Studies in Law, Politics, and Society: Volume 57

Cover of Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

Table of contents

(12 chapters)
Click here to view access options
Click here to view access options
Click here to view access options

In February 1840, Māori co-signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown. Partnership, protection, and participation are the fundamental principles provided in the Treaty. In April 2010, the New Zealand government endorsed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These two instruments provide indigenous peoples with the right to participate fully in decision-making that will affect their legal, social, economic, cultural, and political rights. Having endorsed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the New Zealand government is morally obliged to comply with the intent of the Declaration. The focus of this chapter is on the right of Māori to participate and be represented on the governing councils of local government. It will be demonstrated that the refusal by the New Zealand government in 2010 to provide dedicated Māori wards on the Auckland Council is contrary to the intent of the Declaration. The principles of the Treaty of Waitangi require the government to act with integrity toward the indigenous people of New Zealand. It will be argued that the failure of local government to utilize electoral options that will enhance Māori representation in local government breach obligations inherent in both the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Treaty of Waitangi.

Legislative action was historically the means by which U.S. states abolished capital punishment, but such action ceased for decades following the Supreme Court's 1976 Gregg decision that reaffirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty. Despite the fact that several legislatures have considered abolition bills in the modern era, only three states successfully enacted such legislation. It is my purpose in this study to analyze why states are currently struggling to pass abolition legislation and to determine which factors contribute to success. I conduct a comparative, qualitative case study of New Jersey, the first state to legislatively abolish since 1976, and Maryland, a similar state whose abolition effort recently failed. I analyze the content of legislators’ debates about the abolition bills in committee and on the legislature floor, as well as news coverage of the abolition efforts in each state's largest newspapers. I reach two primary conclusions. First, an abolition bill is more likely to be passed by Democrats than Republicans, but unified Democratic control of the government is not a sufficient condition for abolition. Second, arguments about the risk of wrongful executions and the deleterious collateral consequences of the death penalty process on the family members of murder victims are powerful sources of political support for abolition, especially where doubts about the deterrent effect of the death penalty are widespread. This study reaffirms the central importance of the innocence frame in the modern death penalty debate, and it presents the first scholarly analysis of the collateral consequences frame. These findings may help activists in the abolition movement more effectively frame their arguments to appeal to legislators.

Supermaxes across the United States detain thousands in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Almost every state built a supermax between the late 1980s and the late 1990s. This chapter examines the role of federal prisoners’ rights litigation in the 1960s and 1970s in shaping the prisons, especially supermaxes, built in the 1980s and 1990s in the United States. This chapter uses a systematic analysis of federal court case law, as well as archival research and oral history interviews with key informants, including lawyers, experts, and correctional administrators, to explore the relationship between federal court litigation and prison building and designing. This chapter argues that federal conditions of confinement litigation in the 1960s and 1970s (1) had a direct role in shaping the supermax institutions built in the subsequent decades and (2) contributed to the resistance of these institutions to constitutional challenges. The history of litigation around supermaxes is an important and as-yet-unexplored aspect of the development of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence in the United States over the last half century.

The power of the executive to refer cases involving criminal conviction back to an appellate court is a mechanism for guarding against miscarriages of justice and regulating the inherent fallibility of the criminal justice system. These cases typically come before the executive by way of a petition that claims a person has been wrongfully convicted. In Australia, however, there are few guidelines and little information as to the criteria and standards by which the executive decides whether to refer a petitioned case. The test the petitioner must meet is not clear. This chapter therefore has two purposes. The first is to examine the types of petitions most likely to be referred to the appellate court by the executive. These cases are shown to fall into particular categories. The second is to argue that, from these categories, inferences may be drawn about the test the executive uses in deciding whether to refer a petition. These inferences follow from the common principles and links between the cases in each category. The chapter identifies the test the petition should meet to have optimal chance of referral.

The formality of modern law is a constitutive element in its operation, but the “revolt against formalism” and the charge of mechanical jurisprudence are also as old as the law. This chapter focuses on formalism in legal decision-making in hard cases and assumes that contemporary decision-making in law combines formalistic with nonformalistic expressions as part of its routine operation. The research develops a sensitive multidimensional measure that will be used to evaluate legal texts by examining various vectors of formalism. It begins by exploring diverse jurisprudential cultures of formalism, which have developed mainly in American legal thought. Based on the historical analysis of cultures of formalism, the chapter continues to frame eight claims of formalism that have all been contested in legal writing. It proposes to examine the following parameters, based on these claims: (1) the introduction and framing of the legal question; (2) the use of extralegal arguments; (3) reliance on policy arguments and on legal principles; (4) reference to discretion and choice; (5) the relationship between what is presented as facts and what is presented as norms; (6) preservation of traditional boundaries in law; (7) the use of professional judicial rhetoric; (8) the gap between law in the books and law in action; and (9) judicial stability and institutional deference. Each of these parameters can be used to evaluate the level of formalism in a concrete text. The interplay between diverse evaluations of the same case is a subject for inquiry and contemplation. These parameters can also be redefined as variables for a quantitative content analysis, and legal decisions can be coded accordingly. This will enable an analysis of differences between justices, legal issues, legal jurisdictions, and time frames, as well as the correlation between the various parameters of formalism. The tendency to formalism, according to the analysis here, is never pure and is part of a complex legal culture that usually combines formalistic elements with nonformalistic ones.

If law's foundational promise lies in the belief that it promotes the social good, then we need to reassess the limits of that promise. Exploring the often problematic translation of legal goods into social ones, the central claim is that the legal discipline has been limited by a “legal imperative” that manifests itself in an excessive focus upon law as a social tool and attitude of complacency in the face of law's limits. Seeking to displace this approach, the author argues for an attitudinal shift that expresses honesty about limits, greater social inquisitiveness and care about law's promise.

Cover of Studies in Law, Politics, and Society
Publication date
Book series
Studies in Law, Politics, and Society
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN