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Rewriting judgments from feminist viewpoint

08 October 2015

A project where lawyers and legal academics rewrite key judgments from a feminist perspective has been launched.

The Feminist Judgments Project Aotearoa is now calling for contributions to the project, which is funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation.

The project organisers are Victoria University Associate Professor Elisabeth McDonald and Dr Rhonda Powell of the Canterbury University Law School.

Contributors need not identify as “feminist”, nor as female, but must be willing to commit to a research endeavour that will challenge them to think and write about the law in a different way.

In the project, scholars (whether academics or practitioners) will write alternative judgments in a number of significant New Zealand cases across a broad range of legal issues.

These new judgments will operate as both a critique of common law method as well as a practical demonstration of how different ways of approaching a decision-making task is possible.

Judgments may be written either by individual authors or jointly by two or more authors. The cases need not be recent, but must be important decisions that would benefit from a feminist analysis, or from a mana wahine perspective. The cases can be from any level, including decisions of tribunals.

Alongside each judgment, another scholar will write a commentary. This will situate the original judgment in its legal, social and political context. The feminist judges will be working with established legal method that existed at the time the decision was originally made, including customary legal perspectives, and simulated practical constraints on decision-making (such as the social science research available at the time and the prevailing rules of precedent) to produce “authentic” judgments.

Inspiration

This project is inspired by the feminist projects successfully undertaken in other jurisdictions, but will be unique given the social, cultural and legal context of Aotearoa.

The use of “Aotearoa” in the project title is deliberate. It is essential that this work contains the critical voices of Māori scholars and those already inspired by the potential of this project are committed to exploring how this critical exercise can be undertaken from a mana wahine perspective.

The outcome of the project will be an edited collection of judgments, published as a book (or books) by the end of 2017, together with commentaries on each of the cases, and a chapter or two on methodological, conceptual and theoretical issues.

The project is seeking three categories of contributors:

Judgment author/s, who will write a judgment (5-7,000 words). The authors will need to indicate the name of the case they propose to write on, and provide a brief argument (max 150 words) as to why this is a case would benefit from a feminist analysis.

Commentators, who would need to indicate broadly the areas of law in which they are particularly interested. The length for the commentary would be 2-3,000 words. The project organisers would welcome potential commentators’ suggestions as to cases they think should be included (and why), and potential authors who could be approached to write judgments on those cases.

Conceptual or editorial contributors – people who would like to contribute to the development of the conceptual and theoretical aspects of the project, or would like to offer assistance with peer reviewing or editing any of the work. They would need to indicate (max 150 words) the nature of the contribution they would be able to make.

People offering to contribute should send their offer by 5pm on 30 October to both organisers: Elisabeth.McDonald@vuw.ac.nz and rhonda.powell@canterbury.ac.nz.

Last updated on the 8th October 2015