Judges, Conflict, and the Past
Journal of Law and Society, 2015, Volume 42, Issue 4.
Posted: 20 Dec 2016
Date Written: 2015
Drawing upon interviews with senior judicial figures in Northern Ireland, South Africa and elsewhere, this article considers the role of the judiciary in a political conflict. Using the socio-legal literature on judicial performance and audience as well as transitional justice, the article argues that judges in Northern Ireland ‘performed’ to a number of ‘imagined’ audiences including Parliament, ‘the public’ and their judicial peers - all of which it is argued shaped their view of the judicial role. In light of ongoing efforts to deal with the past in the jurisdiction, and the experiences of other transitional societies, the article argues that the judiciary can and should engage in a mature, reflexive and, where appropriate, self critical examination of the good and bad of their own institutional history during the conflict. It also argues that such a review of judicial performance requires an external audience in order to encourage the judiciary to see truth beyond the limits of legalism.
Keywords: judicial behavior, judicial performance, transitional justice, Northern Ireland
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