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The Road Not Taken: Comparative International Judicial Dissent

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2022

Jeffrey L. Dunoff
Laura H. Carnell Professor of Law, Temple University Beasley School of Law, United States.
Mark A. Pollack
Professor of Political Science and Jean Monnet Chair, Temple University, United States.


This Article analyzes long-standing disagreements over dissent's effect on judicial legitimacy, independence, and legal doctrine by undertaking the first comparative study of dissent practices across three leading tribunals, the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Court of Justice. Surprisingly, we find that each of the central claims in debates over dissent at international courts is mistaken. We find that the presence of dissents has little systematic impact on legitimacy; the key factor instead is patterns of dissent that suggest bias among international judges. We find that the effects of dissent on judicial independence are mediated by a third factor, namely the length and renewability of judicial terms of office. Finally, we find that dissents promote law development, but little evidence that today's dissents form the basis for future majority rulings. We then outline a research agenda to examine the impact of dissent at the larger universe of international courts.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press for The American Society of International Law

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Earlier versions of this Article were presented at the European University Institute, the Lauterpacht Centre, University of Oxford, the Max Planck Institute (Luxembourg), PluriCourts, iCourts, University of Zurich, University of Potsdam, Geneva Center for International Dispute Settlement, Michigan Law School, Brooklyn Law School, the European Society of International Law Annual Meeting, and the ASIL Research Forum. We thank participants at these events for thoughtful questions and comments. We are particularly grateful to Georges Abi-Saab, Karen Alter, Julian Arato, Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Oliver Diggelmann, Hélène Ruiz Fabri, Andreas Follesdal, Monica Hakimi, Larry Helfer, Moshe Hirsch, Duncan Hollis, Heike Krieger, Georg Nolte, Paolo Palchetti, Anne Peters, Gregory Schaffer, Joanne Scott, Yuval Shany, Alec Stone Sweet, Geir Ulfstein, Erik Voeten, Andreas Zimmermann, and the Journal's anonymous reviewers for perceptive comments and productive dialogues. We also thank the judges, court officials, and practitioners that we interviewed, to whom we promised anonymity.


1 Homer, The Iliad, bk. XVIII, lines 497–508.

2 Our study encompasses all judicial opinions that accompany a court's judgment, whether denominated a dissent, concurrence, declaration, individual opinion, or separate opinion, and whether authored individually or jointly. For ease of exposition, we will use the term “dissent” as a shorthand for separate or minority opinions, while specifying, throughout the Article, when we are referring to separate concurring, dissenting, or other types of minority opinions.

3 See, e.g., Jain, Neha, Radical Dissents in International Criminal Tribunals, 28 Eur. J. Int'l L. 1163 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Naurin, Daniel & Stiansen, Øyvind, The Dilemma of Dissent: Split Judicial Decisions and Compliance with Judgments from the International Human Rights Judiciary, 53 Comp. Pol. Stud. 959 (2020)Google Scholar; Mistry, Hemi, “The Different Sets of Ideas at the Back of our Heads”: Dissent and Authority at the International Court of Justice, 32 Leiden J. Int'l L. 293 (2019)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 See, e.g., Helfer, Laurence R. & Voeten, Erik, Walking Back Human Rights in Europe?, 31 Eur. J. Int'l L. 797 (2020)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gordon, Geoffrey, Innate Cosmopolitan Dialectics at the ICJ: Changing Perceptions of International Community, the Role of the Court, and the Legacy of Judge Álvarez, 27 Leiden J. Int'l L. 309 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hemi Mistry, Additional Opinions and Judicial Diversity at the International Court of Justice: A Research Methodology, in Identity and Diversity on the International Bench: Who Is the Judge 246 (Freya Baetens ed., 2020); Creamer, Cosette D. & Jain, Neha, Separate Judicial Speech, 61 Va. J. Int'l L. 1 (2020)Google Scholar.

5 A notable, if partial, exception involves whether dissents call into question the impartiality of party-appointed arbitrators in investment disputes. See, e.g., Szilárd Gáspár-Szilágyi & Laura Létourneau-Tremblay, A Question of Impartiality: Who Are the Dissenting Arbitrators in Investment Treaty Arbitration?, in Identity and Diversity, supra note 4, at 280. Another partial exception, published after this article was largely completed, is Combs, Nancy, The Impact of Separate Opinions on International Criminal Law, 62 Va. J. Int'l L. 1 (2021)Google Scholar.

6 The ICJ's influence on other tribunals is explored in Research Handbook on the International Court of Justice (Achilles Skordas ed., forthcoming). On the influence of the European courts, see Karen J. Alter, The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights (2014).

