Translating Fiduciary Principles into Public Law

11 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2013

See all articles by Ethan J. Leib

Ethan J. Leib

Fordham University School of Law

David L. Ponet

United Nations

Michael Serota


Date Written: February 25, 2013


Because public office is a public trust, fiduciary architecture can help orient us in figuring out how political power should be exercised legitimately. Part of the appeal of conceiving the political relationship between representative and represented in fiduciary terms is that it regards politics in more realistic and textured ways — as a constellation of power relationships in a web of trust and vulnerability — rather than as a mere social contract no one ever signed. Thinking of legislators as public fiduciaries tells us much about the nature of the relationship between the governed and their governors and it can also provide some normative benchmarks for evaluating the political morality of elected representatives and for designing the institutions that channel and control their conduct.

The essay develops two points. Part I elaborates upon some of the messiness associated with identifying relevant fiduciaries and beneficiaries in the political sphere; and Part II interrogates whether judicial remedies are appropriately calibrated to generate the trust necessary for public fiduciary relationships to function well.

Suggested Citation

Leib, Ethan J. and Ponet, David L. and Serota, Michael Eli, Translating Fiduciary Principles into Public Law (February 25, 2013). 126 Harv. L. Rev. F. 91 (2012); Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2224330. Available at SSRN:

Ethan J. Leib (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

David L. Ponet

United Nations ( email )

New York, NY 10017
United States

Michael Eli Serota

Independent ( email )

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