magnify
Home Articles posted by Jeffrey L. Dunoff & Mark A. Pollack

More Than Trivial: Dissent as Design Element

Published on September 27, 2012        Author: 

Jeffrey L. Dunoff (left) is Professor of Law and Laura H. Carnell Chair at Temple University.

Mark A. Pollack (right) is Professor and Jean Monnet Chair  in the Department of Political Science at Temple University.

Kudos to Dapo for triggering an entertaining and informative set of posts (also here, here and here)about the use of dissents in international courts.   The exchanges on this topic unearthed many little-known practices and long-forgotten cases. More importantly, we believe, these posts raise a deeper set of questions about the causes and consequences of dissent that international lawyers have paid insufficient attention to.

One puzzle is why international courts show such great variation in the use of dissents; ECJ opinions never have dissents, ICJ opinions are regularly accompanied by dissents, and WTO dispute reports rarely have dissents – although this norm has been evolving in recent years.  The puzzle only deepens when we consider the rationales offered to explain these varied practices. Dissent at the ICJ is frequently justified on the grounds that it helps to preserve judicial independence.  In Judge Huber’s words, dissents serve as “a guarantee against any subconscious intrusion of political considerations, and the judgments were more likely to be given in accordance with the real force of the arguments submitted.”  Ironically, however, in the ECJ context, it is the absence of dissent that is thought to preserve judicial independence, as a single collegiate opinion is said to shield judges from national political pressures. How can it be that the presence and the absence of dissent both enhance judicial independence?

More fundamentally, what factors drive the decision by states to allow or prohibit dissents in the statutes of international courts, as well as the subsequent decisions by judges to issue dissents or refrain from doing so?  And, what consequences flow from international judicial dissents, for judicial independence, collegiality, and the development of law? Read the rest of this entry…

 
 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Comments Off