Posts Tagged ‘case biographies’

Test case biographies travelled to Nottingham

In 2014, 2015, Testing project on March 23, 2015 at 8:56 am

The formal end-date for the British Academy/Leverhulme funded project on ‘Test Case Biographies as a Method for Studying Hidden Law-Making’ fell on 15 March 2015. As we turn our attention to writing up the Final Report, and complete at least one publication that has emerged from the project, it is useful to retrospectively write about our paper at the SLS annual conference last year (somewhat belatedly, we admit – and the title of this post adopts that of our write up re the SLSA paper).

On 10 September 2014, Professor Jonathan Montgomery (UCL) and Dr Caroline Jones (Southampton) presented their initial project findings in a paper entitled ‘Test Case Biographies in the (Hidden) Province of Medical Jurisprudence’, in the Medical Law stream at the annual Society of Legal Scholars conference, held at the University of Nottingham.

Abstract: This paper outlines the method(s) developed to create ‘biographies’ of pivotal health care law test cases, in order to explore their provenance and impact, and reflects on the implications of what emerges from this biographical approach for understanding the role of judicial rulings in the development of the law.

Three leading health care law cases, displaying a range of typical variables, will be used to illuminate how social and ethical dilemmas give rise to litigation, rather than other approaches to resolving issues, and the implications for legal theory and policy making. The cases are Quintavalle v HFEA [2005] UKHL 28, wherein a pressure group, CORE, intervened to challenge a regulatory decision, in which it had no personal interest; Burke v GMC [2005] EWCA Civ 1003, where a court ruling was sought regarding the application of non-statutory guidance on the provision of life-sustaining treatment; and R (on the application of AC) v Berkshire West PCT [2011] EWCA Civ 247, on the rationality of a ‘rationing’ decision, and the interplay between procedural and substantive values.

The paper considers how to situate judges within the biography of a case and whether insights from ‘case biographies’ might have a role within judicial decision-making.

And, what we actually spoke on:

As can often be the case, with the benefit of time and reflection between submission of the abstract and the conference, the focus of the paper we delivered was a little different. We did not, for example, consider or situate judges within the biography of a case, except inasmuch as we drew attention to Munby’s consideration of ‘intolerability’ as an example of a distinct style of judging, drawing from our earlier Modern Law Review paper ‘Hidden Law-Making in the Province of Medical Jurisprudence’.

We did, however, outline our findings and reflections – at that time – on the three case studies; tentatively concluding that we have not identified a biographical ‘method’ per se, but note that by asking questions about/around biographical considerations we have spotted different things about these cases. We have illuminated some aspects, albeit we make no claims to ‘truth’ regarding various narrative constructions that emerge from the data, nor seek to explain why things have happened (or indeed why they happened in the way that they did) – these are much more difficult claims. Nevertheless, we realised that there is no single biography of a case (if indeed we ever believed there was), but there are lots of different biographical aspects going on in a given case context, both within the legal stories of legal actors, but also outside of law that intersect and engage with the ‘legal’ aspects. Drawing out some of these strands has been interesting and illuminating, and the task now is for further reflection and critique, not least with existing ideas around democratic, political and philosophical legitimacy.

At Tale of Two Citadels travels to SLSA Aberdeen

In 2014, Gratuitous self-promotion, Testing project on May 8, 2014 at 11:33 am

In April 2014 I travelled up to Aberdeen for the annual SLSA conference, hosted by the Law School, Robert Gordon University, to deliver our paper on ‘Two Citadels’ in the Medical Law stream. Aberdeen is a great, albeit expensive city to visit (well, mid-week anyway – that’s oil money for you). There was a huge array of papers in parallel streams, with the inevitable difficult choices that this invokes for attendees – there are always papers you would have liked to hear but – in the absence of Potter-eqsue ‘Time Turners’ – the timing did not permit. The full programme can be found here ParallelSessionSummarySLSA2014.

Glenys Williams, convenor of the Medical Law & Ethics stream, put together an excellent programme. The first session focused on various and fascinating aspects of abortion, space, community, history and conscientious objection (and more), featuring Joanna Erdman (Dalhousie), Ruth Fletcher (QMU) and Michael Thomson (Leeds). It was a lively and engaging session, and a superb start to the conference.

