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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  

Robert Rubinson

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: 1996

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Rubinson, Robert, The Polyphonic Courtroom: Expanding the Possibilities of Judicial Discourse (1996). Dickinson Law Review, Vol. 101, No. 1, p. 3, 1996. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1542262

Robert Rubinson (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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