7 The phrase comes from Shepsle, Kenneth A., Congress is a “They,” Not an “It”: Legislative Intent as Oxymoron, 12 Int'l Rev. L. & Econ. 239 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 See Dunoff, Jeffrey L. & Pollack, Mark A., International Judicial Practices: Opening the “Black Box” of International Courts, 40 Mich. J. Int'l L. 47 (2018)Google Scholar.

9 Ginsburg, Ruth Bader, Remarks on Writing Separately, 65 Wash. L. Rev. 133, 143 (1990)Google Scholar.

10 Antonin Scalia, Dissents, 13 OAH Mag. Hist. 18, 22 (1998).

11 Antonin Scalia, The Dissenting Opinion, 1994 J. Sup. Ct. Hist. 33, 41 (1994).

12 Sandra Day O'Connor, The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of Supreme Court Justice 119 (2004). See also G.G. Fitzmaurice, The Law and Practice of the International Court of Justice: General Principles and Substantive Law, 27 Brit. Y.B. Int'l L. 1, n. 1 (“doubtless the most satisfactory decision . . . is a single unanimous opinion”).

13 Karl Llewellyn, The Common Law Tradition: Deciding Appeals 26 (1960).

14 William J. Brennan, Jr., In Defense of Dissents, 50 Hastings L.J. 671, 674 (1998–1999).

15 Id. at 674.

16 Id.

17 Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Speech, The Role of Dissenting Opinions (Oct. 21, 2007), available at

18 Sir Robert Jennings, The Collegiate Responsibility and Authority of the International Court of Justice, in International Law at a Time of Perplexity: Essays in Honour of Shabtai Rosenne 343, 350 (Yoram Dinstein & Mala Tabory eds., 1989).

19 Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).

20 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)).

21 Robert Kolb, The International Court of Justice 1014 (2013).

22 O'Connor, supra note 12, at 121.

23 See League of Nations Document C 166 M. 166 (1929) V, 51.

24 Case Concerning Sovereignty Over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan (Indon. v. Malay.), Judgment, 2002 ICJ Rep. 691, 694 (Dec. 17) (diss. op., Franck, J. ad hoc).

25 Charles Evans Hughes, The Supreme Court of the United States—Its Foundation, Methods and Achievements: An Interpretation 68 (1928).

26 Brennan, supra note 14, at 674–75.

27 See generally Melvin Urofsky, Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court's History and the Nation's Constitutional Dialogue (2015).

28 South West Africa Cases, 1966 ICJ Rep. 325–26 (diss. op., Jessup, J.); Military and Paramilitary Activities (Nicar. v. U.S.), Merits, 1986 ICJ Rep. 259 (June 27) (diss. op., Schwebel, J.); Hersch Lauterpacht, Development of International Law by the International Court 66 (1958); Sir Kenneth Keith, The International Court of Justice: Primus Inter Pares, 5 Int'l Org. L. Rev. 7, 17 (2008).

29 J.L. Brierly, The Advisory Opinion of the Permanent Court on the Customs Regime Between Germany and Austria, 3 Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 67, 71 (1932).

30 Kolb, supra note 21, at 1014.

31 Hugh Thirlway, The Nuclear Weapons Advisory Opinions: The Declarations and Separate and Dissenting Opinions, in International Law, the International Court of Justice and Nuclear Weapons 390, 396–97 (Laurence Boisson de Chazournes & Philippe Sands eds., 1999).

32 Jennings, supra note 18, at 353.

33 Decision of the Plenary of Judges on the Application of the Legal Representative for Victims for the Disqualification of Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert from the Case of The Prosecutor v. Katanga (ICC-01/04-01/07-3504-Anx), July 22, 2014, § 51.

34 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

35 Richard Kluger, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality (2004).

36 Edvard Hambro, Dissenting and Individual Opinions in the International Court of Justice, 17 Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 229, 230–31 (1956).

37 Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, The Role of the International Court of Justice in the Enforcement of Its Judicial Decisions, 15 Leiden J Int'l L. 781, 797 (2002).

38 Cass R. Sunstein, Unanimity and Disagreement on the Supreme Court, 100 Cornell L. Rev. 769, 809 (2015).

39 Nicolas Politis, How the World Court Has Functioned, 4 For. Aff. 443, 451 (1926).

40 Andrew T. Guzman, International Tribunals: A Rational Choice Analysis, 157 U. Pa. L. Rev. 171, 217–18 (2008).

41 Naurin & Stiansen, supra note 3.

42 Katalin Kelemen, Judicial Dissent in European Constitutional Courts: A Comparative and Legal Perspective (2018).

43 Ginsburg, supra note 9, at 140.

44 While the PCIJ and ICJ are formally separate institutions, it is generally accepted that there is “functional continuity between the two Courts,” Shabtai Rosenne, The Law and Practice of the International Court, 19202005, at 73 (2006), and they are treated together in this Article.

