Civil Human Rights Litigation as a Tool for Social Change

Van Schaack, Beth . With All Deliberate Speed: Civil Human Rights Litigation as a Tool for Social Change, 57 VAND. L. REV. 2305 (2004)

This essay focuses on the impacts that litigation processes and outcomes can have on the community and their potential for social change at the community. It evaluates how litigation cases advance the human rights movements’ norms and ideals. Should human rights advocates promote an increase in public-interest litigation? Should they campaign for the adoption of similar litigations abroad? How can they ensure that these cases exert maximum impact on the people involved and their communities? These are some of the questions that are answered in the essay. The parties, such as human rights lawyers and NGOs, which can be involved in the process of using litigation to influence policy, have also been included in the essay. With an increase in this kind of public-interest litigation, there is concern over the methods and the coordination of all the people involved. Another major challenge is the possibility of retraumatizing the victims of human rights violations who are involved in the cases. The relationship between the lawyers and the clients also play a major role, a conflict of interests might harm the intended impact at the community. The essay also argues that public-interest litigation for social changes occurs alongside other processes of social change and the similarities and differences between the two are discussed. Litigation remains just one component of a multifaceted strategy toward the enforcement of human rights norms.

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