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Faculty of Law

Paul Warchuk expands UNB Law’s administrative and constitutional prowess

Paul Warchuk

Dr. Paul Warchuk, an expert in administrative and constitutional law, recently joined the Faculty of Law as an Assistant Professor. With one full semester under his belt, Prof. Warchuk sat down with Nexus to delve into his academic journey, research endeavors, and initial reflections on his experience at UNB.

Prof. Warchuk received a JD from Queen’s University, graduating at the top of his class as the Gold Medalist. Eager to continue developing his expertise in public law, he set off for the Federal Court of Appeal, where he served as law clerk for Justice David Stratas, a respected authority in administrative law.

“That was a really great experience. Justice Stratas brought me along to bench and bar events and introduced me to an incredible public law community. I applied for grad school, and he was instrumental in that—helping with applications and writing generous reference letters.”

Prof. Warchuk received an LLM from Harvard Law School, where he studied as a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow. While at Harvard, it was an unforeseen issue with course registration that led to a new research trajectory.

“I was interested in studying admin law and public law, but unfortunately—I guess fortunately in hindsight—I didn’t get into the courses I wanted. I was scrambling and enrolled in a couple of really niche history offerings, Ancient Athenian Law, Medieval English Law, American Legal History, and the American Constitution between 1815 and 1861.”

Warchuk completed his master’s thesis, which examines the history of the Federal Courts in Canada. Armed with a newly minted interest in legal history, he travelled to the UK to study the origins of administrative law at the University of Cambridge, where he held the Hollond Whittaker Research Studentship.

“My doctoral thesis question essentially centered around why courts began conducting review of these administrative decisions. Why did courts get involved in this sort of thing when it's not really in their purview, and it's not something we see courts doing outside of common law systems.”

This topic led to innumerable hours in the archives reading handwritten 17th century decisions—all in a special language known as law French.

Joining the Federal Department of Justice

With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Warchuk returned to Canada, where he continued to work on his thesis part-time. He joined the Federal Department of Justice as Counsel, working in the centre of expertise for constitutional, administrative, and international law.

“Our group got to hear a lot of interesting and difficult legal issues. Each department has their own legal counsel, but when there's a complicated question or a question that has importance across multiple departments, these issues will be referred to a centre of expertise.”

Prof. Warchuk’s practice with the federal government was split 50-50 between advisory and litigation files. He enjoyed the opportunity to see both sides of the system, the constructing of new legislation and policies, and their repercussions or challenges. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the position was the ability to collaborate with like-minded colleagues who shared his interest in dissecting thorny legal issues.

“Working with the DOJ was a fascinating job. One of the difficulties—and this is actually part of what drove me back to academia—was the limitation on what I could write about outside of the office. The perfect opportunity came up at UNB, and after interviewing, it seemed like a really good fit for me.”

Prof. Warchuk joined UNB Law on July 1, 2023, and he began teaching in September. Despite joining the faculty just a few short months ago, he already feels a strong connection to the students and the law school. He shared that he regularly has students stay after class or attend office hours to discuss course material, explore broader legal questions, and discuss career possibilities and advice.

In the classroom, he employs a more casual and lighthearted teaching style for his first-year classes to promote participation and dialogue. Student-led discussion is a cornerstone of his pedagogy.

“I want to have more of a conversation and be more honest and upfront. Once the traditional barriers are broken down, you’re freed to have a discussion on an equal footing. I want students to feel comfortable to speak and ask questions.”

Examining the history of administrative law in Canada

Having now completed his PhD, Prof. Warchuk is looking forward to continuing his research pursuits at UNB Law. He is working on several projects related to Section 96 Courts—Provincial Superior Courts. The first project looks at the mythology around these courts and how much of the jurisprudence, according to Warchuk, is based on misunderstandings about the history of these courts, their jurisdiction, and the role that these courts should play.

“The Supreme Court has developed a lot of case law that protects the jurisdiction of these courts. It says these courts are special and unique in our legal system for various, in my opinion, invalid reasons. But the Court says they're special and therefore their jurisdiction has to be protected and we can't remove certain things from the jurisdiction of Superior Courts. This stifles our ability to reform the justice system and improve access to justice.”

Prof. Warchuk is also examining the constitutionality of privative clauses, statutory provisions in legislation that oust the jurisdiction of courts. His particular focus surrounds the judicial review of administrative decision makers and to what extent legislatures can insulate administrative decisions from the oversight of Section 96 Courts.

A ‘sweet’ welcome to the classroom

As our readers can see, Prof. Warchuk has had a winding journey to the UNB Faculty of Law. His initial impressions of the law school can be best encapsulated by the following anecdote, which beautifully captures the spirit of collegiality that defines UNB Law.

“One day, I arrived at class, and an anonymous student had left a sweet potato on my lectern. There was a note attached saying, ‘the only thing sweeter than this sweet potato is Professor Warchuk’s administrative law class.’”

Naturally, Prof. Warchuk took the sweet potato home, and roasted it in the oven.

“I took a picture of my roasted sweet potato and put it in the slide deck of my next lecture, along with a thank you to whoever supplied me with my healthy side dish for that evening’s chicken dinner.”