Contextualizing Strategic Litigation in Europe

   2022. május 12. 14:00 - 2022. május 12. 16:00

Contextualizing Strategic Litigation in Europe

Venue: Centre for Social Sciences (1097 Budapest, Tóth Kálmán u. 4.), JTI Conference Room

Time: May 12 (Thursday), 14:00-16:00

Scott L. Cummings (UCLA), Venera Protopapa (Verona University), Lilla Farkas (ELTE TÁTK)

Discussants: Tamás Dombos (Háttér Society), Noémi Molnár (ELTE / Streetlawyer Association)

Moderating: Zsolt Körtvélyesi (CSS Institute for Legal Studies)

With challenges like rising nativism and a global pandemic, attention has focused on rebuilding economic and social infrastructure while ensuring equal access to benefits across racial and class divisions. Redistribution will require oversight and place strategic litigation in a crucial enforcement role. How litigation and courts will respond to this challenge is uncertain given recent institutional pressures on the European courts, which have arguably rendered them less potent in this particular moment, facing a backlash against the authority of supranational courts as well as an increasing mobilization in these courts for illiberal causes.

The practice and potential of strategic litigation cannot be fully appreciated without a threefold shift in analytical perspective. First, it is not possible to understand the meaning of strategic litigation in the European context without adopting a transnational perspective that illuminates two critical features of strategic litigation: (1) the way that it has traveled horizontally across borders, advanced by powerful global intermediaries and funders as a tool for facilitating political integration on the “Old Continent”, strengthening civil society, and thereby building the rule of law; and (2) the way that it operates vertically at the supranational level, engaging lawyers and social movement actors in claim making through national courts in order to create European precedents that bind domestic actors. Second, the study of strategic litigation requires new thinking about how law is produced from the bottom up: specifically, how law arises from the claims of marginalized social groups on the ground in member states, led by people who work with lawyers to actualize or protect their interests through legal channels. Third, we contend that appreciating strategic litigation requires an interdisciplinary perspective that incorporates insights into the cause and effect of litigation specifically, and legal mobilization more broadly, derived from law and social science research.

The paper is available upon request at

Scott Cummings is Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics at the UCLA School of Law,  and a long-time member of the UCLA David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. In 2021, Professor Cummings was selected as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the European University Institute and a fellow at the Stanford Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.  His publications include Lawyers and Movements: Legal Mobilization in Transformative Times (Oxford 2022), An Equal Place: Lawyers in the Struggle for Los Angeles (Oxford 2021), and Global Pro Bono: Causes, Consequences and Contestation (with Fabio de Sa e Silva and Louise Trubek) (Cambridge 2021). Professor Cummings is also co-author of Making Public Interest Lawyers in a Time of Crisis: An Evidence-Based Approach (with Catherine Albiston and Richard Abel).

Venera Protopapa is assistant professor at the University of Verona. She has a PhD from the University of Milan. She is the scientific coordinator of the PilEUROPE (Public Interest Litigation in Europe. A Study on the Use of Courts to Protect Migrant Rights) and is part of the research team that coordinates the FARm project that aims to prevent labor exploitation and the gang-master system in agriculture. Her research interest includes labour law, with special regard to precarious labour and migrant labour, and legal mobilization. She has recently published a book on strategic litigation and trade unions in Italy, "Uso strategico del diritto e azione sindacale” (Mulino 2021).

Lilla Farkas is assistant professor at the ELTE Faculty of Social Sciences. Professor Farkas has been a member of the Budapest Bar Association since 1998, specialized in human rights practice, working for various NGOs in Hungary and Europe. As a Roma rights practitioner, she has collaborated with Roma activists and organizations across Europe since 1995. Her expertise focus on strategic litigation, discrimination in education, minority rights and ethnic data collection. She has authored several reports on behalf of the European Commission on racial discrimination in EU Member States, EEA and candidate countries. Professor Farkas holds an LLM from King’s College, London and a PhD from the European University Institute, Florence.

Noémi Molnár studied sociology, criminology and comparative constitutional law. Since 2014, she has been a member of the Streetlawyer Association, a grassroots group of lawyers striving for social justice in Hungary. She is a PhD student at ELTE Law School.

Tamás Dombos is economist, sociologist, anthropologist. Between 2001 and 2011 he was a researcher at the Center for Policy Studies at Central European University conducting research on equal opportunity policies. Between 2015 and 2017 he was a lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Eötvös Lóránd University, between 2018 and 2020 researcher at the Faculty of Law of the same university. Between 2017 and 2021 he was a training expert at the Faculty of Law Enforcement at National University of Public Service. He has been working for Háttér Society since 2007, first as a volunteer then as a paid staff member and board member. He coordinates the advocacy and research activities of the organization, supports the work of the Legal Aid Service and is responsible for Háttér's international relations. Between 2012 and 2021 he also served on the board of the Hungarian LGBT Alliance, the national umbrella organization.

Projects no. FK 124804 and K 134962 have been implemented with the support provided from the National Research, Development and Innovation Fund of Hungary, financed under the FK 17 and K 20 funding schemes, respectively.