This is a case study of the legal practice of a young Thai “cause lawyer.” The study joins a growing number by other scholars who are skeptical of global convergence on a single form of the “rule of law,” and who argue instead that legal development in the new states of Asia and elsewhere will be path-dependent. Though this research examines advocacy by a relatively small group of practitioners, I argue that the study, together with my other case studies of social justice practitioners challenging the authority of government in different ways, provides a window on the development of law’s authority more generally. I examine the growth of social justice advocacy by Thai lawyers over several generations, parallel developments in political and administrative institutions, and the specific actions (and discourses) that the particular lawyer and her colleagues pursue in order to make rights effective. I focus on key political events, opportunities to develop collaborative networks and their limits, the influence, over time, of many globalizations of law, and the intergenerational social construction of the lawyer’s legal advocacy techniques. In this article, I suggest that mobilizing the bureaucratic authority of the state and the slow legalization of human rights has severely limited the lawyer’s ability to fulfill the aspirations of human rights for trafficking victims. Yet, I conclude that her efforts also must be viewed through a historically informed lens which places her contribution to anchoring law in moral authority above the ordinary politics of the state outside the classic American benchmarks for social engineering through law.
NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2576974, available at SSRN http://ssrn.com/abstract=2576974