In 1997, the historic Quilter v Attorney General case in the Court of Appeal sought the right for those in a same-sex relationship to marry. Although this case was refused judicial approval, unlike other jurisdictions at the time, New Zealand refused to pre-emptively ban such marriage in case a future Parliament decided to approve it with an amendment to the Marriage Act 1955.
Of course the government did just that, making same-sex marriage legal in 2013.
This historic Court of Appeal case is now featured in an international text on feminist judgements, just released by UK publishing house, Hart, and is authored by NZALPA in-house solicitor, Clare Abaffy.
This edited collection asks how key New Zealand judgments might read if they were written by a feminist judge. The book’s editor says that such critique is an emerging critical legal approach that works within the confines of common law legal method to challenge the myth of judicial neutrality. It also illustrates how the personal experiences and perspectives of judges may influence the reasoning and outcome of their decisions.
NZALPA General Manager Dawn Handforth said she and Legal Counsel, Richard McCabe, were thrilled that Clare was asked to be part of the project, leading to the book’s publication.
“With a growing number of women on the bench this is an invaluable opportunity to explore how judges are trained and think when writing decisions,” Dawn Handforth said.
“NZALPA interacts with the judiciary regularly as part of its daily legal work on behalf of its growing membership. Therefore, understanding judicial decision making is a crucial insight and benefit for our lawyers when working on cases.”
As well as membership cases in the Employment, District and High courts, NZALPA has undertaken a number of technical and complex appeals in New Zealand’s Appeal and Supreme Courts.
Clare said that meeting and workshopping with judges, including from the Supreme Court, and then writing the decision, gave her invaluable insights into the judicial process directly relevant to her advocacy work.
She also felt honoured to be selected to re-write a decision of such significance and importance to New Zealand both then and now.
“This experience can only enhance the already outstanding service members already receive from the in-house legal crew – the resource that is the envy of our colleague unions,” said Handforth.
Clare joined NZALPA in 2012 having served previously as the Employment Court’s Research Counsel and in the employment litigation team at Bell Gully. Her current role as an NZALPA solicitor includes providing legal opinions and advice, representing members at mediations and conducting litigation.