It was a pleasure to read Gleider’s thoughtful monograph The International Court of Justice and the Judicial Function, which presents a constructivist account of the operation of the International Court and the role of its judges. There is much to commend in this work, which starts squarely from the position that the analysis of international courts should not be based on constitutional expectations drawn from domestic systems. I particularly appreciated the attention he paid to the Court’s deliberative process: like him, I think that this is too often ignored in the analysis of the Court’s jurisprudence. I am, however, less sanguine than he is about the implications of this process for the normative consequences of the Court’s jurisprudence.
Gleider has a robust view of the Court’s role in the development of international law:
Once a general statement on a legal principle or rule has been elucidated by the Court, channelled into the judicial form and given the imprimatur of judicial authority that accompanies the Court, both parties before it and non-parties cannot in good faith contest that principle. The existence of that principle itself becomes part of international legal argument, offering a body of evidence an materials that can be relied on by States, and thus stabilizing their ‘normative expectations’. (p. 90: notes omitted)
While it cannot be denied that the Court refers to its own jurisprudence continuously and is, to say the least, loathe to depart from its earlier rulings, I wonder whether it might not be more appropriate to view the Court’s role as more transactional in nature, as I have argued before. Gleider dismisses this approach as inappropriate, arguing that this would reduce adjudication “to a private function, where the Court is an instrument of the parties before it” (p. 93). But isn’t this the point? In contentious cases, the issues are defined by the arguments of the parties which, in terms of argumentation theory, sets the field of discourse for the Court. But this field of discourse is necessarily incomplete as constraints of time and length are inherent in all pleadings – if nothing else, the Court’s attention cannot be prolonged indefinitely. Not all the relevant material might be placed before the Court, but only those aspects that the parties wish to present and emphasise. In contrast, given the (generally) wider participation in advisory proceedings, should the rulings these contain be seen as more “authoritative” than those in contentious cases? Gleider comments that the Court’s apparent insistence on the essentially inter partes nature of contentious cases is a “fiction” which “sits uneasily with the Court’s robust assertion of its powers in the exercise of its advisory function, where it has seemed prepared to assume functions of a more public character” (p. 93). Increased participation might be a reason for that.
But to turn to the Court’s collegiate deliberative practice, which Gleider argues was “designed precisely to bestow a heightened authority on the collective judgment of the Court”. Read the rest of this entry…