Rituals and spaces in innovative courts [2018]

Innovative justice forums form a small but important part of the justice landscape in Australia and elsewhere. These include many civil and protective tribunals, local dispute centres, special purpose courts like drug or Indigenous courts, restorative justice conferences and – particularly relevant to this special issue –neighbourhood justice centres. Innovative forums like these are designed to be problem-solving: the focus is on achieving outcomes that resolve the underlying issues. While the substantive results of any legal process are obviously important, one of the most ‘innovative’ features of innovative forums is the way they carry out their tasks. This paper examines the rituals and spaces of three innovative forums, examining in detail one case study from each: a Koori court hearing in a suburban Melbourne court, a family group conference in a suburban house in Dunedin, and a youth court preliminary hearing in the chambers of a juge des enfants in Paris. A comparison of the three hearings allows us to analyse the way spaces are managed and furniture organised, how authority is symbolised, how opening, closing and transitional ceremonies are arranged, and what sort of subjects are produced in the process.

David Tait
Griffith Law Review, 08 Nov 2018