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The Choice of Norms in Courtroom Adjudication in Vietnam: In Search of Legitimacy in a Socialist Regulatory Context

  • Thi Quang Hong TRAN (a1)

Abstract

Notwithstanding its defining feature of normative pluralism, the socialist state of Vietnam basically adopts a legal centralist approach to regulation. The judiciary is arguably the most illustrative of this approach, since it is the main forum where legal centralism encounters normative pluralism. Our research examines the choice of norms in judicial adjudication in Vietnam to check the effectiveness of its legal centralist approach. It finds that, despite lacking institutional support, judges managed to apply customary norms at their discretion against the state’s emphasis on top-down legal rules. A legitimacy-based analysis explains this phenomenon. It points out that judges conceptualized their legitimacy under the influence of both legal and extra-legal rules, thus making it apart from the legality. Judges attempt to bridge the gap between legitimacy and legality enabled de factor normative pluralism. In looking at the influence of customary norms over judicial adjudication, the article aims to make both theoretical and practical contributions. Theoretically, it enriches the scholarship of normative pluralism by showing how legitimacy-building keeps normative pluralism effective, irrespective of the dominating legal centralism. Practically, it proffers insightful implications for the ongoing court reforms in Vietnam based upon the findings.

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Dr Tran Thi Quang Hong, PhD (Monash), is a legal researcher at the Institute of Legal Science, Ministry of Justice of Vietnam. Her research interests focus on the process of legal reforms and judicial reforms in Vietnam. Hong has participated in many research projects in the field of Civil Law, Commercial Law, Environmental Law, Regulatory Theories, Legal Culture, Political Economy, and Legal Reforms. She also participates in law-making advisory and law review in co-operation with the Office of Vietnam National Assembly, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and other ministerial agencies. The author would like to thank the judges from Lao Cai, Son La, and Lai Chau for sharing their experience and opinions and her colleagues at the Institute of Legal Science for their effective support in conducting the fieldwork in the above three provinces in late 2016 and early 2017. Gratefulness also goes to two Monash University lecturers: Professor John Gillespie for his valuable comments and suggestions on the early draft and to Dr Dinh Ngoc Thuy for her professional assistance. Correspondence to Dr Tran Thi Quang Hong, Institute of Legal Science, Hanoi, Vietnam. E-mail address: quanghonglc@gmail.com.

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