45 See, e.g., Rosalyn Higgins, A Just World Under the Law, 100 ASIL Proc. 388, 390 (2006) (ICJ “does remain at the apex”); Georges Abi-Saab, Fragmentation or Unification: Some Concluding Remarks, 31 NYU J. Int'l L. & Pol. 919, 929 (1999) (ICJ as “primus inter pares”); Thomas M. Franck, Fairness in International Law and Institutions 318 (1995) (ICJ as “apex” court).

46 Ian Brownlie, The Calling of the International Lawyer: Sir Humphrey Waldock and His Work, 54 Brit. Y.B. Int'l L. 7, 68 (1983).

47 On most-similar systems designs, see, e.g. John Gerring, Case Study Research: Principles and Practices 79–83, 95–98 (2d ed. 2017).

48 Karen J. Alter & Laurence Helfer, Transplanting International Courts: The Law and Politics of the Andean Tribunal of Justice 3 (2017).

49 Id. at 7.

50 Karen J. Alter, Laurence R. Helfer & Mikael Rask Madsen, How Context Shapes the Authority of International Courts, in International Court Authority 24, 38 (Karen J. Alter, Laurence R. Helfer & Mikael Rask Madsen eds., 2018).

51 See generally Alter & Helfer, supra note 48, at 3; Alter, supra note 6.

52 Gerring, supra note 47, at 72–74.

53 See, e.g., The Performance of Africa's International Courts: Using Litigation for Political, Legal, and Social Change 1, 4 (James Thuo Gathii ed., 2020).

54 Procès Verbaux of the Proceedings of the Advisory Committee of Jurists 591–92, 742 et seq. (1920)

55 Ijaz Hussain, Dissenting and Separate Opinions at the World Court 20 (1984).

56 By 1922, the Court issued Rules of Court extending the right to issue dissenting opinions to advisory opinions, despite the lack of a clear basis in the Court's Statute. PCIJ Rules of Court, Art. 56.

57 See PCIJ Series D: Acts and Documents Concerning the Organization of the Court, No. 2 Add., at 195–98, 283 (1926).

58 R.P. Anand, The Role of Individual and Dissenting Opinions in International Adjudication, 14 Int'l & Comp. L. Q. 788 (1965).

59 Hussain, supra note 55, at 23.

60 Anand, supra note 58, at 798–99.

61 Id. at 799.

62 Report of the Informal Inter-Allied Committee on the Future of the Permanent Court of International Justice, reprinted in 39 Am. J. Int'l L. Supp. 1, 25 (1945).

63 Id. at 26.

64 Rules of Court, Art. 74.

65 These figures do not include court orders.

66 Rainer Hoffman & Tilmann Laubner, Article 57, in The Statute of the International Court of Justice: A Commentary 1211 (Andreas Zimmermann, Karin Oellers-Frahm, Christian Tomuschat & Christian J. Tams eds., 2d ed. 2012).

67 The discussion that follows draws from the Resolution Concerning the Internal Judicial Practice of the Court, I.C.J. Acts & Docs. No. 6, at 174; The International Court of Justice: Handbook (6th ed. 2014).

68 Sir Robert Jennings, The Internal Judicial Practice of the International Court of Justice, LIX Brit. Y.B. Int'l L. 31, 43 (1989).

69 Id.

70 Our focus, like much of the relevant literature, is on “sociological” legitimacy, which refers to perceptions or beliefs that an institution has a right to rule.

71 On the use of “most likely” cases to test theories, see John Gerring, Is There a (Viable) Crucial-Case Method?, 40 Comp. Pol. Stud. 231 (2007).

72 Antony T. Anghie, Politic, Cautious, and Meticulous: An Introduction to the Symposium on the Marshall Islands Case, 111 AJIL Unbound 62, 63 (2017).

73 South West Africa Cases (Eth. v. S. Afr.) (Liber. v. S. Afr.), Preliminary Objections, 1962 ICJ Rep. 319 (Dec. 21).

74 South West Africa Cases (Eth. v. S. Afr.) (Liber. v. S. Afr.), Second Phase, 1966 ICJ Rep. 6 (July 18).

75 Edward McWhinney, The International Court of Justice and the Western Tradition of International Law: The Paul Martin Lectures in International Relations and Law 69 (1987).

76 Christian Tomuschat, International Law: Ensuring the Survival of Mankind on the Eve of a New Century, 281 Recueil des Cours 9, 412 (1999).

77 Rosalyn Higgins, The International Court and South West Africa: The Implications of the Judgment, 42 Int'l Aff. 573, 579 (1966).

