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School of Law and Politics academic shortlisted for legal scholarship prize

27 July 2020

A book written by a School of Law and Politics lecturer has been shortlisted for this year’s Peter Birks Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship.

Each year The Society of Legal Scholars offers two prizes for outstanding published books by scholars in their early careers.

Dr Rachel Cahill-O'Callaghan’s book, Values in the Supreme Court: Decisions, Division and Diversity (Hart Publishing) was published in February and is one of eight books to be shortlisted in 2020.

The book investigates the relationship between judicial values and decision making in the UK Supreme Court and, much like its author, it presents an interdisciplinary approach combining ideas and techniques from psychology to identify the role of values in judicial decision making.

Dr Cahill-O’Callaghan, who moved into the study of Law following a successful career in academic science, said, “There was extensive academic debate suggesting the role of values in judicial decision making, but there was limited empirical evidence to support the arguments. This was largely due to a lack of a method to identify judicial values in the UK.”

“My scientific background provided me with the skills to adapt the research on values from psychology and apply it to a legal context thus producing a method to identify and quantify the expression of values in legal judgments. I use this method to explore key legal debates surrounding dissent and judicial diversity.”

Dr Cahill-O’Callaghan argues that our value priorities are a facet of our life experiences and to ensure a diversity of values on the Supreme Court bench, a variety of judges who have lived different lives need to be appointed.

The winners of this year’s Peter Birks prizes will be announced in September during the Society of Legal Scholars virtual Annual Conference hosted by the University of Exeter.

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