papers from the conference into a special issue for publication in 2005.