Competition and Control in International Adjudication
40 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2007
This Essay takes issue with the standard view among international law and international relations scholars that States have sufficient and effective tools to constrain international courts. Like international organizations generally, international courts have minds and interests of their own. As a result, they can be tempted to expand their powers beyond those provided for in their mandates or by informal expectations. At the same time, international courts are protected from external control because of the principle of judicial independence and because of structural constraints on international lawmaking and institutional reform. This combination of weak external control and imperfect self-control provides international courts with opportunities to exceed their mandates. It also makes States more likely not to consent ex ante to the jurisdiction of international courts, to withdraw from the jurisdiction of courts to which jurisdiction they had previously consented, and to disobey judicial decisions. In other words, weak judicial control mechanisms create weak dispute resolution mechanisms. This is not optimal, as the international system needs greater not fewer opportunities for peaceful dispute settlement. In order to strengthen international courts, we need to think anew about how best to maintain control over them. The answer, though, is not, as some would have it, to decrease judicial independence by increasing direct State control. Instead, this Essay argues that increasing competition among international courts will more effectively constrain international judicial power and, consequently, increase the likelihood that States will recognize and accede to international judicial authority. Competition among courts will also lead to better - and perhaps convergent - decisions. Therefore, in contrast to the received wisdom that international courts, as they proliferate, should be more respectful and deferential to each other, this Essay claims that such system-protective doctrines are counterproductive. Instead of striving for uniformity, we should accept and develop a system of competitive adjudication in international law.
Keywords: international courts, judicial independence, adjudication, international organizations, international law, competition
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation