Exploring the Limits of the Judicialization of Urban Land Disputes in Vietnam


  • The author wishes to acknowledge the generous cooperation of Vietnamese judges, lawyers, and academics, as well as research support provided by the Australian Research Council funding grant DP0985927. Please address correspondence to John Gillespie, Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash University, Caulfield East, Melbourne, Australia; e-mail: John.Gillespie@buseco.monash.edu.au.


Economic and legal reforms have triggered waves of conflict over property rights and access to urban land in Vietnam. In this article I develop four epistemic case studies to explore the main precepts and practices that courts must negotiate to extend their authority over land disputes. Courts face a dilemma: Do they apply state laws that disregard community regulatory practices and risk losing social relevance, or apply community notions of situational justice that undermine rule formalism? I conclude that reforms designed to increase rule formalism in the courts may have the unintended consequence of reducing the capacity for judges to find lasting solutions to land disputes.