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School of Law

Professor David Schiff, LLB (Hons)


Emeritus Professor of Law

Room Number: Mile End


David Schiff joined Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in September 2006 as a Professor in Law, having previously held the position of Reader in Law at the LSE. He was conferred the title of Emeritus Professor of Law from 1 September 2015.

He has written extensively with Richard Nobles since 1990 on criminal appeals and miscarriages of justice. Together they obtained an Economic and Social Research Council Research Award in 1991/92 to investigate the role of the Court of Appeal in remedying miscarriages of justice involving the re-assessment of expert evidence. The research led to a submission to the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice and, apart from many other publications, their book Understanding Miscarriages of Justice: Law, the Media and the Inevitability of Crisis (OUP, 2000). More recently their collaboration has involved numerous publications and seminar papers on diverse topics applying autopoietic systems theory to law, including two books for Hart Publishing: A Sociology of Jurisprudence (2006), and Observing Law through Systems Theory (2013). He was one of the editors of, and with Richard Nobles wrote the introduction to the English translation of Niklas Luhmann’s major work on law, Law as a Social System (OUP, 2004).

As a long serving member of the LSE, Professor Schiff wrote the chapter on law, ‘Freedom according to Law’, in the LSE book Freedom (edited by Eileen Barker), which was published as part of the LSE’s centenary celebrations in 1995. In the past he has been involved in the media, having appeared many times on radio and television, and having written a number of newspaper articles.

His research interests currently involve the application of autopoietic systems theory to jurisprudence in general, and appeal systems within law, in particular.