78 Id. at 592.

79 Statute of the International Court of Justice, Art. 9, Apr. 18, 1946.

80 William M. Reisman, Revision of the South West Africa Cases, 7 Va. J. Int'l L. 1, 41 (1966).

81 Richard A. Falk, The South West Africa Cases: An Appraisal, 21 Int'l Org. 1, 7 (1967).

82 Id. at 15.

83 John Dugard, The SouthWest Africa/Namibia Dispute 292 (1973).

84 George R.B Galindo, On Form, Substance and Equality Between States, 111 AJIL Unbound 75, 77 (2017).

85 Vincent-Joel Proulx, The Marshall Islands Judgment and Multilateral Disputes at the World Court: Whither Access to International Justice, 111 AJIL Unbound 96 (2017).

86 Anghie, supra note 72.

87 See, e.g., Carter v. Russia, No. 20914/07 (E21 Sept 2021) (attributing murder of Alexander Litvinenko to Russia, in part, on Russian silence in face of official and judicial fact-finding efforts); Sovereignty Over Pedra Branca/Palau Batu Puteh, Middle Rocks and South Ledge (Malay./Sing.), 2008 ICJ Rep. 12, para. 121 (May 23) (“The absence of a reaction may well amount to acquiescence . . . . That is to say, silence may also speak.”).

88 See, e.g., Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Art. 20 (3)(5), May 23, 1969, 1155 UNTS 331 (treaty reservation deemed accepted if state fails to raise an objection within one year).

89 Elisabeth Schweiger, Listen Closely: What Silence Can Tell Us About Legal Knowledge Production, 6 London Rev. Int'l L. 391 (2018).

90 Higgins, supra note 77, at 585–86.

91 Andrea Bianchi, Choice and (the Awareness of) Its Consequences: The ICJ's “Structural Bias” Strikes Again in the Marshall Islands Case, 111 AJIL Unbound 81, 86 (2017).

92 While scholars have undertaken survey experiments on the impact of dissent on support for domestic courts, e.g., Michael F. Salamone, Judicial Consensus and Public Opinion: Conditional Responses to Supreme Court Majority Size, 67 Pol. Res. Q. 320 (2014), we are unaware of similar work in the context of international courts.

93 Jack S. Levy, Counterfactuals and Case Studies, in The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology (Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, Henry E. Brady & David Collier eds., 2008).

94 E.g., Eric A. Posner and Miguel F.P. de Figueiredo, Is the International Court of Justice Biased?, 34 J. Leg. Stud. 599 (2005).

95 Quoted in Georges Abi-Saab, Ensuring the Best Bench: Ways of Selecting Judges, in Increasing the Effectiveness of the International Court of Justice 179 (Connie Peck & Roy S. Lee eds., 1997).

96 Niels Blokker & Sam Muller, The 1996 Elections to the International Court of Justice: New Tendencies in the Post-Cold War Era?, 47 Int'l & Comp. L. Q. 211, 222–23 (1998).

97 Robert Kolb, The Elgar Companion to the International Court of Justice 127–32 (2014).

98 James Crawford, Dreamers of the Day: Australia and the International Court of Justice, 14 Melb. J. Int'l L. 520, 537 (2013).

99 Antony Anghie, C.G. Weeramantry at the International Court of Justice, 14 Leiden J. Int'l L. 829, 848 (2001).

100 Ruth Mackenzie, Kate Malleson, Penny Martin & Philippe Sands, Selecting International Judges: Principle, Process, and Politics 121 (2010).

101 Kenneth J. Keith, Challenges to the Independence of the International Judiciary: Reflections on the International Court of Justice, 30 Leiden J. Int'l L. 137, 147–48 (2017).

102 Hoffman & Laubner, supra note 66, at 806.

103 Kolb, supra note 21, at 1013.

104 Jennings, supra note 18, at 349.

105 Id.

106 Id. at 350.

107 Application for Review of Judgement No. 333 of the United Nations Administrative Tribunal, Advisory Opinion, 1987 ICJ Rep. 18, 45 (May 27).

108 UN Doc. A/41/591/Add. 1 (Annex 2).

109 Alain Pellet, Decisions of the ICJ as Sources of International Law, in 2 Gaetano Morelli Lecture Series 7, 22 (Enzo Cannizzaro, Emanuele Cimiotta, Nicola Napoletano & Paolo Palchetti eds., 2018).

110 Factory at Chorzów (Ger. v. Pol.), Interpretation of Judgments Nos. 7 & 8, 1927 PCIJ (ser. A) No. 13, at 27 (diss. op., Anzilotti, J.).

111 Shabtai Rosenne, III The Law and Practice of the International Court, 1920–2005, at 1599 (2006).

112 Antonio Cassese, When May Senior State Officials Be Tried for International Crimes? Some Comments on the Congo v. Belgium Case, 13 Eur. J Int'l L. 853, 856 (2002).

