Legal theory scholar Sina Akbari joins Faculty

Assistant professor brings expertise in private law and distributive justice

Helen Metella - 22 July 2021

The Faculty of Law’s newest member says there are three prongs of a good legal education and the third one, legal theory, is of equal importance to understanding the rules and how to make arguments.

“An important third element is thinking about what makes our laws good laws and how we should change them to make them better,” says Assistant Professor Sina Akbari, who joined the Faculty in January. “Because law involves the use of state power, it must be justified in some way.”

Akbari’s research is focused on the way considerations of distributive justice bear on private law. Since legal institutions like taxation are layered on top of private law concepts of property and contract, our understanding of private law affects how we think of tax law.

For example, he says, when people think of taxation as an appropriation of something that morally belongs to them, that reflects a particular understanding of how private law is justified. That thinking, in turn, “has an effect on the extent to which people believe that other institutions are infringing on their rights, rather than looking at them all as tools for promoting social aims.”

Akbari’s interest in this began about a decade ago while he was practising at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in New York City. Later, as a tax litigator at the Department of Justice, he grew to appreciate the practical effects of law on people’s lives. He also worked on policy development for the Ontario Securities Commission.

“The thing that opened my eyes was the way in which individuals interact with the law and the legal system, how they navigate it and how challenging it can be,” he says.

In the winter term, he taught a Jurisprudence course titled Tax, Justice & Society in which upper-year students examine how we argue about and evaluate taxes as just and fair, as well as discrete issues concerning universal basic income, the politics of taxation and how tax law reflects ideas of gender and race.

A native of Calgary who has a B.Comm from the University of Calgary, Akbari earned his JD from the University of Toronto and his LLM from New York University. He is now in the final year of his PhD at the London School of Economics.