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Public Interest Litigation Lab - LAW00073H

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Joe Tomlinson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

This module places students in the position of strategic public law litigators and human rights investigators. Working with external civil society organisations as clients, students will investigate, in groups, how a potentially unlawful government policy or practice is operating in the UK. They will compile and assess the evidence base (which will be passed on to a external client organisation), before undertaking an analysis of the potential public law and human rights arguments that could be made. The course will therefore simulate for students how complex public interest litigation is developed.

Professional requirements


Related modules

Co-requisite modules

  • None

Prohibited combinations

  • None

Additional information

This course will require a foundational level of public law and judicial review, as delivered through the Law School's Foundations modules.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

Public interest judicial review is a growing field in which many students are considering trying to build a career. However, this area of law and practice, and the skills required to work in it, are rarely taught systematically. This module would be the first of its kind in the UK and give YLS students real practical insight into how the law can be used to challenge unlawful government policies and practices.

Module learning outcomes

(1) To understand and be able to apply the law and procedure applicable to public interest judicial review cases

(2) To be able to gather, synthesise, manage, and analyse an evidence base on the operation of a government policy, decision, or practice

(3) To be able to practically analyse, by reference to judicial review procedure and public law principles, whether a government policy, decision, or practice is unlawful

(4) To develop a critical understanding of the role of public interest judicial review in the constitution, good government, and activism

Module content

The module will have two interwoven tracks:

Track 1 (Knowledge and Context): Through a series of interactive lectures, the students will learn the essentials of judicial review procedure and principles. This will be taught by reference to both academic literature and empirical data on how the process works. For this element of the course, students will be working in their groups and focus on just one example of a public interest judicial review case. By way of example, the first run of this module is likely to assign cases relating to: police facial recognition; the right to rent; and climate change. Students will then be asked, as part of the interactive lectures, to reflect on and research their case in depth by reference to the topics of each lecture. The cases will be discussed as part of the lectures. The aim here is for the students to develop an applied appreciation of the substantive course content and develop a great understanding of how litigation is a much wider practice than judgments reveal. The lectures will cover the following key areas:

  • Introduction/strategic use of law/legal mobilisation
  • Decision-making and policymaking structures in government
  • Applications/costs/permission
  • Evidence: how its used in courts
  • Evidence: techniques
  • Impact, remedies, alternatives

Track 2 (Application): For the second track of the course, the student will also be in the same group and be given a very short brief/topic by an external organisation interested in exploring an issue for litigation. This organisation is likely to be a legal charity, such as the Child Poverty Action Group, and will change each year. The students will treat the organisation as a client and will conduct their research in the YLS Law Clinic. The first part of the term will be spent with the groups gathering evidence on this topic under the supervision of the Clinic. For the second part of the term, students will be required to complete a template which invites them to set out their evidence on the topic and produce an analysis of the quality of the evidence. This material will be subject to a 1hr group viva in the Clinic, to simulate a meeting with counsel. If the work is of a good enough standard, the material produced by the students will be supplied to the partner organisation as a report. The remainder of the term will be spent with the students developing a legal analysis of the issue they have gathered evidence on and producing their view on the prospects of public interest litigation. Students will work in groups but produce their work individually.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay: Advice on Legality
N/A 60
Evidence review/viva: Evidence Analysis & Clinic Viva Evidence review/viva: Evidence Analysis & Clinic Viva
N/A 40

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The viva will be on hour in group format. It will include up to three standard questions which students will be expected to discuss for approx. 45 minutes.

Reassessments will be conducted in the summer UG reassessment week.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay: Advice on Legality
N/A 60
Evidence review/viva: Evidence Analysis & Clinic Viva Evidence review/viva: Evidence Analysis & Clinic Viva
N/A 40

Module feedback

Generally: Constant feedback is built into the module design. By placing the students both in groups and in a supervised clinic environment, we hope to create a constant feedback loop to assist student development, which involves both the course tutors and the students' peers.

Assessment 1: Students will receive written group feedback on their evidence analysis document and an individual mark for their viva performance.

Assessment 2: Student will receive standard essay format feedback via turnitin.

Indicative reading

Public Law Textbooks, e.g: Elliott and Thomas, Public Law; Craig, Administrative Law

Practitioner texts available via Westlaw, e.g.: de Smith's Judicial Review; The White Book

Specialist academic works, e.g.: Duffy, Strategic Human Rights Litigation

Much of the reading on this course will be dependent on the brief given to the students. It would be expected that the students focus reading, at least in the evidence gathering phase, on the context they are working in.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.