113 Peter Kooijmans, Two Remarkable Men Have Left the International Court of Justice, 13 Leiden J. Int'l L. 343, 349 (2000).

114 Shabtai Rosenne, Sir Hersch Lauterpacht's Concept of the Task of the International Judge, 55 AJIL 825, 844 (1961).

115 Stephen J. Choi & G. Mitu Gulati, Bias in Judicial Citations: A Window into the Behavior of Judges?, 37 J. Leg. Stud. 87 (2008).

116 Appeal Relating to the Jurisdiction of the ICAO Council (Ind. v. Pak.), Judgment, 1972 ICJ Rep. 116 (Aug. 18) (sep. op., de Castro, J.).

117 Fred J. Bruinsma & Matthijs de Blois, Rules of Law from Westport to Wladiwostok. Separate Opinions in the European Court of Human Rights, 15 Neth. Q. Hum. Rights 175 (1997); Florence Rivère, Les opinions séparées des juges à la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme (2004); Fred J. Bruinsma, The Room at the Top: Separate Opinions in the Grand Chambers of the ECHR (1998–2006), 32 Ancilla Iuris, 32 (2008); Robin White & Iris Boussiakou, Separate Opinions in the European Court of Human Rights, 9 Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 37 (2009); Helfer & Voeten, supra note 4. This Section also draws upon and extends our own earlier research in Jeffrey L. Dunoff & Mark A. Pollack, The Judicial Trilemma, 111 AJIL 225 (2017), and Dunoff & Pollack, supra note 8.

118 Ed Bates, The Evolution of the European Convention on Human Rights: From Its Inception to the Creation of a Permanent Court of Human Rights 58–62 (2010).

119 1 Council of Europe, Collected Edition of the “Travaux Préparatoires” 242–44 (1975).

120 Id. at 121 (quoting Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe); id. at 302.

121 This article refers to “judgments” but not to admissibility decisions and the Court has interpreted this language to allow for separate opinions with respect to the former but not the latter.

122 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Art. 51(2), Nov. 4, 1950, 213 UNTS 221 [hereinafter ECHR].

123 Council of Europe, Rules of Court of the European Court of Human Rights (1959), Rule 50(2).

124 Bates, supra note 118, chs. 6–7.

125 Case Relating to Certain Aspects of the Laws on the Use of Languages in Education in Belgium, 1 Eur. H.R. Rep. 252 (ser. A) (1968).

126 See Bates, supra note 118, chs. 7–9.

127 Guzzardi v. Italy, 39 Eur. Ct. H.R. (ser. A) 34 (1981).

128 For this study, we interviewed eight current and former ECtHR judges, and eight current and former ECJ judges, over a period from December 2014 to July 2016. All judges interviewed in this study were promised anonymity. We therefore denote these judges as Judges S1 through S8 for our Strasbourg/ECtHR interview subjects, and L1 through L8 for our Luxembourg/ECJ subjects.

129 Nina-Louisa Arold, Legal Culture of the European Court of Human Rights 91, n. 249 (2006).

130 Luzius Wildhaber, Opinions dissidentes et concordantes de juges individuels à la Cour européenne des droits de l'homme, in Melanges en l'honneur de Nicolas Valticos 530, 531 (R.-J. Dupuy & L.A. Sicilianos eds., 1999), cited in Helfer and Voeten, supra note 4.

131 Interviews, Judges S1, S2, S3, S4, and S5.

132 Interview, Judge S4.

133 Luzius Wildhaber, The European Court of Human Rights 1998–2006: History, Achievements, Reform 249 (2006).

134 Interviews, Judges S1 and S3.

135 Interview, Judge S2.

136 Interviews, Judges S1 and S3.

137 Interview, Judge S3.

138 Hirst v. United Kingdom (No. 2) 2005-IX Eur. Ct. H.R. 187.

139 Id., para. 82.

140 Joint dissenting opinion of Judges Wildhaber, Costa, Lorenzen, Kovler, and Jebens, para. 7.

141 Id., paras. 6, 9.

142 See, e.g., Alain Zysset, Freedom of Expression, the Right to Vote, and Proportionality at the European Court of Human Rights; An Internal Critique, 17 Int'l J. Con. L. 230 (2019) (no mention of dissents); Kimberly Brayson, Securing the Future of the European Court of Human Rights in the Face of UK Opposition: Political Compromise and Restricted Rights, 6 Int'l Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 53 (2017) (same); Steve Foster, Reluctantly Restoring Rights: Responding to the Prisoner's Right to Vote, 9 Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 489 (2009) (once mentioning 12–5 split, no discussion of dissents).

