Marie-France Fortin

Study program:
PhD legal studies
Current affiliation:
University of Cambridge

Marie-France Fortin (legal studies, University of Cambridge) is studying the historical principle of state sovereign immunity and investigating the hypothesis that limiting or abolishing this immunity might be more in line with the democratic principles of society today.

Doctoral research

The doctrine of state immunity: Toward harmonization with the democratic principle and individual rights

The royal prerogative of crown immunity arose in the medieval world and continues to hold sway in the modern democratic and administrative state without being seriously questioned. The research question Marie-France is examining is whether this rule unfairly deprives citizens of recourse against the state and whether a narrower definition, or abolition, of this immunity would lead to broader application of the democratic principle and, by extension, to the creation of a more transparent modern administrative state.

This proposal will be studied in the light of the historical and theoretical foundations of the doctrine of state immunity, criticisms of it, its historical development and a comparative analysis of its application in various modern states, including Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Marie-France Fortin is a doctoral candidate in legal studies at the University of Cambridge. Her doctoral proposal, under the supervision of Professor John Allison and Trudeau Fellow Jean Leclair (Université de Montréal, deals with the abolition of the doctrine of state immunity as a means to align the law with the democratic principle and provide better protection for citizens’ rights and greater transparency and efficiency in state activities.

Marie-France completed a Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) at the Université Laval in 2006, where she topped the Dean’s List for her cohort. She participated in an exchange program with the Université de Paris II, Panthéon-Assas, earning the distinction of “international profile” on her LL.B. diploma. She also has a Master of International Law (LL.M.i.) from the University of Cambridge (Queens’ College) in 2009, supported by the prestigious Right Honourable Paul Martin Senior scholarship, and a Master of Constitutional Law and Federalism (LL.M.) from Harvard Law School, where she received the renowned Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship in 2010.

Marie-France has a long-standing interest in research: as a student at the Université Laval, she was a research assistant for Professor Marie-Claire Belleau and, as part of a university internship, for the constitutional law department at the Quebec Ministry of Justice, before serving as a law clerk for the Honourable Morris J. Fish at the Supreme Court of Canada from 2007 to 2008.

Named Special Fulbright Canada Fellow by the Fulbright Foundation of Canada for her leadership and academic ambassadorship, Marie-France worked as a legal advisor in the Public Law Sector of the Department of Justice of Canada when she returned to Canada in 2010. She then worked as a litigation lawyer in one of the largest Canadian law firms and as a legal advisor for the Autorité des marchés financiers (the securities regulator for the province of Quebec), where she contributed her expertise in public and constitutional law and in state immunity to several major projects.