Symposium Introduction: What Can We Learn from Transnational Courts About Judicial Diversity?

7 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2020

See all articles by Mathilde Cohen

Mathilde Cohen

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Date Written: January 18, 2019


Transnational judicial bodies have grown in number and importance in the past century, becoming major players in international politics, lawmaking, and the global economy. Their decisions affect us all, whether directly or mediated by domestic legal systems. Yet the judges sitting on transnational courts are often at odds with the billions of people affected by their decisions in terms of representation. Judicial diversity is now the consecrated expression to describe whether and to what extent judges come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. At the same time, talking about “judicial diversity” abstractly tells us little about the types of identity traits considered relevant for inclusion on the transnational bench. Is judicial diversity a useful concept in this setting? Would “integration” better describe the goal of transforming predominantly white and male international organizations? This introduction argues that the literature on judicial diversity at the international level needs to move from a primary focus on gender to the intersectional representation of other marginalized groups defined by race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion, socioeconomic background, language, and different abilities, among other traits.

The paradox of transnational courts is that if by one measure they lack in judicial diversity, by another measure, they are designed based on the very principle of judicial diversity, unlike their domestic counterparts. In the international context, the idea of representation has always been assumed and valued, be it understood as descriptive or substantive representation. Some forms of identities, such as national origin, are not only desirable, but also thought to be essential to the courts’ mission, while other forms of identity, such as race, sex, gender identity and expression, class, or disability, may be ignored or challenged. The goal of this symposium is to investigate this tension by offering case studies examining different dimensions of diversity at a number of transnational courts.

Keywords: judicial diversity, international courts, judges, courts, representation, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, transnational courts, regional courts, court of justice of the European Union, European court of human rights, African court on human and peoples’ rights, international court of ju

JEL Classification: K1, K4, K33, K40

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Mathilde, Symposium Introduction: What Can We Learn from Transnational Courts About Judicial Diversity? (January 18, 2019). Connecticut Journal of International Law, Vol. 34, 2020, pp.278-284, Available at SSRN:

Mathilde Cohen (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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