143 Ed Bates, Analysing the Prisoner Voting Saga and the British Challenge to Strasbourg, 14 Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 503 (2014).

144 Tom Lewis, “Difficult and Slippery Terrain”: Hansard, Human Rights and Hirst v. UK, 2006 Pub. L. 209, 212–13, 217.

145 Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, Prisoner Voting Saga: Reasons for Challenges, in Electoral Rights in Europe: Advances and Challenges 92, 95 (Helen Hardman & Brice Dickson eds., 2017).

146 Id. at 104.

147 We searched news articles on Nexis Uni from October 6 (the day of the Grand Chamber ruling) to October 31, 2005, using the search terms “Hirst” AND “European Court of Human Rights.” Omitting duplicates, and articles under two hundred words, yielded twenty-eight articles. We coded each article, noting the type of article (news, editorial critical of the majority ruling, editorial supportive of the majority ruling), whether it made reference to the divided vote, whether it mentioned or quoted the dissent(s), and whether anyone (the author or a reported-on public figure) used the fact of a divided vote or the existence or content of a dissent to attack the ruling or the legitimacy of the Court. Twenty-five of the twenty-eight articles were in UK-based publications (the others were from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and the Irish Times), with a mix of establishment newspapers and tabloids. In terms of content, twenty-three were news articles, four were critical editorials, and one was a supportive editorial.

148 Richard Ford, Prisoners Granted the Right to Vote, Times (Oct. 7, 2005).

149 Carole Malone, Killer John Hirst, Daily Mirror (Oct. 9, 2005).

150 S.A.S. v France, 2014-III Eur. Ct. H.R. 341, para 121.

151 Id., para 17.

152 Joint Partly Dissenting Opinion of Judges Nussberger and Jäderblom.

153 Mark Weston Janis, The Shadow of Westphalia: Majoritarian Religions and Strasbourg Law, 4 Oxford J. L. & Religion 75 (2015).

154 Eva Brems, SAS v. France: A Reality Check, 25 Nottingham L.J. 58 (2016); Afnan Akram, Your Liberation, My Oppression: European Violations of Muslim Women's Human Rights, 5 Indon. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 427 (2018).

155 Ralf Michaels, Banning Burqas: The Perspective of Postsecular Comparative Law, 28 Duke J. Comp. & Int'l L. 213 (2018); Myriam Hunter-Henin, Living Together in an Age of Religious Diversity: Lessons from Baby Loup and SAS, 4 Oxford J. L. & Religion 94 (2015).

156 Jill Marshall, S.A.S. v France: Burqa Bans and the Control or Empowerment of Identities, 15 Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 377, 378 (2015).

157 Shu-Peng Hwang, Margin of Appreciation in Pursuit of Pluralism? Critical Remarks on the Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on the “Burqa Bans, 20 Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 361, 369 (2020).

158 Ilias Trisplotis, Two Interpretations of “Living Together” in European Human Rights law, 75 Cambridge L.J. 580, 591–92 (2016).

159 François-Xavier Millet, When the European Court of Human Rights Encounters the Face: A Case-Note on the Burqa Ban in France European Court of Human Rights, Judgment of 1 July 2014, Case No. 43835/11, S.A.S. v. France, 11 Eur. Const. L. Rev. 408 (2015).

160 In terms of methodology, we pursued a minor variation of our search and coding for Hirst. Because the S.A.S. plaintiff was anonymous, and few accounts of the case referenced the pseudonym S.A.S., we searched the Nexis news database for articles with the keywords “European Court of Human Rights” and “France” and “veil,” which returned thirty-nine unique news stories, press statements, and editorials over two hundred words.

161 Washington: Face-Veil Ruling Undermines Rights, US Official News (July 3, 2014).

162 The Fear of the Burqa, Weekly Cutting Edge (July 12, 2014).

163 Erik Voeten, The Impartiality of International Judges: Evidence from the European Court of Human Rights, 102 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 417, 421 (2008).

164 Report of the Evaluation Group to the Committee of Ministers on the ECHR, para. 89 (2001).

165 Martin Eaton & Jeroen Schokkenbroek, Reforming the Human Rights Protection System Established by the European Convention on Human Rights, 26 Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 1, 10–11 (2005).

166 Jan Lathouwers, Protocol No. 14: Object, Purpose and Preparatory Work, in Protocol no. 14 and the Reform of the European Court of Human Rights 1, 9 (Paul Lemmens & Wouter Vandenhole eds., 2005).

167 Nathalie Van Leuven, The Judges of the European Court and the Commissioner for Human Rights, in Protocol no. 14 and the Reform of the European Court of Human Rights, supra note 166, at 24.

