Dr Emma Cunliffe is an Associate Professor in the Allard School of Law. Dr Cunliffe studies how courts decide the facts of contested cases. She is particularly interested in expert evidence, the operation of implicit bias, and legal processes regarding interpersonal violence. Dr Cunliffe is a member of the evidence-based forensic initiative, which is based at the University of New South Wales (where she is a senior visiting fellow).
With funding from SSHRC, Dr Cunliffe is presently analyzing Canadian trials, inquests and commissions of inquiry that engage with gendered violence, including violence against Indigenous people. In this project, she is investigating whether expert knowledge (such as forensic medicine and psychiatric testing) operates as a Trojan horse by which discriminatory knowledge and beliefs reinforce implicit and structural biases within the legal system. She is also studying examples of legal processes in which discriminatory beliefs are successfully countered. Her major work in progress is a monograph, Judging Experts. This book explores examples of judicial engagement with expert evidence to assess how effectively Canadian legal processes ensure that expert witnesses provide independent and reliable expert testimony. Dr Cunliffe’s work is predicated on a careful analysis of trial transcripts and court records such as expert reports. She also compares experts’ work in legal cases against the research base of fields such as forensic pathology. Dr Cunliffe is regularly invited to speak to judges, experts, lawyers and government about the implications of her research.
At UBC, Dr Cunliffe teaches criminal law, evidence, jurisprudence and seminars in factual reasoning and research methodologies. She has won a UBC Killam Research Fellowship (2014), the Killam Award for Teaching Excellence (2010) and the George Curtis Memorial Award for Teaching (2010).