Prestigious scholarships for Auckland Law Graduate

13 May 2016

University of Auckland law graduate Bree Huntley has been awarded a prestigious William Georgetti scholarship to spend a year studying for an LL.M. (Master of Laws degree) at Harvard University specialising in administrative and constitutional law. 

Bree is one of eight New Zealand postgraduates recognised by the scholarships which aim to create opportunities for the “best brains” to undertake postgraduate study and research in a field important to New Zealand’s social, cultural or economic development.

She is also one of only two women to receive the New Zealand Law Foundation’s Ethel Benjamin scholarship to support outstanding woman lawyers whose postgraduate research in law “protects and promotes the legal interests of the New Zealand public”. The award honours New Zealand’s first woman barrister and solicitor, Ethel Benjamin, who was admitted in 1897.

She is interested in investigating the potential for development of generally applicable and judicially enforceable process requirements for the creation of delegated legislation in New Zealand. 

“My interest arose out of my more general interest in how to make a model of administrative law originally developed for review of one particular class of administrative action – ministerial decisions under statute – fit for purpose in relation to the diversity of administrative action in contemporary New Zealand. 

“The inevitable result of the failure to adapt our administrative law to the changing shape of the state is the uneven application of the rule of law across the administrative landscape. We run the risk of enforcing arbitrary distinctions and creating black spots that shield particular decisions from judicial oversight”, says Bree.

Bree says there’s been little academic attention to whether the New Zealand approach to control of delegated legislation is satisfactory. She believes it deserves serious consideration given the amount of legislative authority delegated to administrative bodies continues to increase.

“On the one hand, the imposition of legal constraints on the policymaking process of ministries and agencies would be at odds with our traditional conception of the proper separation between law and politics. But on the other, it is troubling that there is no legal mechanism to ensure that delegated policymaking is carried out consistently with legitimate democratic government.”

Bree chose Harvard because of its unparalleled reputation in the realm of public law and the fact it is home to the most renowned public law scholars in the United States.

“I will have the opportunity to take classes led by academics whose work has influenced me, including Lawrence H Tribe and Cass Sunstein. Harvard’s diverse course offering will allow me to explore my interests in constitutional and administrative law, comparative law and constitutional theory.

“Studying administrative and constitutional law at Harvard will ensure that, as an aspiring scholar, I bring a fresh and informed perspective to issues in New Zealand administrative and constitutional law. By bolstering the theoretical foundations of my legal knowledge, I will ensure that my contribution to reform of New Zealand’s public law is as valuable as possible.”

Bree graduated with a BA/LLB(Hons) in 2011 and a BA(Hons) (in English) in 2012.  She previously worked as a Judge’s Clerk to the Chief Justice and is currently a barrister with Thorndon Chambers in Wellington.