Law & Culture

Law and CultureIn our Law & Culture column, you will find original works of fiction, reviews of a wide range of publications — not just conventional legal texts — as well as broader cultural forms such as films, TV shows, CDs, DVDs, art exhibitions and so on. The column links in with the Alternative Law Journal’s focus on law for the disadvantaged, human rights law and law reform.

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Human Rights in Closed Environments

Emma Larking

Human rights in closed environments AltLJ 403 reviewBronwyn Naylor, Julie Debeljak and Anita Mackay (eds); The Federation Press, 2014; 294 pages; $59.59 (softcover).

According human rights in ‘closed’ environments — where individuals are detained against their will — is an inherently difficult enterprise, as this collection of essays powerfully demonstrates. The collection defines closed environments as those in which individuals are or may be deprived of their liberty because they are, by lawful authority, denied permission to leave at will. The environments considered include prisons, police cells, closed mental health and disability units, and immigration detention centres. The contributors come from academic and practice backgrounds, with many having experience on bodies with oversight responsibilities for particular closed environments. The editors propose a ‘three pronged strategic framework for implementing human rights in closed environments’ (page 2), which is developed in individual contributions and across the entire collection. The ‘three prongs’ include a regulatory regime that combines international human rights obligations, comprehensive national human rights legislation — noticeably absent in Australia — and ‘environment-specific legislation’ (page 3) translating general rights into rights, duties, and policies that are carefully targeted towards the closed environment in question. The other prongs are effective and independent external monitoring mechanisms, and ‘culture change’ — in other words, ensuring that formal commitments to rights recognition are translated into institutional cultures that are genuinely respectful of human rights.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 216


Inside Australia’s Anti-Terrorism Laws and Trials

Alisha Mathew

Inside-Australias-Anti-terrorism-laws-and-trials-150Andrew Lynch, Nicola McGarrity and George Williams; NewSouth Publishing, 2015; 238 pages; $24.99 (paperback)

In the wake of 11 September 2001, nations around the world scrambled to enact measures responding to the elusive terror threat. Domestically, the Australian government responded by passing a barrage of new legislation — extending the reach of criminal laws, creating new terror laws, and granting extensive surveillance and policing powers to those charged with enforcing those laws.

Fourteen years after September 11, the terror threat is still alive in Australia and indeed has recently come back onto the public’s radar following the siege at the Lindt Café in 2014 and 
a number of terrorism-related raids in late 2014 early 2015.

There is clearly a need in Australia for laws that criminalise and prevent terrorist activities. Concerning, however, is the extent to which these laws compromise individual freedoms in the name of security.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 217


Rethinking the Law School

Kate Galloway

Education, Research, Outreach and Governance

Carel Stolker; Cambridge, 2015; 472 pages; $125 (hardcover)

Law schools lie at the intersection of influence by the judiciary, the profession, the university, government, industry and the citizen. In this most detailed book, Carel Stolker navigates the complex and often competing regulatory and conceptual imperatives of the law school. Impressively, his view is truly global. The reader is taken on an international journey and while there are obviously great jurisdictional differences, Stolker highlights that law schools perhaps share more in common than might be thought.

The book has 12 chapters, but can roughly be conceptualised as covering the university, the identity of the law school, legal education, legal scholarship, engagement and governance. There are two aspects of this in particular that I would like to canvass here — characteristics that are relevant not just to legal educators, but to the legal profession and society more broadly.

The first of these is the question of law as an academic discipline within the university. Caught between academe and the profession; between the local and the global, the answer to this question in the Australian context over recent decades has been resoundingly in favour of its academic nature. Slowly however, having largely closed off professional pathways to practice, work integrated learning and a skills orientation is entering the university.

In chapter three, Stolker articulates the arguments for and against law-as-academic. He posits reasons for the outsider status of law within the university, and suggests four reasons why law is academic: ‘its impact on people and society, its complexity, its connection to other disciplines and its role in raising future legal scholars.’ I think that these questions are worthwhile for the profession and the academy to consider in our own context of the massification and vocationalisation of higher education. What is it that we are trying to achieve through university education — or training — of lawyers? Can we achieve both vocational and academic skills together? These are issues not just affecting law, I suspect, but other disciplines also.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 218


Barristers Solicitors Pettifoggers

David Gibson

barristers-solicitors-pettifogers-coverProfiles in Australian Colonial Legal History

Simon Smith; Maverick Publications, 2014; 
223 pages; $39.95 (paperback)

Pettifogger: an inferior legal practitioner, especially one who deals with petty cases or employs dubious practices.

Simon Smith shines a light on the early days of legal practice in the Australian colonies in Barristers Solicitors Pettifoggers.

Smith has previously written Maverick Litigants — a history of some of Australia’s most notable vexatious litigants. If that book covered the plight of those who wanted to litigate but couldn’t, Barristers Solicitors Pettifoggers covers the story of those who did litigate but shouldn’t have — pettifoggers whose place in legal history was due to the dubious distinction of having been struck off.

An example is Horatio Nelson Carrington who began his career on the Isle of Man. Even in the early days of his practice, the omens weren’t good — his Principal on the island was himself struck off. After some ill-judged litigation on his own behalf (another bad omen), he took his family to the colonies.

(2015) 40(3) AltLJ 218


Australian Feminist Judgments: Righting And Rewriting Law

Kcasey McLoughlin

Australian-Feminist-Judgments150Heather Douglas, Francesca Bartlett, Trish Luker and Rosemary Hunter (eds); Hart Publishing, 2014; 462pp; $75 (paperback)

By re-imagining and rewriting well-known cases through a feminist lens Australian Feminist Judgments: Righting and Rewriting Law enlivens the reader’s imagination about the real transformative potential of feminist legal reasoning. The book’s premise is to explore the possibilities and limitations of feminist jurisprudence by rewriting cases from a feminist perspective while maintaining that the decisions must be legally plausible. The re-crafted decisions span across different times, jurisdictions and subject matter but each prompts us to think about what we take for granted and what can be done differently when it comes to judicial method.

(2015) 40(2) AltLJ 144


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