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By Gregor Maučec & Shai Dothan

As a relevant and timely contribution to the studies of international judging, this Symposium Issue edited by Gregor Maučec & Shai Dothan and forthcoming in the Leiden Journal of International Law examines – from legal, sociological and political science perspectives – the role and impact of international judges’ personal backgrounds on their decision-making and reasoning. Contents include:

Gregor Maučec & Shai Dothan, “The Effects of International Judges’ Personal Characteristics on Their Judging”, click to read:

Here is the abstract:

This Symposium Issue looks at how personal traits of international judges matter in their judging. The articles selected shed light on the ways that international judges’ personality, that is, their character differences and personal backgrounds, shape, control, or modify their conduct and their rulings. The articles in the Symposium reveal that individual international judges have different personal attributes and identities that affect: (i) different aspects of judicial reasoning, problem-solving and case management; (ii) the ways judges interact, deliberate and affect each other in collectively deciding cases; and (iii) the outcomes of international trials. This Symposium, therefore, looks beyond the traditional ‘legal formalistic’ understanding (prevalent also among international judges themselves) that judges – as impartial, rational, and mechanical decision-makers – simply apply existing, recognized rules or principles of law to the facts and questions before a court in the context of concrete cases without regard to any personal leanings and biases. It examines how and to what extent judges at international courts make their choices conditioned on their personal identity characteristics, and when such characteristics exhibit greater or lesser effects on their decision-making.

Lee Epstein & Jack Knight, “How Social Identity and Social Diversity Affect Judging”, click to read:

Here is the abstract:

Judges like to claim that they are impartial decision-makers fully capable of suppressing their personal proclivities, as the rule of law requires. But a century’s worth of studies undermines that view. Going under the name ‘judicial behaviour’, this vast literature shows that many extraneous (non-legal) factors affect the choices judges make. This article focuses on one strand of that literature – the effect of personal characteristics on judging, with emphasis on social identity and social diversity. We show that the literature is bifurcated: studies focusing on the social identity of individual judges (such as their gender, race, and nationality) generate findings consistent with in-group bias, whereas research on the social diversity of judges sitting in panels suggests that benefits can accrue from socially diverse courts. What the two sets of studies have in common, though, is just as important: both could make profound academic and policy contributions but require far more development if they are to realize their potential. We offer proposals for forward movement.

Loveday Hodson, “Gender and the International Judge: Towards a Transformative Equality Approach”, click to read:

Here is the abstract:

There is a dearth of women judges sitting on international courts and tribunals. This contribution pays attention to the question of why judicial gender matters. Demonstrating that sex-based differences play an important part in judging has challenged even the most committed essentialists. Legitimacy-based arguments are deemed inadequate in so far as they fail to address the structures of power and discrimination that create exclusions. In this contribution, I argue that the dearth of women judges matters because it is both symptom and cause of the highly gendered way in which international law and international institutions operate. Drawing on Erika Rackley’s early work in which metaphor is used to reveal the gendered nature of the judicial role, I call forth the idea of the totemic judge of international law whose male gender is rendered invisible and unremarked and who functions to enrobe the gendered norms and institutions of international law. The female judge, conversely, is a disruptive force as her very presence places gender in the frame. Drawing on accounts from international courts and from the Feminist Judgments in International Law project, this contribution concludes that an approach to judging that acknowledges and challenges structures of power – including gender – contains transformative potential. However, it is potential that must find a way to operate within significant institutional and normative constraints.

Salvatore Caserta & Mikael Rask Madsen, “The situated and bounded rationality of international courts: A structuralist approach to international adjudicative practices”, click to read:

Here is the abstract:

Understanding international judicial behaviour requires the development of a perspective that considers both individual and collective action. On the one hand, individual judges are influenced and shaped by their background and trajectory prior to their international judicial appointment; on the other hand, when appointed to international courts, they become part of a particular social setting and group dynamic. The article provides an interpretive, structural theory of judicial behaviour which allows for an understanding of international judicial action and the judicial institutional practices resulting from it. The article explains this double structuration of international judicial behaviour by first reconsidering and amending the notion of habitus, originally developed by Pierre Bourdieu, and secondly by applying this idea to the practice of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Gregor Maučec & Shai Dothan, “Judicial Dissent at the International Criminal Court: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis”, click to read:

Here is the abstract:

This article explores the phenomenon of judicial dissents at the ICC. The main subject is the process of collective decision-making and judicial deliberations in cases where members of a particular ICC chamber cannot reach a consensus on factual, substantive or procedural issues and render a unanimous decision. The article examines why and when international criminal judges dissent according to the views expressed by ICC judges. Drawing heavily on field research in The Hague, the article presents a qualitative analysis of the ICC judges’ perceptions and experiences of using dissenting opinions at the Court. Empirical findings derived from interviewing ICC judges support the hypothesis that international criminal judges’ personality, that is, their character differences (such as self-discipline and other work habits), their previous career experience, and their field of expertise determine their likelihood of using judicial dissents. In case of disagreement within an ICC Chamber, judges with criminal law backgrounds who previously worked as professional judges are more likely to append their dissent to a majority ruling with which they do not agree than international judges, diplomats, and professors with public international law expertise who are more willing to discuss and negotiate in order for the Court to speak with one voice.

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