News Item

December 2017

New publication release - “Feminist Judgments in Aotearoa New Zealand – Te Rino; a Two-Stranded Rope”

This publication is the culmination of a long-running project to produce a collection of alternative judgments, based on feminist legal theory, for significant cases across a broad range of legal issues. The recently released Hart publication, Feminist Judgments of Aotearoa New Zealand: Te Rino: a Two-Stranded Rope, replicated similar projects in other countries.

This edited collection asks how key New Zealand judgments might read if they were written by a feminist judge. Feminist judging is an emerging critical legal approach that works within the confines of common law legal method to challenge the myth of judicial neutrality and illustrate how the personal experiences and perspectives of judges may influence the reasoning and outcome of their decisions. Uniquely, this book includes a set of cases employing an approach based on mana wahine, the use of Māori values that recognise the complex realities of Māori women’s lives. It contains alternative judgments and commentaries for 25 key New Zealand cases from 1914 to 2015 – nineteen are written from a feminist perspective and six from a mana wahine* perspective.  Through these feminist and mana wahine judgments, it opens possibilities of more inclusive judicial decision making for the future. The book will be a resource for law students, lawyers, the judiciary and the public and hopefully a catalyst to promote better and fairer understanding and consideration of different perspectives in New Zealand’s legal system.

The project has been a collaborative effort of 57 contributors (female and male) including leading academics, lawyers and judges from a diverse range of backgrounds. The authors worked together on draft judgments at a number of workshops with experts on judgment writing. The feminist judgments cover not just those areas of law that have traditionally been the focus of feminist critique (criminal, employment and family law), they also include judgments of civil rights, social welfare, medical law, customary rights and the environment.

The authors wrote their judgments within the constraints of common law precedents, legislation, style and social and political conventions that existed at the time the judgment was originally written.

The editorial team was made up of legal academics Elisabeth McDonald and Rhonda Powell (both University of Canterbury), Mamari Stephens (Victoria University of Wellington) and Rosemary Hunter (Queen Mary University of London).  Rosemary has had a leading role in feminist judgment workshops in other countries, and is considered a worldwide expert on feminist judging.

Further information about the book

The Law Foundation contributed $38,000 towards the research and workshops for this project

*The mana wahine approach to judgments sought to bring “the complex and contradictory lives of Maori women to the fore, and legitimise Māori ways of thinking and cultural practice”.

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