What do we mean by « Strategic Litigation » ?
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The term « litigation » most often refers to a set of contentious matters whose resolution is obtained through a legal trial. What strategy can be deployed from there? Is this even desirable, some will ask?
The concept of « strategic litigation » originated in the United States, where the role of the judge is not the same as the one reserved for them in France. Resorting to the judge by an individual, a company, or an association is not as seamless here as it is across the Atlantic, as the works of Marc Galanter have highlighted.
American legal literature refers to « strategic litigation » as situations where an isolated dispute serves as a springboard to address broader societal issues. Turning the conflict that would pit Mrs. Johnson against Mr. Mickael into strategic litigation involves transcending the strict inter-individual dimension of the trial by building on the positions of the parties to rise to the defence of general interests.
In other words, strategic litigation systematically questions: do the interests of Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Mickael concern only them, or can they serve as a basis for defending general interests?
In this way, bringing a matter before a judge broadens a specific debate to a social question, a public policy issue, or better still, contemplates a response to these questions and problems. The virtue of this approach is to provoke a shift in public policies, legislation, or to enable a just application of the law.
The court becomes the jurisdictional arena where the judge is asked to fill the gaps, correct the contradictions, and guide the meaning of imprecise, vague, or incomplete laws.
Today, lawyers and activists make use of this thoughtful and planned approach to the legal system. Thus, fostering the evolution of jurisprudence, they work to protect human rights, fundamental freedoms, or more specifically strengthen the rights of marginalised or vulnerable groups.
Therefore, strategic litigation can be defined as a legal method whose main tool is the law and aims to achieve social objectives or impact public policies.
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