Professor Ernest J. Weinrib
Appointed a University Professor in 1999
Ernest J. Weinrib, received his B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1965, his Ph.D. in Classics from Harvard University in 1968, and his LL.B. from the University of Toronto in 1972. He joined the University of Toronto in 1968 and was selected as a University Professor in 1999 and in the following year he was named the Cecil A. Wright Professor of Law.
Professor Weinrib is an outstanding scholar who is considered among the very best legal theorists in North America, and one of the few recognizable leaders world wide. He writes in the area of legal philosophy in general and in tort law in particular.
Over the last three decades, tort theory has been a fiercely contested field of legal scholarship, engaging some of the most prominent and creative legal scholars in the Unites States and elsewhere. Tort Law deals essentially with the explosive relationship between law, freedom, rationality and misfortune. Professor Weinrib is recognized as a central, and at times, controversial figure, in these debates. As a tort theorist, he has played a crucial and decisive role in turning attention from the instrumental uses of private law to its moral possibilities.
Professor Weinrib's research contributions extend from the treatment of particular doctrinal issues to general theories of private law. He was the first to attempt to apply corrective justice in a detailed systematic way to a wide range of controversial legal doctrines. The series of articles through which he disseminated this research was of enormous public significance, as it struck at the heart of whether civil liability for wrongful injuries could be regarded as a coherent and rational normative practice, and if so, under what conditions. His research also explored the philosophical significance and the normative presuppositions of corrective justice and of its contrast with distributive justice. His work has reestablished a link between contemporary legal theory and the classic formulations of legal philosophy.
His research over the years culminated in broader, general expositions of private law. In 1995, his book, The Idea of Private Law, published by Harvard University Press, was heralded by one reviewer as "the single most important work on the nature and basis of private law published in the last fifty years." This book sets out, for the first time in contemporary legal scholarship, a full articulation of a theory of private law. He is currently working to elaborate a theory of the law of restitution or unjust enrichment, which will run parallel to his theory of tort law.
Professor Weinrib's work has been the subject of a number of published symposia at Law schools across North America. He has held a Killam Research Fellowship and a Connaught Senior Fellowship in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. He has been visiting professor at the University of Tel Aviv and at Yale Law School and has been eagerly sought after by leading academic institutions. He is a member of the Royal Society of Canada.
For several decades, Professor Weinrib has stood as one of the most dedicated teachers at the Faculty of Law. His commitment to the teaching enterprise is manifest clearly in his preface to his recent casebook on Tort Law where he states his intention of fostering "an attitude of active and critical consideration rather than passive and inert reception ... Above all, ... to encourage students to regard the study of tort law as an intellectual exercise of the highest order, spanning practice and theory, the particular and the general, the serious and the playful."