Queen's Law

Faculty of Law
Faculty of Law

Meet the seven new faculty members at Queen's Law

(August 3,2018)

Newly appointed Queen’s Law professors Ardi Imseis, Alyssa King, Noah Weisbord, Ashwini Vasanthakumar, Robert Yalden, Sabine Tsuruda and Benjamin Ewing.
Together for the first time as they take part in the school’s on-campus learning fair in July are newly appointed Queen’s Law professors Ardi Imseis, Alyssa King, Noah Weisbord, Ashwini Vasanthakumar, Robert Yalden, Sabine Tsuruda and Benjamin Ewing. (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

 

2018 is a banner year for faculty hiring at Queen's Law, with the addition of seven new professors to the school’s roster of exceptional scholars. All of these new talented researchers have already earned international recognition in their fields. This summer they’re preparing for their first year of teaching Queen’s Law students. Get to know them as they share their professional and personal interests. 

 

Benjamin Ewing

Professor Benjamin Ewing
Professor Benjamin Ewing has a particular interest in “what it means to have a fair opportunity to avoid punishment – and the nature and role of a fair opportunity to avoid crime as a component of a fair opportunity to avoid punishment.” (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

Why did you decide to join Queen’s Law?

My interactions with members of the law school community convinced me that Queen’s Law is not only an excellent Faculty of Law but also a very collegial and supportive environment in which to learn, teach and write. Queen’s is also home to an unusually large number of distinguished scholars of legal and political philosophy. I look forward to participating in the Colloquium in Legal and Political Philosophy and to working with my new colleagues to solidify the status of Queen’s as one of the best places in the world to study law from a philosophical perspective.

Fast Facts about Benjamin Ewing

What got you interested in your area of law?

My father is a forensic psychologist who taught criminal law at the University at Buffalo School of Law for over 30 years. Growing up, I would often discuss criminal justice with him at the dinner table. Some of the issues in which I am most interested – particularly the moral foundations of excuses and mitigating factors – are ones that he studied throughout his career, albeit through a psychological lens rather than a philosophical one.

Tell us about your research.

I have a longstanding interest in moral responsibility that undergirds my research agendas in criminal law and torts. In the area of criminal law, my present focus, I am especially interested in what it means to have a fair opportunity to avoid punishment – and the nature and role of a fair opportunity to avoid crime as a component of a fair opportunity to avoid punishment. I have used the framework of fair opportunity to avoid crime to develop theories of the mitigating force of a defendant’s unfairly disadvantaged background and the aggravating force of a defendant’s prior convictions. Going forward, I hope to develop a more general theory of fair opportunity to avoid crime and punishment and use it to shed light on issues of sentencing, substantive criminal law, and criminal procedure.

What are you most proud of?

I am very proud of my doctoral dissertation “Punishing Disadvantage: Culpability, Opportunity, and Responsibility.” In it, I argue that certain defendants have suffered unfairly criminogenic disadvantages. Because of their lack of what I call “fair ‘moral’ opportunity,” they have a claim of fairness to compensatory mitigation at sentencing, which I conceptualize as a form of “affirmative action” in criminal justice. I am still in the process of developing and extending many of the ideas in the dissertation, however. And I hope that the work of which I will be proudest lies ahead of me.

Any hobbies or interests?

I am an inveterate collector – mostly of music, movies and books.

Learn more about Professor Benjamin Ewing

 

Ardi Imseis

Professor Ardi Imseis
Professor Ardi Imseis is critically examining the relationship between international law and UN action, using the question of Palestine – “the longest running conflict on the UN’s agenda” – as a case study. (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

Why did you decide to join Queen’s Law?

For a public international law scholar/practitioner, Queen’s was an obvious choice given its demonstrated commitment to international legal education and practice. The international law programs offered at Queen’s are second to none in the country, highlighted by the “Castle” program, in which I have lectured and taught for a number of years. 

Another big draw for me to Queen’s was the opportunity to work with and among faculty who have a range and breadth of research and practice interests both within and beyond my own, promising to create synergies, where new ideas and thinking can flourish.