168 Interviews, Judges S1, S2, S3, and S7.

169 Interview, Judge S3.

170 Interviews, Judges S3 and S4.

171 S.A.S., supra note 150, para. 121.

172 Id., para. 166.

173 Id., para. 155.

174 Joint Partly Dissenting Opinion of Judges Nussberger and Jäderblom, paras. 5, 12.

175 Id., para 19.

176 Interviews, Judges S1, S2, and S3.

177 Wildhaber, supra note 133, at 250.

178 The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the judicial institution of the EU, and is made up of two courts: the Court of Justice, which is the EU's highest court, and the General Court. Our focus is on the Court of Justice, often referred to as the ECJ, although the practice and norms of non-dissent are similar in both courts.

179 See, e.g., Anne Boerger-de Smedt, La Cour de Justice dans les négociations du traité de Paris instituant la CECA, 14 J. Eur. Integration Hist. 7 (2008); Anne Boerger-de Smedt, Negotiating the Foundations of European Law, 1950–57: The Legal History of the Treaties of Paris and Rome, 21 Contemp. Eur. Hist. 339 (2012).

180 Boerger-de Smedt, Negotiating the Foundations, supra note 179, at 341–42.

181 Id. at 345.

182 Boerger-de Smedt, La Cour de Justice, supra note 179, at 25–26.

183 Id. at 21 (“Elle fut présentée ‘comme une sorte de contre-partie à l'interdiction du droit pour les juges de publier éventuellement leur opinion dissidente.’”).

184 Josef Azizi, Unveiling the EU Courts’ Internal Decision-Making Process: A Case for Dissenting Opinions?, 12 ERA Forum 49, 52 (2011).

185 Interview, Judge L1.

186 Azizi, supra note 184, at 66.

187 Interview, Judge L2.

188 Id.

189 Id.

190 Interview, Judges L2, L4.

191 Interview, Judge L4.

192 Interview, Judge L2.

193 Interview, Judge L1.

194 Interview, Judge L4.

195 See, e.g., J.H.H. Weiler, Epilogue: Judging the Judges: Apology and Critique, in Judging Europe's Judges: The Legitimacy of the Case Law of the European Court of Justice 235 (Maurice Adams, Henri de Waele, Johan Meeusen & Gert Straetmans eds., 2013).

196 See, e.g., Bill Davies, Resisting the European Court of Justice: West Germany's Confrontation with European Law, 1949–1979 (2012).

197 Lisa Conant, Justice Contained: Law and Politics in the European Union (2002).

198 Marlene Wind, Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen & Gabriel Pons Rotger, The Uneven Legal Push for Europe: Questioning Variation When National Courts Go to Europe, 10 Eur. Union Pol. 63 (2009).

199 Davies, supra note 196.

200 R. Daniel Kelemen, The Political Foundations of Judicial Independence in the European Union, 19 J. Eur. Pub. Pol'y 43, 47–49 (2012).

201 Erik Voeten, Public Opinion and the Legitimacy of International Courts, 14 Theoretical Inquires L. 411 (2013).

202 Id. at 435.

203 Mark A. Pollack, The Legitimacy of the European Court of Justice: Normative Debates and Empirical Evidence, in Legitimacy and International Courts 143 (Nienke Grossman, Harlan Grant Cohen, Andreas Follesdal & Geir Ulfstein eds., 2018).

204 G. Federico Mancini & David T. Keeling, Democracy and the European Court of Justice, 57 Mod. L. Rev. 175, 176 (1990).

205 Azizi, supra note 184, at 55.

206 Id. at 55.

207 Interviews, Judges L2, L3, L5.

208 J.H.H. Weiler, Epilogue: The Judicial Après Nice, in The European Court of Justice 215, 225 (Gráinne de Búrca & J.H.H. Weiler eds., 2002).

209 Id. at 225–26; see also Weiler, Epilogue: Judging the Judges, supra note 195, at 251–52.

210 See, e.g., Hjalte Rasmussen, On Law and Policy in the European Court of Justice: A Comparative Study in Judicial Policymaking (1986).

211 Mitchel de S.-O.-l'E. Lasser, Judicial Deliberations: A Comparative Analysis of Judicial Transparency and Legitimacy 16 (2009).

212 Id. at 104.

213 J.H.H. Weiler, The Judicial Après Nice, supra note 208, at 225.

214 Elise Muir, Mark Dawson & Bruno de Witte, Introduction: The European Court of Justice as a Political Actor, in Judicial Activism at the European Court of Justice 1, 23 (Mark Dawson, Bruno De Witte & Elise Muir eds., 2013).

215 Lasser, supra note 211, at 107.

216 See, e.g., Koen Lenaerts, The Court's Outer and Inner Selves: Exploring the External and Internal Legitimacy of the European Court of Justice, in Judicial Activism, supra note 214, at 46.

