Courts aren’t just there to settle divorces, sentence law-breakers and resolve corporate disputes. A healthy legal system, one that ensures access, transparency and accountability, is fundamental to democracy. When the system works, the courts act as a check on government power, holding our politicians and bureaucrats to account.
In Courting Power, Isabelle Reinecke, founder of Grata Fund, Australia’s first strategic litigation funder and incubator, takes us through the trials and triumphs of some of the public interest cases she has helped bring about — from one launched by Torres Strait Islanders to establish the federal government’s duty of care regarding climate change, to a High Court case on remote housing rights in the Northern Territory, and Doctors for Refugees’ successful challenge to government gag laws, among others. Isabelle praises transparency infrastructure like our freedom-of-information system, which underpins checks and balances such as the media, a dynamic political opposition and independent voices, while alerting us to how it can be undermined by governments of any colour. She also examines the pernicious forces seeking to influence Australian courts, hungrily eyeing the impact of the far right on the US Supreme Court, and why political attacks on the courts are always sharpest when First Nations people’s rights are at stake.
In a world of spin and puff, inattention and information overload, media deregulation and TikTok, evidence and accurate information have never been so important. The courts are perhaps the last remaining place where facts are primary and hyperbole is ignored. Courting Power is a timely reminder of how ordinary people can rely on them to keep the powers that be accountable.
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