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LAW121 - Legal Realism & CLS

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Uploaded on Sep 21, 2011

Legal realists assert that judges hold the key to law's influence. In New Zealand and other Western liberal democracies, law is practised as an adversarial exercise between two antagonistic parties with a judge possessing adjudicatory powers. How do judges go about making their decisions? They are, of course, guided by their interpretation of the law. However, being human means being influenced by other factors such as feelings, moods, alliances, and preferences. Legal realists highlight the fundamental importance of personality in the outcome of a dispute.

Likewise, critical legal studies theory challenges law's alleged impartiality. A simple glance at society establishes how diverse our society ha become. Yet, the majority of lawyers, legislators, and judges are middle-aged, middle to upper class, white Christian men. Can the law be said to be impartial when a group rather unrepresentative of society is responsible for crafting the law, executing the law, and resolving disputes about the law? Some critical theorists even argue that law operates as a tool of privilege and power in historical and contemporary society.

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