Fast Facts about Professor Ardi Imseis

What got you interested in your area of law?

As a student of international relations and history, my interests in public international law were a natural outgrowth of my training, cosmopolitan outlook and global worldview. In particular, my interest in post-colonial theory and the multifarious contemporary consequences of European imperialism piqued a further interest in the role of international law, both as a tool for the creation and maintenance of these phenomena, but also as a means and method of challenging them on their own terms. In an ideal world, international law and justice should coincide – but they often don’t. And it is at that fault-line that my interests in public international law reside, informed by 12 years of practice with the United Nations in some of the world’s most tumultuous regions.

Tell us about your research.

My present research critically examines the relationship between international law and United Nations action, using the question of Palestine – the longest running conflict on the UN’s agenda – as a case study. My research interrogates the received wisdom regarding the UN’s fealty to the international rule of law, in favour of what might more accurately be described as an international rule by law. It attempts to demonstrate that, through the actions of the UN, Palestine and its people have been committed to a state of what I call “international legal subalternity,” according to which the promise of justice through international law is repeatedly proffered under a cloak of political legitimacy furnished by the international community, but its realization interminably withheld.

What are you most proud of?

Together with my partner, I am most proud of my children. They constantly remind me that learning moments come in the most benign, everyday occurrences; and that there is no greater tragedy than to miss those occurrences and fail to seize those moments.

Any hobbies or interests?

When I’m not reading Edward Said, Cornel West or Noam Chomsky, I love to travel and play sports, most particularly football (favourite clubs: Barcelona FC, Celtic FC). My contrarian side is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that, despite being from Toronto, I’m a life-long Montreal Canadiens fan.  

Learn more about Professor Ardi Imseis

 

Alyssa King

Professor Alyssa King
Professor Alyssa King is currently researching arbitration in the U.S. and Europe, seeking answers to such questions as: “If EU countries will continue to use arbitration in a variety of settings, how will the EU’s legal system accommodate it?” (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

Why did you decide to join Queen’s Law?

Queen's has a wonderful community. My colleagues seem to be genuinely excited about their research and their students! People here are quick to offer help and collaboration. 

What got you interested in your area of law?

As an undergraduate I had the opportunity to take a course from the eminent legal historian, Morton Horwitz. I became interested in the various theories put forward to explain judicial power in the United States. Later, I became particularly interested in how similar debates were happening in other parts of the world and in the role that procedure plays in legitimating adjudicators in the eyes of the parties and the public. 

Fast Facts on Professor Alyssa King

Tell us about your research.

I am finishing up a series of papers that have to do with arbitration in the United States and Europe. In the United States, the federal Supreme Court has clashed with state courts and legislatures over federal protection for arbitration in domestic cases involving consumers and employees. In Europe, the debate concerns arbitrators’ power to hear cases between investors and states within the European Union (so-called intra-EU bilateral investment treaties). In both situations, the introduction of arbitration can alter the balance of power between central and local authorities. In the United States, some state legislatures have sought to make arbitration more like court, which would address some fairness concerns but also risk asking too much of the format. Under U.S. law, arbitrators cannot act like common law judges, creating precedent or making judgments of public policy. In Europe, matters have come to a head with the Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU)’s Achmea decision, which rejected the idea that investor-state arbitral tribunals can act like courts of the member states and refer EU law questions to the CJEU and also rejected the idea that they could independently interpret EU law. The question then is how far the CJEU’s analysis goes. If EU countries will continue to use arbitration in a variety of settings, and I expect they will, how will the EU's legal system accommodate it?

What are you most proud of?

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to teach at Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, PRC. I am extremely proud of the progress that my first-year students made in understanding the common law system and how to work between legal systems. Several of them went on to study abroad and are now working in places like Hong Kong. 

Any hobbies or interests?

In my spare time (ha!) I enjoy landscape painting and hiking. I'm also working on my Cantonese.

