Personal profile


Dr Emma Cunliffe is a 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 gendered and racialized violence, particularly those regarding Indigenous people. Dr Cunliffe is also a member of the evidence-based forensic initiative, which is based at the University of New South Wales.


From 2021 – 2023, Dr Cunliffe served as the director of research and policy for the joint Federal-Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission which was tasked with studying the “context, causes and circumstances” of a mass casualty incident that occurred in Nova Scotia in April 2020. The Commission’s Final Report was delivered in March 2023.


Dr Cunliffe’s 2011 book Murder, Medicine and Motherhood was the first to argue that Australian woman Kathleen Folbigg had been wrongly convicted of killing her four children. Her work played an important role in Ms Folbigg’s eventual exoneration. She is now preparing a 2nd edition of the book, describing Ms Folbigg’s pathway to freedom.


With funding from SSHRC, Dr Cunliffe is presently analyzing how facts are “found” in Canadian trials, inquests and commissions of inquiry that engage with gendered and racialized violence.  She is particularly 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 supervises graduate students in the fields of expert evidence, judicial fact-finding, and the criminalization of women. She presently has little capacity to accept new graduate students, however if you are specifically interested in researching expert testimony in Canadian legal processes, please get in touch by email with a brief research proposal.


At UBC, Dr Cunliffe teaches criminal law, evidence, jurisprudence and seminars in factual reasoning and research methodologies. She has won a Courage in Law award from the Indigenous Legal Students Association (2016), UBC Killam Research Fellowship (2014), the Killam Award for Teaching Excellence (2010) and the George Curtis Memorial Award for Teaching (2010).


Professional Affiliations

  • Centre for Feminist Legal Studies


  • Law
  • Law and Gender
  • Criminal Law