The Polyphonic Courtroom: Expanding the Possibilities of Judicial Discourse
Dickinson Law Review, Vol. 101, No. 1, p. 3, 1996
39 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2010
Date Written: 1996
This Article draws upon the ideas of Mikhail Bakhtin to critique judicial discourse as embodied in written opinions. Judicial opinions are typically monologues which reject exploration of complex issues of meaning in favor of simply justifying a result. Opinions should instead be part of a continuing dialogue whose hallmark is exploration, not simplification - what the Article characterizes as "polyphonic," Polyphonic opinions should embrace dialogue and complexity and recognize the validity of mutliple perspectives. This goal can not simply be willed, however, because cognition by necessity simplifies. To meet this challenges, the Article concludes with recommendations for "judicial calisthenics," including techniques drawn from social psychology, to promote polyphonic judicial decision-making.
Keywords: bakhtin, judicial decision-making, polyphony, dialogic
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