Learn more about Professor Alyssa King

 

Sabine Tsuruda

Professor Sabine Tsuruda
Professor Sabine Tsuruda is examining how “burdens and restrictions on employees’ speech and associational freedoms can constitute wrongful workplace inequality.” (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

Why did you decide to join Queen’s Law?

I was drawn to Queen’s Law because of its strengths in workplace law and legal philosophy. As a legal philosopher who writes on workers’ rights, Queen’s Law presented a unique opportunity to bring these subjects together in my teaching and research, and to join others with similar interests in the Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace and the Colloquium in Legal and Political Philosophy. During my visit, I was also impressed by the innovative and high-energy faculty, staff, and students. I came away feeling this was something I really wanted to be a part of. 

What got you interested in your area of law?

As an undergraduate, I was initially drawn to philosophy out of an interest in two big questions: what is it to live well and how would a society have to be organized to be just. Over the course of my studies and through the experiences of friends and family, I became increasingly interested in labour and employment law because of the influence of our jobs and the labour market over our social statuses and prospects for leading meaningful lives according to our own lights. Where we work and with whom, how much we make, what kinds of things we do as our work, and what our workplace relations are like can shape not just what we can purchase but also whether and when we have children, support this or that political party, and a variety of other facets of our lives in and outside of the workplace. And legal regulation of work plays a huge role in setting the tone and content of many life-shaping workplace relations and rules. My interest in labour and employment law has thus grown out of my interests in ethics and social justice.

Fast Facts about Professor Sabine Tsuruda

Tell us about your research.

We often think about workplace inequalities in terms of differences in working conditions along lines of protected statuses, such as gender and race, and differences in economic power. My research aims to complement that analysis by examining how burdens and restrictions on employees’ speech and associational freedoms can also constitute wrongful workplace inequality. Of course, burdens and restrictions on speech and association often coincide with (or are effectuated by) economic, racial, and other social status inequality. But I think we can enrich our understanding of these dimensions of inequality by investigating what moral values explain workers’ interests in speech (such as critical speech about the workplace) and association (economic, intimate, and political alike). For instance, a full explanation of the wrong of gender discrimination in the workplace might include a discussion of the moral significance of deferential speech patterns. Similarly, an exploration of whether certain guest worker programs are forms of national origin discrimination might attend not only to the material working conditions on the ground, but also to structural and legal barriers to guest workers maintaining familial and political ties.

What are you most proud of?

Much of what I’ve done is due to the love, support, and collective efforts of many wonderful people (friends, family, advisors, colleagues). One project for which I received a tremendous amount of help is completing the Joint JD/PhD Program in Law and Philosophy at UCLA. I’m perhaps most proud of my JD/PhD because of the many relationships I’ve formed in the course of completing the program and its significance for my family – I’m the first to receive a graduate degree.

Any hobbies or interests?

In another life, I would have loved to have been a novelist! I enjoy reading all kinds of fiction, ranging from fantasy (e.g., Game of Thrones) to 19th century British literature and Haruki Murakami’s surrealist writing. I also grew up playing classical piano, and I try to practice and learn a new piece when I can. I enjoy cross-country and downhill skiing, and am looking forward to discovering places in the region to do that come winter and early spring.

Learn more about Professor Sabine Tsuruda

 

Ashwini Vasanthakumar

Professor Ashwini Vasanthakumar
Professor Ashwini Vasanthakumar is focusing her current research on “the duties and rights that exiles have in the communities they’ve fled and the various roles they play in homeland politics.” (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

Why did you decide to join Queen’s Law?

In addition to being a top law school in Canada, Queen’s is an exciting place to be doing theory – it has a dynamic and growing community of scholars who also collaborate closely with colleagues in the politics and philosophy faculties. So, it was an ideal intellectual home for me, given my training in law and political theory. I am thrilled to be building my career back home and at such a dynamic law school. I wanted to come home, and this is precisely the sort of place where I wanted to come home to.

What got you interested in your area of law?

