Constitutional Law & Political Science [CL&PS]

Financial crisis and social rights
Informal constitutional changes
Human dignity and new technologies
Judicial activism
Head of Research Group
Miguel Nogueira de Brito
Deputy Head of Research Group for Political Science
Luís Pereira Coutinho
Research team
The Research Group on Constitutional Law & Political Science (RG:CL&PS) gathers an alliance between two different scientific disciplines for the research on political institutions and fundamental rights.
Recent and rather disparate events have put the Constitution back in the order of the day and in the centre of the political spotlight. The terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 have demanded a reconsideration of the equation between freedom and security, challenging many of the assumptions about the rule of law and civil rights as the bedrock of the modern constitutional state. In states with weaker economic performances, the financial crisis precipitated the sovereign debt crisis and resulted in international financial assistance from international and supranational organisations. The memoranda of understanding that materialised such assistance were adopted without even passing through national Parliaments and required the implementation of certain public policies by the beneficiary states. In some cases, these policies have met resistance from the Constitutional Courts, such as the Portuguese one. In medium-income countries with booming economies and marked social inequalities, such as Brazil, the highest bodies of the judiciary have decided to take up the task of materialising social justice themselves by delivering activist rulings on issues related to welfare rights. In the USA, a severe budget crisis linked with the federal government “shutdown” has called for a new perspective to frame political representation. Within the European Union, the setback of the European constituent process followed by the German Federal Constitutional Court’s 2009 ruling on the Treaty of Lisbon operated as a centrifugal force that returned the final word to national Constitutional Courts. In a globalised world where sovereignty seems to fade, the Constitution of the Nation state still is, after all and somewhat counter intuitively, the last stronghold in many issues of the contemporary polity.
RG:CL&PS focused its research on two broad subjects: first, separation of what belongs to the Constitution and to the judicial and the legislative branches, and second the challenges to fundamental rights.
Regarding the separation of what belongs in the Constitution and to the judicial and the legislative branches, there are four research projects. “Informal changes to the constitution” accounts for the implications of the transformations and changes that occur, without any amendments, to the constitutional law of states with paramount written constitutions. “The protection of social rights and the challenges of the economic and financial crisis” aims to determine what the institutional conditions and the limits for the materialisation of social justice needs and wants, and what is the role of the constitutional jurisdiction therein. “Judicial activism in Europe and in the United States” brings together the practice of constitutional jurisdictions in both sides of the Atlantic so as to determine common trends. Lastly, “The political presuppositions of Public Law concepts” seeks to verify their epistemologically autonomous configuration.
The new technologies and fundamental rights research stratum will be bifurcated in two research projects. “Constitutional law in the cyberspace” will focus on the interface between privacy and regulation in a dematerialised universal space. “Human dignity” will inquire what the core of such concept is.
Lines of research
RG:CL&PS manages the strategic line named Portuguese-speaking Public Law and participates in the management of the research line Global Administrative and Regulatory Governance.