Regional International Courts in Search of Relevance - Adjudicating Politically Sensitive Disputes in Central America and the Caribbean
Forthcoming, 28 Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law
iCourts Working Paper Series No. 88
45 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 29, 2017
The Central American and of the Caribbean Courts of Justice (CACJ and CCJ) are hybrid judicial institutions. While their Member States chiefly envisaged them as EU-style regional economic courts, they have explored the whole extension of their formally delegated functions and have developed peculiar expertise in matters relating to freedom of movement, human and fundamental rights, and mega-politics. The article explains how two ICs seemingly established to build common markets have come to rule on high-stakes political disputes, which, ostensibly, have little to do with regional economic integration. The article posits that the scholarship on delegation to ICs is only partially able to provide an answer to this question. It, hence, suggests an alternative theoretical framework by relying on transnational field theory and reflexive sociology. The article demonstrates that, despite the rhetoric of their founding documents, both the CACJ and the CCJ were only partially established to pursue regional economic integration. Instead, both Courts were fashioned at the crossroad of several – and at times even conflicting – forms of legality, power battles, professional interests, and visions of the world that shaped the Central American and Caribbean legal fields over time. Seen through the diachronic lens of the interests, ideologies, professional practices, and visions of the world of the actors inhabiting the Central American and Caribbean legal fields, the involvement of the two Courts in politically sensitive issues becomes less surprising, and – the article argues – it constitutes part of a strategy of the judges to legitimize the two Courts vis-à-vis their peculiar institutional, political, and social environments.
Keywords: sociology of law, regional international courts, legitimization, regional integration through law
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