My work is primarily in normative theory: I focus on how things ought to be in politics and law. I started my liberal arts education obsessed with Russian history but then discovered analytical political philosophy: what I discovered to be a lifelong argument about justice, political life, and personal ethics. I am interested in the law as a particular extension and expression of these considerations about justice. As lawyers, we are hugely privileged to have at our disposal a tool that might actually make a difference in someone’s life. Unfortunately, legal and political theory easily sound esoteric and far removed from the practice of law. This is not true. Legal doctrines, including in private law, often rely explicitly on normative considerations and implicitly draw on a background theory of justice. Arguments about constitutional interpretation are, among other things, arguments of political theory. And practitioners, in any area of law, confront complex ethical dilemmas.

Fast Facts about Professor Ashwini Vasanthakumar

Tell us about your research.

My current research is focused on the political lives of migrants and the victims of oppression. I’m completing my first book, The Ethics of Exile: a political theory of diaspora, which looks at the duties and rights that exiles have in the communities they have fled and the various roles they play in homeland politics. For good reason, scholars and policymakers focus on the duties owed to those fleeing persecution and conflict; but, I think it is also important to tell the other side of the migration story, and to examine the political relationship between political communities and those who have left. Given the scale of global migration and the technological capacities for emigrants to remain connected, emigrant communities and their descendants – diasporas – are poised to have an enduring role in the countries they have left. We see this in the role that diasporas play in civil conflicts in their countries of origin, but also in more conventional politics: emigrant diasporas, for example from Mexico and Turkey, have proven to be powerful constituencies in recent elections. 

My future research will focus on theorising injustice and the duties and permissions that exist when we confront an unjust political order. So much of analytical political theory begins with the reasonably just state. I’m not sure we, or many of us, have lived in a reasonably just state. And I am interested in exploring what political authority and legitimacy mean in an unjust state, and what it requires of dutiful citizens. We often conflate political obligation with complying with the law; if anything, the last few years have shown us that the most dedicated citizens are those who challenge the law. 

What are you most proud of?

A recent accomplishment was acquiring a paella dish, although using it has proven to be an entirely separate matter. I’m also very proud of my niece and nephew although I can't take any credit for their general awesomeness.

Any hobbies or interests?

Reading, movies, traveling, the occasional and leisurely run. Not cooking, sadly, although I remain optimistic. 

Learn more about Professor Ashwini Vasanthakumar

 

Noah Weisbord

Professor Noah Weisbord
Professor Noah Weisbord is working on his first book, “an insider’s account of the high-stakes fight to define the crime of aggression, now a prosecutable international crime." (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

How would you describe your past year as a visiting professor at Queen’s Law and why did you decide to join Queen’s Law?

It feels like a jolly homecoming. After years studying and teaching in the U.S., I’m finally home, reunited with family, friends and close colleagues. Plus, it’s an honour to be joining a Canadian law faculty renowned in criminal law.

Fast Facts about Professor Noah Weisbord

What got you interested in your area of law?

I became interested in the criminal law when I was a social work student studying the relationship between justice and healing in a class on therapy with involuntary patients. Some people are ordered by criminal courts to undergo therapy and I was curious about how therapists operate in these situations and whether therapy can work.

Tell us about your research.

A unifying theme in my research has been the role of the criminal law in managing, reflecting or exacerbating intergroup conflict. The greater part of my scholarship to date has dealt with criminal law and intergroup relations abroad – the U.S., Rwanda, The Hague – and I am now beginning to bring conceptual and methodological insights I developed to Canadian law, which is contending with intergroup dynamics of its own. A major project has been on the Colten Boushie homicide and the Gerald Stanley case.

What are you most proud of?

Since 2005, I’ve been working with states to enact legislation that will enable domestic, regional and international courts to hold political and military leaders accountable for aggressive war. On July 17, 2018, against all expectations, “the crime of aggression” became a prosecutable international crime alongside genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Instead of collective state responsibility, our leaders are now personally subject to indictment for illegal wars, from invasions and preemptions to drone strikes and cyberattacks. The crime of aggression could be a game-changer in international diplomacy, but it carries great risk along with its promise. My passion project, an insider’s account of the high-stakes fight to define the crime and its jurisdictional conditions, is about to be published with Princeton University Press.

