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A caring public administration? Revisiting the values of tribunal adjudication for access to administrative justice
Adjudicators at agencies, boards and tribunals play a unique role in public administration. Often appointed for limited terms, they assume powers similar to traditional court judges but do so as employees of the executive branch of government. Making determinations about peoples’ rights and entitlements, they contribute to ensuring an accountable government. Traditionally, impartiality and independence are the key principles that balance the arm’s-length but simultaneously judicial and executive orientation of their position. This view, I argue, conceptualizes administrative adjudication principally through its relationship to political superiors and courts but ignores the people who seek justice. Adjudicators themselves offer a different understanding of this role, emphasizing their links to people who seek justice through tribunals, describing it as, “being empathetic”, “hearing people”, “empowering individuals”, ‘restoring trust in the state”, “healing relationships”, and “being a spokesperson for the society”. This article builds on and contributes to theoretical reflections on administrative justice values and a relational public administration. The underpinning principle of care can enable greater access to tribunals. This argument is based on interviews with former and current adjudicators who have experience in health, residential tenancies, social security, worker’s compensation, human rights, immigration and refugee law in Canada.

Bio: Dr. Şule Tomkinson is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at Université Laval. She is currently visiting Peter A. Allard School of Law and the UBC Centre for Migration Studies. Her expertise is in administrative justice, qualitative methodology, and research ethics. Her research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, The Fonds de recherche du Québec, The Canadian Foundation for Legal Research, The Quebec Bar Foundation, and The Department of Justice.

Feb 8, 2023 12:45 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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