SOFT LAW: The term soft law is used to denote agreements, principles and declarations that are not legally binding. Soft law instruments are predominantly found in the international sphere. UN General Assembly resolutions are an example of soft law.. For example when NZ signed the Non-Binding UN Agenda 2030 it was accepted by all political cronies in the toilet bowl of Wellington. Soft Law is a stop gap to ‘hard law’- legislations. Ardern entered the UN Agenda 2030 into Domestic Policies, it them became ‘legalized hard law’ (Note not necessarily lawful). Soft Law needs no political consensus, it is just accepted as it is and not opposed in parliament. Hence mobilises a consistent general response without consensus. (Soft law is non-binding)

CONTRACT LAW:Is common throughout the country, some specific court interpretations of a particular element of the contract may vary between the states, countries. In New Zealand there are 5 key elements of a valid contract, a clear offer, unequivocal acceptance, adequate consideration, an intention all parties enter into legal relations under certain terms. Based on the principle that agreements must be honoured

CUSTOMARY LAW:The rulings of Customary Law institutions can be inconsistent, unpredictable and discriminatory. As decisions are often not recorded, and appeals from  decisions may be difficult, there is insufficient monitoring and supervision of their operations. Customary Law: Under the doctrine of aboriginal rights, customary laws or practices of a continuous nature may be granted the force of law by the courts and an associated rights enforced if they have not been extinguished by statute. The four principles of customary law, the general principles of law are laches, good faith, res judicata, and the impartiality of judges. International tribunals rely on these principles when they cannot find authority in other sources of international law. Customary Law is consuetudinary or unofficial law) exists where: a certain legal practice is observed and. the relevant actors consider it to be an opinion of law or necessity (opinio juris).

CIVIL LAW: The term civil law derives from the Latin ius civile, the law applicable to all Roman cives or citizens. Its origins and model are to be found in the monumen- tal compilation of Roman law commissioned by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century CE. Civil Law covers disputes between individuals, companies and sometimes local or central government. Civil law disputes are generally the cases in court that are not about breaking a criminal law. New Zealand’s civil justice system works in such a way that cases can be resolved through a claims process. What are 4 examples of civil law? Four types of Civil Law deal with Contracts, Property, Family Relations, Civil wrongs causing physical injury or injury to property (tort). Civil law, also known as private law, regulates disputes between private individuals or entities (e.g. companies). It is thus different to cases dealing with matters between individuals and the state, i.e. public law and criminal law. The drawback of Civil Law is that even if previous cases show you should win your case, there is no guarantee a judge will interpret the code in the same way on your case,

COMMON LAW: Began in England in the 11th century with the establishment by William the Conqueror, King of England, of the Kings Courts. The courts, in deciding local disputes, applied local customs. Over time, these customs became rules and were the basis for later courts to make decisions on similar disputes. Henry 11 is recorded as being the alleged ‘Father of Common Law”.  At the centre of common law is a legal principle known as stare decisis, which is a Latin phrase that roughly means “to stand by things decided.” In practice, stare decisis is just a fancy way of saying that courts and judges need to follow earlier decisions and rulings — otherwise known as caselaw. : Much of New Zealand’s law, such as its common law tradition and constitutional framework, has been inherited from the English legal system, which was applied (so far as applicable to the circumstances of New Zealand) in 1840. Independent, fair and efficient courts are an important cornerstone in our democracy. New Zealand has common law, which means judges make legal decisions based on previous judges’ decisions as well as on statutes (written law) passed by Parliament. Common law, also known as case law, is a body of unwritten laws based on legal precedents established by the courts. Common law draws from institutionalized opinions and interpretations from judicial authorities and public juries. Common laws sometimes prove the inspiration for new legislation to be enacted. Common Law is better than Civil Law as it  allows for flexibility allows  judges to be able to respond to future cases, even those that they had not predicted. Common law is independent of political influence, ensures consistency in the legal systems and is clearer in instructions compared to civil law.  Civil law systems are codified statutes predominate.

My Rights Under Common Law:-Blackstone’s Introduction to the Study of the Law and the Constitution lists three primary common law rights: personal security, personal liberty and private property, and auxiliary rights necessary to secure them, such as access to justice.  Common Law protects Human Rights:- These rights and freedoms are protected by the common law principle that legislation should not infringe fundamental rights and freedoms unless the legislation expresses a clear intention to do so and the infringement is reasonable. ‘Firstly Do No Harm’, This harm/noharm distinction at common law cannot be dismissed

NOTE: An interesting case -Judge Wylie (Published 12/3/2020) A High Court Judge opened the door for a new ‘Tort’ laws making corporates responsible for their greenhouse gas emissions. This is related to 2 out of 3 claims made by Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group Chair Mike Smith against Fonterra, Genesis Energy, Dairy Holdings, NZ Steel, Z Energy, NZ Refining and BT Mining. Has had a similar case against the government.

The hearing was to consider the corporates move to strike out the claim could not be reasonable argued. Wylie released a decision saying “while Smith could not proceed on already established rules of negligence and public nuisance, a new area of law could be created. He said “I am reluctant to conclude that the recognition of a new tortious duty which makes corporates responsible to the public for their emissions is untenable. It may, for example, be that the special damage rule in public nuisance could be modified, it may be that climate change science will lead to an increased ability to model the possible effects of emissions”. Smith wanted the court to declare the corporates have caused a public nuisance through their emissions and order they move to ‘zero net’ emissions from their activities by 2030.

The Judge referred to a paper where the Supreme Court chief alongside other judges, states the problem of climate change does not adhere well to established legal doctrine.  “The Common Law method brings stability, but it can also allow for the injection of new ideas and for the creation of a new responses as required” Judge Wiley cited. The statement of claim raises three caused of action, all in tort-public nuisance, negligence and breach of an inchoate duty. Declarations are sought that each of the defendants has unlawfully caused or contributed to the public nuisance alleged or breached duties said to be owed to Smith, Injunctions are also sought requiring each defendant to produce, or cause, zero net emissions from its activities by 2030.

Judge Wylie said “Smith’s negligence claim could not go ahead because there was no proximity between Smith and the Corporates, and that if he ruled in favour, floodgates may open”. He said “”the public nuisance claim was  clearly untenable”

Judge Wylie said “ Even if Smith was successful in his wider claim it would be difficult to craft an injunction which did not clash with Parliament, Government policy and other law. It would in effect have the court acting as regulator requiring specialist no judicial expertise. Meanwhile a High Court judge had declines an application to strike down a judicial review of Thames Coromandel District Councils refusal to sign a ‘climate change’ declaration. Justice Gault also declined the councils bid for security deposit, saying it was in the publics interest for the case to go ahead and the group seeking the review could not afford it.  Justice Gault did not look at the merits of the case, but said “the bar for striking out a judicial review should be hight”. Arguments in the application looked at whether the declaration had any meaningful impact or whether it was simple binary decision for the local Mayor to sign or not.

The decision on the Smith case is covered in more detail in the Energy and Environment  documentation       Carol Sakey





Leave a Comment

This Feature Coming Soon!