Any hobbies or interests?

Festive dinner parties, country living, team sports, tennis, aikido

Learn more about Professor Noah Weisbord

 

Robert Yalden

Professor Robert Yalden
Professor Robert Yalden is focusing his research on the “forces that shape competing perspectives on the role of corporations, boards of directors and different stakeholders, and that, in turn, shape the institutional architecture that countries put in place to oversee and foster the evolution of business law.” (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke)

Why did you decide to join Queen’s Law?

The Stephen Sigurdson Professorship in Corporate Law and Finance was created at the right time. I had been in practice for 25 years with Osler, where Steve had been a partner and where I had had the privilege of working with him when I was a young associate, so the job posting caught my eye. I have taught corporate and securities law since the early ’90s, and published regularly on business law issues, but was keen to devote more time to teaching, research and dialogue about public policy issues that shape Canadian business law. So I decided to apply for the position. I was already aware that the Faculty had excellent business law scholars. But the more I got to know the Faculty as a whole and its desire to keep building on its strengths in this area, the more convinced I became that this really was a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Fast Facts about Professor Robert Yalden

What got you interested in your area of law?

In law school I had a passion for administrative and constitutional law (areas that I still find incredibly interesting). But to my great surprise, my student experience with Osler gave rise to a passion for business law. During my articles I worked extensively on the first “poison pill” adopted in Canada. This involved fascinating research and analysis of fundamental issues underlying Canadian business law, as we tried to sort out whether we could adapt a U.S. M&A defense strategy to fit within Canada’s corporate and securities law frameworks and as debate raged about what role Canadian boards of directors should play in the face of hostile take-over bids. Soon after that I had the opportunity to teach a corporate and securities law course at McGill. That allowed me to build on my experience at Osler and to explore a range of public policy issues that were not being examined in much depth in Canadian business law courses at the time. The experiences at Osler and McGill were the genesis of my decision to build a career in business law.  

Tell us about your research.

I have a longstanding interest in the purpose that we expect corporations to serve and the way different visions of that purpose shape business law frameworks in Canada and in other countries. I have been especially intrigued by the way corporate and securities law sometimes embrace competing visions of the corporation, as well as by their often differing perspectives both on how boards should approach their decision making process and on which stakeholders’ interests they should factor into that process. My research aims to better understand the forces shaping these different perspectives and, in turn, the institutional architecture that countries put in place to oversee and foster the evolution of business law. I am fascinated by these big picture issues, but I am equally concerned with the way debates about these matters affect the development of principles and practices that guide day to day decision making in corporations. Indeed, I have long been concerned that corporate and securities law in Canada are not as well integrated as they should be because they embrace different conceptions of the corporation, with the result that they advance competing principles that are not easily reconciled in practice. This has given rise to significant tensions that have very real consequences for how corporate and securities law come at particular problems, as well as for the standards that these bodies of law ask boards of directors and management teams to live up to as they consider questions affecting the future of the corporation. 

What are you most proud of?

Being invited to join Queen’s Law and to become the first Sigurdson Professor; maintaining a sustained commitment to teaching and publishing throughout my years in practice; being a founding partner and then contributing for close to two decades to building the Montreal office of Osler (in both of Canada’s official languages); serving as a law clerk to Bertha Wilson (the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada) and supporting her work on a number of seminal decisions; my involvement for over a decade on the Board of Canada’s leading NGO devoted to human rights education (EQUITAS) and its extraordinary domestic and international programs; and, most especially, my parents (who devoted their careers to public service and academia), my spouse (a human rights lawyer and educator) and my daughter (flourishing as a university student), for they have all shaped my values and principles for the better.

Any hobbies or interests?

  • Cross-country skiing and running (born of my time doing both competitively in high school and then as an undergraduate with the Queen’s Varsity teams)
  • Travel, food and wine (France and Greece being high on those lists for family reasons)
  • Art, music, theatre and good books 

Learn more about Professor Robert Yalden