Researcher in Focus: Dr James Organ
Posted on: 24 June 2019 by Nick Jones in 2018 Posts
Meet this month's researcher in focus, Dr James Organ from the Liverpool Law School, and find out more about his work looking at the emergence of new forms of democracy and access to justice.
James joined the University of Liverpool as a Lecturer in Law at the Liverpool Law School in 2015 after completing his AHRC funded PhD in direct democracy at the University of Liverpool. New forms of democracy continue to be a key strand of research. More recently, James has also developed his research interest in access to justice.
James is heavily engaged in the development of participatory democracy, particularly the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) and citizens' assemblies. He works closely with EU civil society organisations, such as the ECI Campaign group, Democracy International and ECAS, to develop ideas and provide legal advice. James has published articles on the ECI, advised MEPs on the subject, and last year wrote the legislative proposal for the EESC for the new ECI regulation.
Not content with the European level, James, along with Dr Ben Murphy, is now collaborating with the group ‘Democracy Without Borders’ on a World Citizens Initiative project.
James’ interest in democratic innovation also extends to citizens' assemblies. Last year he led a Europe for Citizens funded project that ran mini publics in four EU Member States to test the feasibility of an EU level citizens' assembly. Civil society partners included WeMove, DemNet, European Alternatives and Declic.
This year he is working with the Institute for Irish Studies to develop citizen participation in Northern Ireland, as part of the Initiative for Civic Space. A citizens’ panel was held in Belfast on 11th May. James’s most recent publication ‘Legal Regulation of Campaign Deliberation: Lessons from Brexit’ examines how the law can help limit misleading statements in referendum campaigns
James is currently editing a book on EU level citizen participation that was the result of a Liverpool KE&I voucher funded conference. This brings together his various interests in EU level democracy and includes interdisciplinary contributions from academia and civil society. He has also recently started work on a monograph provisionally titled ‘Institutionalising Democratic Participation in the EU’.
Whilst working for Citizens Advice for 12 years, James developed a passion for access to justice. Working with Dr Jennifer Sigafoos, this has developed in to a second area of research, and regular impact work with partners such as Citizens Advice Liverpool, Liverpool Law Society and Liverpool City Council, particularly focused on the impact of funding cuts on free legal advice in the 3rd and private sectors.
Last year, for example, James and Jennifer completed an Equality and Human Rights Commission funded report to understand the impact of legal aid cuts on routes to justice and people’s lives. This fed in to the Government review of legal aid policy, and James and Jennifer hosted the Labour party fringe event on access to justice at last year’s conference in Liverpool.
Research in to the impact of reduced access to justice continues to develop. James and Jennifer have an article forthcoming titled ‘What about the poor people’s rights?’: Legal Aid and the deconstruction of civil rights and social citizenship’. James and Jennifer have received funding this month to start a research project to map and understand legal advice in Liverpool, to increase the effectiveness of free legal advice delivery, and to help develop a legal advice strategy for the city.
Keywords: Researcher in Focus.