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School of Law

Access to justice & dispute resolution: special applications

Course Code:
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Full Year

This course introduces students to key socio-legal issues and procedural applications in the discourses and practices of access to justice, dispute resolution and conflict management. Particular attention is given to the developments of the concept of ‘access to justice’, the influences of the Access to Justice Movement, and the impact of legal anthropology and sociology of law. The course is comparative in nature and it looks at access to justice in several legal cultures in Africa and Asia.

The first part of the course considers key issues in dispute resolution and conflict management principally by analysis of efforts to enhance access to justice through such innovations as legal aid, representative actions, alternative dispute resolution, small claims courts and other strategies of court reform. In a seminal study, Cappelletti and Garth in 1978 identified three phases of procedural reform intended to strengthen the right to justice:

  • The first focused on making legal aid and advice more available to the poor;
  • The second stage encouraged representative actions, public interest litigation and other procedures that would allow a single lawsuit to resolve a large number of claims; and
  • The third stage called for broad reform to the legal system, including small claims courts and other procedural changes, and the development of ‘alternative dispute resolution’ or ADR.

We also look at the emergence of the ‘cause lawyering’ and other ways in which the Access to Justice Movement is evolving.

The second part of the course provides and exploration of special applications of access to justice and dispute resolution in specific fields, including on-line dispute resolution, family mediation including same-sex couples, public and international law dispute resolution, community dispute resolution.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The objective of this course is to present a practically-focused and detailed examination of areas of specialisation within the field of 'access to justice' and ‘dispute resolution’ such that the course may be studied as a stand-alone course, but which is also one that complements the more theoretical and comparative approach of the companion course, ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’, for those students opting to take both courses. The empirical materials upon which the course draws are primarily taken from comparative researches.

By the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate that they have:
• Knowledge and understanding of the current landscape of access to justice and dispute resolution, in several selected jurisdictions in Africa and Asia;
• In-depth knowledge of the access to justice, dispute resolution and conflict management mechanisms, especially as these relate to specialised areas of application;
• Understanding of the importance of the legal, sociological and political contexts of current developments in access to justice, dispute resolution and conflict management;
• Knowledge and critical appreciation of the core literature relating to the areas studied on the course;
• Developed their analytical faculties to the point where they are able to apply the evidence of reported empirical studies to wider discussions and analyses of the socio-legal and related issues surrounding access to justice and dispute resolution in Africa and Asia.

Method of assessment

Assessment Weighting: 50% unseen written examination, 50% coursework (one 5000 word essay)

Suggested reading

General Readings:

• ABEL, Richard L. (ed.) (1995) The Law & Society Reader, New York and London: New York University Press.
• CAPPELLETTI, Mauro et al (eds.) (1978) Access to Justice, Milano: Giuffre’, Volumes: I, II, III, IV [available in IALS: selected essays will be distributed during the meetings]
• CAPPELLETTI, Mauro (1981) Access to Justice and the Welfare State, Firenze: Le Monnier [available in IALS: selected essays will be distributed during the meetings]
• FRANCIONI, Francesco (ed.) (2007) Access to Justice as a Human Right, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• GHAI, Yash and Jill, COTTRELL (2010) Marginalised Communities and Access to Justice, Oxon: Routledge.
• MOFFITT, Michael L & Robert C. BORDONE (eds) (2005) The Handbook of Dispute Resolution, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• MOORE, Sally Falk (ed.) (2005) Law and Anthropology, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
• PALMER, Michael and Simon ROBERTS (2005) Dispute Processes: ADR and the Primary Forms of Decision Making, Second Edition, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press
• SANDEFUR, Rebecca L (ed.) (2009) Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance.Vol.12: Access to Justice, United Kingdom, North America, Japan: Emerald Jai.