Alumni Short

The Judiciary and Political Change in Egypt

Ithaca, NEW YORK, November 13, 2012

“This is an extraordinarily interesting moment in Egyptian history,” noted Bruce Rutherford, referring to the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt's anticipated response to a draft constitution released by the country’s constituent assembly. “It is a fascinating moment for legal theory,” he continued, “a moment of what some claim is revolutionary change and what others call a period of gradual and incremental transition.”

The Law School welcomed Rutherford, associate professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern & Islamic Civilization Studies at Colgate University, to participate in the Fall 2012 Colloquium series presented by the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa. Rutherford has researched extensively on law and politics in Egypt and is the author of the presciently titled Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World (Princeton, 2008).

Rutherford’s presentation provided a survey of three main approaches to jurisprudence in Egypt—the liberal, the conservative, and the revolutionary—as they have manifested in the decisions of the country’s ordinary, administrative, and constitutional courts since the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He concluded with three key observations: first, that the judiciary, as a corporate body, has been “remarkably incoherent” in its preference for one or another approach; second, that the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently dominates Egypt’s elected bodies of governance, is trying to expand its influence over the judiciary; and third, that proponents of liberalism appear to be rallying around the judiciary as their last bastion of influence over the future of the country.

In her introduction to Rutherford, Chantal Thomas, professor of law and director of the Clarke Initiative, stated “I think his work presents us with one of the most nuanced and careful studies of constitutionalism and its role in legal interpretation and legal reform—in particular among judges and courts in the Egyptian context—that has been published in the last generation.”

The Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa is a cumulative project that focuses on current legal, political, economic, and social changes in the Middle East and seeks to be a part of the ongoing progress in the rule of law and in the evolution of the legal processes in the region.

Fall 2012 Clarke Initiative Colloquium for Law and Development in the Middle East and North Africa Presenters:

  • Bernard Freamon, Seton Hall University School of Law
  • Asma Barlas, Department of Politics, Ithaca College
  • James Grabowski, Field Operations, AMIDEAST
  • Guenter Heidenhof, Public Sector and Governance in the Middle East and North Africa Region, World Bank
  • Sheila Lalwani, Merrill School of Journalism, University of Maryland
  • Fadhel Kaboub, Department of Economics, Denison University
  • Bruce Rutherford, Political Science and Middle Eastern & Islamic Civilization Studies, Colgate University
  • Graciana del Castillo, Columbia School for International and Public Affairs
  • Andrew Metcalf, King & Spalding
  • Ziad Fahmy, Cornell University Department of Near Eastern Studies
  • Catherine Warrick, Political Science Department, Villanova University