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Open and Shut Cases – the need for an open mind in Law

Inaugural Lecture: Open and Shut Cases

Thursday 4 May, 5:00 - 6:00 pm

Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes

The need for judges, lawyers, law students and the general public alike, to keep an open mind in legal affairs, will be highlighted by OU Professor Simon Lee in his Open University inaugural lecture on Thursday 4 May 2017.

In Open and Shut Cases, Simon Lee, Professor of Law and Director of Citizenship and Governance Research at The Open University, will consider examples where much of the media and the public mistakenly assume that cases are open and shut. He will address recent examples from law, sport, literature and university life, from accusations of plagiarism and cheating to political U-turns, right up to the recent attack on Westminster.

Much of the inspiration for his inaugural is drawn from the case of John v Rees [1970], where Sir Robert Megarry was deciding a case about a Labour Party meeting in 1968 which had been abandoned in disorder. In fact, the title of the talk is based on the quote below:

“As everybody who has anything to do with the law well knows, the path of the law is strewn with examples of open and shut cases which, somehow, were not; of unanswerable charges which, in the event, were completely answered; of inexplicable conduct which was fully explained; of fixed and unalterable determinations that, by discussion, suffered a change."
Megarry J, John v Rees [1970] Ch 345, 402.

He will look at the latest research in the USA on how judges think, then  reflect on Allan Bloom’s challenging book, The Closing of the American Mind from 1987 and the battle-cries of ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake news’ in 2017. He will conclude by encouraging open-mindedness in the decades to come:

“How did the media initially report the convictions of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and Winston Silcott? To cite a recent example, what possessed Channel 4 News, perceived to be an archetypal proponent of political correctness and opponent of ‘fake news’, to name the wrong person as the attacker on Westminster? Are lawyers, academics or journalists any more measured or open-minded than anyone else?”

Find out more about Citizenship and Governance research at the OU.

Professor Simon Lee

Professor in Law

The Open University Law School

The Faculty of Business and Law

Professional biography