The HIV movement has relied on strategic litigation as an important tool to develop and enforce legal protections critical to health. This experience contains lessons on the potential of strategic litigation to advance public health more generally. Beyond impacting laws and policies, strategic litigation can change practice, breathing life into existing legal rules never implemented. While cases may target a particular law, policy, or practice, indirect impacts beyond a particular court decision on future cases, other branches of government, and the public record may be just as important. Each case is only one step towards change, and a judgment can be helpful in laying groundwork and in other contexts. Strategic litigation can also shape public discourse on issues relevant to health through development of the court’s record, integration of expert testimony, and the use of media advocacy. It provides a means to harness the law’s potential to construct reality and historical truth, creating an opening for the narratives of marginalized and affected communities. Strategic litigation and social movements can also have a reciprocal relationship, strengthening each other. Connection to a movement gives a case a political dimension, and social movements can assist in identifying issues, supporting clients, mobilizing communities, engaging media, and following up on the implementation of judgments. Strategic litigation, in turn, can galvanize social movements, creating events around which mobilization and media engagement can occur and facilitating coalition-building and the development of leadership.
Tamar Ezer and Priti Patil, Strategic Litigation to Advance Public Health, 20 Health & Hum. Rts. 149 (2018).