Associate Professor Scott Leonard Optican

BA, University of California, Berkeley (1982) MPhil, University of Cambridge (1983) JD, Harvard Law School (1988) Bar admissions: New York (1989); California (1991)

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Associate Professor


Scott Optican is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland Faculty of Law in New Zealand. A former member of the executive board of Fulbright New Zealand, he holds a BA degree in Rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley (1982), a Masters degree (MPhil) in Criminology from the University of Cambridge, England, (1983), and a JD degree from Harvard Law School (1988). Scott interned at the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria (1985), served as a prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney's Office (1990), and clerked for the Hon. Constance Baker Motley of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York (1989).

He specializes in evidence, criminal procedure, and comparative criminal procedure, and has written widely on criminal justice and policing issues arising under the New Zealand Bill of Rights. Scott is also a co-author of The New Zealand Bill of Rights (Oxford University Press: 2003), the first comprehensive treatise on the protection of rights and freedoms under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

In 2001, Scott was a Visiting Professor at the University of Oregon School of Law, USA, where he taught criminal law and criminal procedure. In June 2004, Scott taught comparative criminal procedure at the University of Auckland Faculty of Law with Professor Joshua Dressler, Frank R. Strong Chair in Law at the Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law. He also taught comparative criminal procedure at the University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Law, Canada (2005) and at the University of Kansas School of Law, USA (2006).

In December 2005, Scott gave lectures on Western concepts of criminal procedure to Turkish lawyers, academics and judges attending seminars at the Bahcesehir University Faculty of Law in Istanbul, Turkey. He also travelled to Israel in Nov/ Dec 2007 to be a visiting professor at the University of Haifa Faculty of Law. Scott’s co-authored book on the NZ Evidence Act 2006 — Mahoney, McDonald, Optican and Tinsley, The Evidence Act 2006: Act and Analysis — was published by Brookers in Dec 2007. A second edition appeared in 2010 and a third edition is scheduled for publication in July 2014. Scott also contributed a chapter on criminal procedure to Tolmie and Brookbanks (eds), Criminal Justice in New Zealand (LexisNexis 2007). Recent articles include publications on the exlusion of illegally obtained evidence under s 30 of the NZ Evidence Act 2006, and a comparative examination of exclusion under US and NZ law. Scott is a regular commentator in the New Zealand media on issues related to crime and justice.

Research | Current

Criminal Procedure


NZ Bill of Rights/ Comparative Bill of Rights law

Police Powers

Teaching | Current

  • LAW 425 Evidence
  • LAW 482 Criminal Procedure

Postgraduate supervision

Less Than Legal Force? An examination of the Legal Control of the Police Use of Force in New Zealand

Rationalising the Right to Counsel: Section 23(1)(b) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

Communications with Ministers of Religion: The Concepts and Contours of the Clergy-Communicant Privilege

Standing under Section 21 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

Section 37 Evidence Act 2006: The Veracity of Witnesses in Civil and Criminal Proceedings

The Privilege Against Self-Incrimination in Civil Proceedings (PhD)

The Proceeds of Crimes Act (LLM)

Name Suppression in Sexual Assault Cases (LLM)

Deceptive Police Interrogation Practices

Police Questioning of Young Offenders

Electronic Surveillance Under the Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Previous Consistent Statements under s 35 of the Evidence Act 2006

The Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion in NZ (LLM)

The Use of Silence as Evidence in Criminal Trials

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Optican, S., & Oliver-Hood, J. (2019). Evidence Law Update for Civil and Criminal Lawyers. Paper presented at ADLS - Continuing Professional Development, Auckland, New Zealand. 28 February - 28 February 2019.
  • Optican, S. (2019). Evidence Law Update: Proposed Changes to the Evidence Act 2006 and a Select Discussion of Noteworthy Cases Since the 2018 CBA Conference. Paper presented at Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand Conference, Auckland, New Zealand. 3 August - 4 August 2019.
  • Optican, S. (2019). Evidence. New Zealand Law Review, 2019 (4), 565-617.
  • Optican, S. (2018). Evidence Law Update. Paper presented at Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand Annual Conference, Auckland, New Zealand. 4 August - 5 August 2018.
  • Optican, S. (2018). Evidence. New Zealand Law Review, 2018 (3), 429-512.
  • McDonald, E., & Optican, S. (Eds.) (2018). Mahoney on Evidence Act and Analysis. Wellington, New Zealand: Thomson Reuters. Pages: 1020.
  • Optican, S. (2017). Case note: Every silver lining has a cloud - The exclusion of improperly obtained evidence in civil proceedings: Marwood v Commissioner of Police [2016] NZSC 139, [2017] 1 NZLR 260. Te Wharenga: The New Zealand Criminal Law Review, 2017, 228-247.
  • Optican, S. (2017). Wilson, Kumar and Wichman: An examination, analysis and discussion of undercover police scenario cases in the Supreme Court. New Zealand Law Review, 2017 (3), 399-466.

Contact details

Primary office location

17 EDEN CRESCENT - Bldg 803
Level 3, Room 308
New Zealand