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The Grammar of Bias: Judicial Impartiality in European Legal Systems

Abstract

The concept of judicial objectivity is a cornerstone of modern legal systems. This article discusses the interplay between the lexical uses of the concept of judicial objectivity in cases that review the judicial impartiality of the court. The data for this project is retrieved from a large sample of cases (over eight hundred decisions) from Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the UK. The analysis of the data shows that in the case of alleged judicial bias, the concept of objectivity is referred to in order to justify a series of judicial activities (e.g. the assessment of procedures adopted by an allegedly biased court; the existence of subjective interest in the case). In particular, the study provides a strong indication of what Legrand called ‘pre-judices’, which are the cultural aspects that are embedded in the process of the professional socialisation of each legal system.

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Acknowledgments

This research would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship by the University of Edinburgh Neil MacCormick’s fellowship programme. I have to thank prof Stephen Tierney for his unparalleled support during the MacCormick’s fellowship. The research was completed in 2014. The article reports on a large comparative project which involved a group of very gifted and dedicated researchers, who worked over a long period of time and it has been the proxy for several individual and co-authored publications. The list of the individuals involved, with the countries analysed by this article, includes: Maximiliano Aramburo and Sebastian Alonso Agüero San Juan (Spain) Michal Pazdziora, Lucia Berdisova (Slovakia), Vito Breda (UK), Pietro Denaro (Italy), Rūta Kazanavičiūtė (Lithuania), Lidia Rodak, Maciej Pichlak, Marcin Pieniążek, Jaqueline Sena, Andrej Kristan and Tilen Štajnpihler (Slovenia), Antal Szerletics (Hungary). Over the years individuals’ involvements, as part of the transient nature of legal academia, changed. The first data analysis exercise took place at the 2012 IVR World Congress in Frankfurt. From then, some of the contributors’ work has been reviewed and taken over by others. This list is only indicative of the final contributors. The submission complies with COPE guidelines and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. The project’s raw data is available for review via the Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet). The usual disclaimer applies and so all errors and omissions are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Breda, V. The Grammar of Bias: Judicial Impartiality in European Legal Systems. Int J Semiot Law 30, 245–260 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-016-9489-2

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Keywords

  • Judicial bias
  • Semantic analysis
  • Convergence of legal systems
  • Legal culture