Courts: In and Out of Sight, Site, and Cite

40 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2010 Last revised: 7 Feb 2011

Date Written: 2008


This lecture addresses how traditions of adjudication influenced democratic values, and how contemporary democracies have transformed but failed to make good on adjudication’s promises. I trace the shift from Renaissance “rites” and spectacles of power to post-enlightenment “rights” or open courts and impartial judges. After mapping the expansion and “triumph” of adjudication, represented through the building of courts as purpose-built and segregated space, I detail its decline. Through contemporary outsourcing, devolution, and privatization of court processes, the public dimensions of adjudication are diminishing. In the 1840s, Jeremy Bentham based his call for “publicity” in courts on claims of accuracy and legitimacy; I will argue that, for the twenty-first century, adjudication is itself a democratic practice and can serve democratic ends, and hence, that its decline is a problem for democracies.

Suggested Citation

Resnik, Judith, Courts: In and Out of Sight, Site, and Cite (2008). Villanova Law Review Vol. 53, p. 771, 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Judith Resnik (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-1447 (Phone)
203-432-1719 (Fax)

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