Publications since 2000

  • (with R Nobles) ‘Sociology of the Legal System’ in Pribán (ed), Research Handbook on the Sociology of Law (Edward Elgar, 2021) ch 12
  • (with R Nobles) ‘The Supervision of Guilty Pleas by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales - Workable Relationships and Tragic Choices’ (2020) 31/4 Criminal Law Forum 513
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Neo-Systems Theory and Jurisprudence’ in M. Sellers, S. Kirste (eds), Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (Springer, 2020) DOI:
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Taking the Complexity of Complex Systems Seriously’, Review Article of Jamie Murray, Thomas E. Webb, Steven Wheatley (eds), Complexity Theory and Law: Mapping an Emergent Jurisprudence, (2020) 83/3 Modern Law Review 661
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Criminal Justice Unhinged: The Challenge of Guilty Pleas’ (2019) 39/1 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 100
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Trials and Miscarriages: An Evolutionary Socio-Historical Analysis’ (2018) 29/2 Criminal Law Forum 167
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Observing Sovereignty, Law and Politics at the Global Level’ – Review Article of Jiri Pribán, Sovereignty in Post-Sovereign Society: A Systems Theory of European Constitutionalism (2017) 26/3 Social & Legal Studies 401
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Taking the Evolution of Legal Doctrine Seriously’, Review Article of Katayoun Baghai, Social Systems Theory and Judicial Review (2017) 13/1 International Journal of Law in Context 96
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Legal Argumentation: A Sociological Account’ (2017) 8/1 Jurisprudence: An International Journal of Legal and Political Thought 52
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Civil Disobedience and Constituent Power’ (2015) 11/4 International Journal of Law in Context 462
  • (with R Nobles (eds)), Law, Society and Community: Socio-Legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (Ashgate, 2014)
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Introduction’ in R Nobles and D Schiff (eds), Law, Society and Community: Socio-Legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (Ashgate, 2014) 1-19
  • (with R Nobles) ‘The Sociology of the Politics of Jurisprudence’ in R Nobles and D Schiff (eds), Law, Society and Community: Socio-Legal Essays in Honour of Roger Cotterrell (Ashgate, 2014) ch 13
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Luhmann: Law, Justice, and Time’ (2014) 27/2 International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 325
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Pulling Back from the Edge’, Review Article of Gunther Teubner, Constitutional Fragments: Societal Constitutionalism and Globalization, (2013) 76/3 Modern Law Review 620
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Legal Pluralism: A Systems Theory Approach to Language, Translation, and Communication’ in M Freeman and F Smith (eds), Law and Language (Oxford University Press, 2013) ch 7
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Structural coupling between the systems of law and the media: the contrasting examples of criminal conviction and criminal appeal’ in A Febbrajo and G Harste (eds), Law and Intersystemic Communication (Ashgate, 2013) ch 13
  • (with R Nobles) Observing Law through Systems Theory (Hart Publishing, 2013)
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Using Systems Theory to Study Legal Pluralism: What Could Be Gained?’ (2012) 46/2 Law & Society Review 265
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Why do judges talk the way they do?’ (2010) The Romanian Judges Forum Review 41
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Disobedience to Law - Debbie Purdy’s Case’ (2010) 73/2 Modern Law Review 295
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Public confidence in criminal justice: the lessons from miscarriages of justice’ (2009) 48/5 Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 461
  • (with R Nobles), ‘After Ten Years: An Investment in Justice?’ in M. Naughton (ed)The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the Innocent? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) ch 11
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Why do judges talk the way they do?’ (2009) 5/1 International Journal of Law in Context 25
  • (with R Nobles), ‘Jurisprudence as Self-Description: Natural Law and Positivism within the English Legal System’ in G-P Calliess, A Fischer-Lescano, D Wielsch and P Zumbansen (eds) Soziologische Jurisprudenz: Festschrift fur Gunther Teubner (De Gruyter Recht, 2009) 359-374
  • (with R Nobles), ‘Criminal Cases Review Commission’ 268, ‘Miscarriages of Justice’ 796, ‘Systems Theory’ 1149, in P Cane and J Conaghan (eds) The New Oxford Companion to Law (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Absurd Asymmetry - a Comment on R v Cottrell and Fletcher and BM, KK and DP (Petitioners) v Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’ (2008) 71/3 Modern Law Review 464
  • (with R Nobles) Review of O Perez and G Teubner (eds), Paradoxes and Inconsistencies in the Law, (2007) 70/3 Modern Law Review 505
  • (with R Nobles) ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, Review Article of Ronald Dworkin, Justice in Robes, (2007) 70/3 Modern Law Review 139
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Theorising the Criminal Trial and Criminal Appeal: Finality, Truth and Rights’ in A Duff, L Farmer, S Marshall and V Tadros (eds), The Trial on Trial, Volume 2 (Hart Publishing, 2006) ch 14
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Communicating Moral Responsibility through Criminal Law’, Review of V Tadros, Criminal Responsibility, (2006) 26/1 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 207
  • (with R Nobles) A Sociology of Jurisprudence (Hart Publishing, 2006)
  • (with R Nobles) ‘A Sociology of Jurisprudence’ in M Freeman (ed), Law and Sociology (Oxford University Press, 2006) ch 3
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Guilt and Innocence in the Criminal Justice System: A Comment on R (Mullen) v Secretary of State for the Home Department’ (2006) 69/1 The Modern Law Review 80
  • (with R Nobles) ‘A reply to Graham Zellick’ [2005] Criminal Law Review 951
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Misleading Statistics within Criminal Trials’ (2005) 2 Significance 17
  • (with R Nobles) ‘The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Establishing a Workable Relationship with the Court of Appeal’ [2005] Criminal Law Review 173
  • (with R Nobles) ‘A Story of Miscarriage: Law in the Media’ (2004) 31/2 Journal of Law and Society 221
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Introduction’ to the English translation of N Luhmann, Law as a Social System (edited by F Kastner, R Nobles, D Schiff and R Ziegert) (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • (with J Penner and R Nobles (eds)), Introduction to Jurisprudence and Legal Theory: Commentary and Materials (Butterworths, 2002, now published by Oxford University Press)
  • (with R Nobles) ‘The Right to Appeal and Workable Systems of Justice’ (2002) 65 Modern Law Review 676
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Criminal Justice: Autopoietic Insights’ in J Pribán and D.Nelken (eds) Law's New Boundaries: The Consequences of Legal Autopoiesis (Ashgate, 2001) ch 9
  • (with R Nobles) ‘Due process and Dirty Harry Dilemmas: Criminal Appeals and the Human Rights Act’ (2001) 64 Modern Law Review 911
  • (with R Nobles) ‘The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Reporting Success?’ (2001) 64/2 Modern Law Review, 280
  • (with R Nobles) Understanding Miscarriages of Justice: Law, the Media, and the Inevitability of Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2000)
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