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This book is a collection of essays exploring aspects of the machinery of the civil justice system and its impact on society. This volume concentrates on the courts and other dispute resolution mechanisms, examining the impact of law by looking at both case law and legislation.
The opening chapter offers a framework for the book which is neither high theory nor simple description. The first part of the book then deals with various dimensions of the civil justice system: access to justice, what courts do, the procedural machinery and lawyers' conduct.
In the following part of the book various dimensions of the impact of law are addressed through studies of civil and social rights in practice, the role of European law in the destruction of Aboriginal society in Australia; and commercial law in south and south-east Asia. The analysis raises issues such as the gap between the aspiration of law and the reality; that in some situations law can be destructive of social patterns; the relationship between law and economic development; and whether law can be transplanted from one society to another.
Running throughout the book are three main themes: the importance of values such as access to justice, equality before the law and the rule of law. Although these values do not have much influence on decision-making by courts, they underpin the civil justice system and are a powerful argument for change. The second theme is the crucial role of procedure, which amongst lawyers is often regarded as secondary. The third theme is that understanding how law works, and how it could be made to work better, demands both a knowledge of law and law's context.
This is a thought-provoking, critical exploration that has much to offer those interested in the wider influences of the civil justice system.