Polygamy, Social Science Evidence, Adversarial Model of Adjudication
This article draws on the Supreme Court of British Columbia’s Reference re: Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada [the Polygamy Reference] as a concrete example of the benefits and limitations of intense judicial reliance on social science evidence in the adjudication of constitutional rights and freedoms at the trial level. By examining the evidence tendered, I suggest that the current adversarial model of adjudication is illsuited to combining the legal and the social scientific endeavours. The divergent values, methodologies and objectives of the legal and scientific enterprises severely limit the benefits that the former can yield, thus compromising the effectiveness and utility of the courts for social groups whose claims are heavily grounded in non-legal evidence. Further, I argue that the vast amounts of contradictory evidence typically tendered in rights challenges, as well as the complex and controversial nature of Charter questions and the inevitable need for judges to adjudicate values, risk resulting in undue deference to the legislator, hinder the delivery of justice and ultimately undermine the raison-d’être of Charter litigation.
Jodi Lazare, "When Disciplines Collide: Polygamy and the Social Sciences on Trial" (2015) 31:2 Windsor YB Access Just 103.