After coffee, Claire Lougarre (UCL) and I shared the next session, giving plenty of time for questions and discussion for both papers, which was a real gift. Claire gave a thought-provoking and engaging account of her PhD research on the scope of the ‘right’ to health, something that she and Jonathan have already and I’m sure will continue to enjoy discussing ‘up’ at UCL. With Jonathan in Warsaw on NCOB business, and in the absence of a cardboard cutout of him (to direct any awkward question to …) it was left to me to present the latest iteration of our work in progress: ‘A Tale of Two Citadels: Competing Narratives in a Case Biography’, drawn from our British Academy/The Leverhulme Trust funded project ‘Test case biographies as a method for studying hidden law-making’.

The case study in this paper, focusing on the decision in AC v Berkshire West PCT [2010] EWHC 1162 (Admin) and on appeal [2011] EWCA Civ 247, starts from the position that legal cases are complex social phenomena. They have histories – and they link past and future events in a present encounter. There are established doctrinal approaches to ‘understanding’ cases, and situating their significance within a legal context according to institutional rules (ratio decidendi, obiter dicta, stare decisis, and per incuriam, for example). However, it seems valuable to us to seek to understand alternative ways of mapping cases in the Health Care Law context; exploring, for example, the parties’ understanding of the dispute (a specific dispute, or part of a campaign? Possibly a legal campaign, but alternaively one of a different character again?); also the lawyers and judges involvd have careers in which a specific case will play a part.

Our desk based research, for this case conducted largely by Alex Chrysanthou, has sought to explore the chain of case law leading into and(less significantly, currently) leading out of the AC case, and the network of legal personnel directly involved in this case (which will need further reflection). Our third line of enquiry, undertaken by me, has been to examine the interpretation of this case by legal reports and commentators. This research indicates that the choice of competing narratives began to take shape long before the issue is argued before a judge – i.e., is this about NHS resource allocation, or about transgender legal rights?

The questions, comments and responses from those at the Medical Law and Ethics stream were thought-provoking and will be invaluable in moving the project forward (not least in terms of encouragement as people said how interesting they thought the project was). Also, we look forward to presenting this work again at Southampton next week, at a dedicated event on Hidden Law-Making and Case Biographies – and for the opportunity for further reflection on the next phase of the project – but more on that event to follow in a future blog post.

Caroline Jones

Discussing Case Narratives: UCL Social Values Workshop

In 2013, Case of the week, News, Testing project on November 11, 2013 at 8:00 am

On 1 November 2013, Professor Jonathan Montgomery (UCL, formerly Southampton) and Dr Caroline Jones presented their initial ideas on a case narrative methodology, in a paper entitled ‘A Tale of Two Citadels: competing narratives in a case biography’, at the UCL Social Values Workshop. This research was supported by the British Academy and Leverhulme Trust small grant scheme, and Alex Chrysanthou (Southampton) provided the research assistance.

 Abstract:  This paper considers how clashes of social values in litigation over NHS funding decisions manifest themselves in the ‘biography’ of a case. It argues that the issues in AC v Berkshire West PCT [2010] EWHC 1162 (Admin) and (on appeal) [2011] EWCA Civ 247 can be seen in terms of two competing narratives; one about discrimination and transgender individuals, the other concerning bureaucratic rationality and prioritisation processes. Each narrative can be conceptualised as a siege on a well defended citadel. The first seeks to break down the barriers excluding transgendered people from full recognition in English law and society. The second tries to wrestle resource allocation from professional and managerial discretion into rights-based scrutiny. 

These competing narratives appear in the selection of legal teams, the overlapping but distinct networks in which cases are connected, and interpretive judgments by lawyers in and out of court. Choice between narratives provides significant framing effects for the assessment of social values, a feature that may be normal rather than unusual in contested legal cases.

[nb. The latest protocol on access to gender identity services from NHS England can be found at: http://www.england.nhs.uk/2013/10/28/gender-protocol/]

Caroline Jones