While laws, reforms, and public policies are often assumed to be coherent (Holm Vohnsen 2017), dissenting opinions, contradicting trends in the jurisprudence, and variations in daily administrative practices suggest otherwise. Breaking away from the assumption that legal regimes speak with one, unanimous voice, this workshop will explore the place and the role of dissenting voices in the way legality is constructed.
Building on studies of legal professionals on the one hand (Andreetta & Kolloch 2018; Boigeol 1996 ; Bessière & Mille 2013 ; Budniok 2015; Oumarou 2014 ; Rubbers & Gallez 2015; Verheul 2013), and on the literature on litigation and judicial decision-making on the other (Dupret 2006 ; Gill & Good 2019 ; Good, Berti & Tarabout 2015 ; Ben Hounet & Puccio-Den 2017 ; Colemans & Dupret 2018 ; Truffin & Laperche 2011 ; Simon & Truffin 2018), we aim to explore contradictions within, resistance to, and the telling of different, potentially competing stories in legal proceedings, texts, or laws, and the manner of their interpretation. How do legal professionals decide between different trends in the jurisprudence? How do they understand their role within, or against the legal system? How do they relate to legal narratives, and to the stories of law told by the state with which they might regularly work? This workshop will delve into competing understandings of professionalism, interests at stake, and narratives around legal work, on the one hand, and the way legal actors navigate, or mobilize competing interpretations of legal texts, on the other hand. It will also investigate how unanimous voices are challenged, through cause-lawyering or strategic litigation for example, and how dissenting opinions can sometimes gain traction and trigger shifts in the jurisprudence.
We are particularly interested in three areas where dissenting voices might be heard:
1. the process of appointing the decision-makers;
2. the bureaucratic, professional or political environment in which they make their decisions; and finally,
3. the role of legal professionals’ discretion in legal procedures and judicial crafting.
In relation to the appointment of legal decision-makers, papers can examine the processes through which one becomes a judicial officer, including training and education. Papers can further explore how are judges, magistrates or prosecutors are selected by the bodies that control access to the profession. Do these processes give rise to any forms of dissent, or advice on how to manage dissent? What does this tell us about the judicial profession, and the wider socio-political context in which judicial officers operate? We particularly welcome papers that build on socio-historical perspectives, and examine the way legal professions have been shaped within or across a variety of political contexts.
Second, to gain an understanding of how dissent works and circulates within the environment in which decisions are made, we are interested in judges’ and prosecutors’ practical work routines, the daily challenges they face, and the way they deal with them. How do these actors define their role within the justice system? How do they frame their professional work ethics, and how do they balance these with potentially competing everyday working conditions, and social or political pressure?
Third, this workshop will interact with the (personal) values and norms judges and magistrates mobilize in order to come to their decisions. How do judges understand and interpret the law in specific cases? What kind of presumptions do they make, or what sort of questions do they ask, and why? How much room for dissent is there within the judiciary, how is it perceived, and what role do dissenting opinions play in the wider process of legal, or political change? Building on the idea that law and litigation can be used as a tool to create social change, contributions could further focus on the role of judges, prosecutors, or third-party interventions in advancing legal debates and legal production, exploring how they make sense of “open” concepts or highly disputed issues such as human dignity, ill-treatment or the superior interest of the child, among others.
This workshop finally aims to combine papers looking at a range of national, and international courts, and at the actors who play within, or near those courts in order to achieve various social or political goals. How do different sets of actors mobilize the law and its institutions across civil or common law systems? What is the place of dissenting voices, how are they expressed and what kind of effects do have on the construction of legality and jurisprudence?
This 2-day workshop will bring together interested researchers (including those who are in the final stages of their PhD) from various disciplines (such as anthropology, history, socio-legal studies, sociology, and political science) to engage with the above and related questions. Discussions and findings from the workshop are intended for publication.
To apply, send a 250-word abstract, a short biography, and an indication of where you will be located in September 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org
by 20 February 2020
Funding may be available to cover participants’ travel expenses and accommodation; this is to be confirmed closer to the workshop date.
- Sophie Andreetta (MPI for Social Anthropology/ULiège)
- Susanne Verheul (University of Oxford)
- Eugenia Relano