217 David Edward, How the Court of Justice Works, 20 Eur. L. Rev. 539, 55657 (1995).

218 Interview, Judge L1.

219 Weiler, The Judicial Après Nice, supra note 208, at 225.

220 See, e.g., Noreen Burrows & Rosa Greaves, The Advocate General and EC Law (2007).

221 Lasser, supra note 211, chs. 4, 7; Azizi, supra note 184, at 63.

222 Interview, Judge L2.

223 Id.

224 Interview, Judge L3.

225 Joseph H.H. Weiler, A Quiet Revolution: The European Court of Justice and its Interlocutors, 24 Comp. Pol. Stud. 510 (1994).

226 Karen J. Alter, Emilie M. Hafner-Burton & Laurence R. Helfer, Theorizing the Judicialization of International Relations, 63 Int'l Stud. Q. 449 (2019).

227 Theresa Squatrito, International Courts and the Politics of Legitimation and De-legitimation, 33 Temple Int'l & Comp. L.J. 298 (2019).

228 Id. at 318–19.

229 See, e.g., Legitimacy and International Courts, supra note 203.

230 Compare Posner & de Figueiredo, supra note 94 (data shows “national bias has an important influence on the decisionmaking of the ICJ”) with Voeten, supra note 163 (empirical study of dissent suggests that judges are not “systematically motivated by geopolitics”).

231 See, e.g., Tara Leigh Grove, The Supreme Court's Legitimacy Dilemma, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 2240 (2019) (rising perceptions of Court as a polarized, political institutional threatens sociological legitimacy).

232 Yuval Shany, International Courts in a Politicized World, in By Peaceful Means: International Adjudication and Arbitration (Charles N. Brower et al. eds., forthcoming).

233 Laurence R. Helfer, Why States Create International Tribunals: A Theory of Constrained Independence, in International Conflict Resolution 253 (Stefan Voigt, Max Albert & Dieter Schmidtchen eds., 2006).

234 Laurence R. Helfer & Anne-Marie Slaughter, Why States Create International Tribunals: A Response to Professors Posner and Yoo, 93 Cal L. Rev. 1 (2005).

235 Jennings, supra note 18, at 353.

236 For a classic statement, see Anne-Marie Burley & Walter Mattli, Europe Before the Court: A Political Theory of Legal Integration, 47 Int'l Org. 41 (1993).

237 Gleider I. Hernández, The International Court of Justice and the Judicial Function 113 (2014).

238 Vassilios Skouris, Judging at the Court of Justice of the European Union, Is there a Need for Dissenting Opinions?, in An Ever-Changing Union? Perspectives on the Future of EU Law in Honor of Allan Rosas 99, 103 (Koen Lenaerts, Jean-Claude Bonichot, Heikki Kanninen, Caroline Naômé & Pekka Pohjanoski eds., 2019).

239 Mitchel Lasser, Anticipating Three Models of Judicial Control, Debate and Legitimacy: The European Court of Justice, the Cour de Cassation and the United States Supreme Court (Jean Monnet Working Paper 1/03).

240 Albert J. Hoffmann, Improving Working Methods in International Adjudication, in The Contribution of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to the Rule of Law 1996–2016, at 252, 258 (ITLOS ed., 2018).

241 Anastasia Telesetsky, The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea: Legitimacy as a Sustainability Challenge, in Legitimacy and International Courts, supra note 203, at 174, 187, 200–02.

242 Hoffmann, supra note 240, at 258.

243 See, e.g., Alexandra Huneeus, Courts Resisting Courts: Lessons from the Inter-American Court's Struggle to Enforce Human Rights, 44 Cornell Int'l L.J. 493 (2011).

244 See Øyvind Stiansen, Daniel Naurin & Live Standal Bøyum, Law and Politics in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: A New Database on Judicial Behavior and Compliance in the IACtHR, 8 J. L. & Cts. 359 (2020).

245 Id. at 366, 370.

246 Naurin & Stiansen, supra note 3, at 973–75.

247 Jorge Contesse, Judicial Interactions and Human Rights Contestations in Latin America, 12 J. Int'l Dispute Settlement 271, 285–88 (2021).

248 James Thuo Gathii & Jacquelene Wangui Mwangi, The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights as an Opportunity Structure, in The Performance of Africa's International Courts, supra note 53, at 211.

251 Jain, supra note 3, at 1165.

252 See Göran Sluiter, Unity and Division in Decision Making – The Law and Practice on Individual Opinions at the ICTY, in The Legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia 191, 199, 203 (Bert Swart, Alexander Zahar & Göran Sluiter eds., 2011).

253 Combs, supra note 5, at 22.

254 Id. at 29–42.

255 Jain, supra note 3, at 1170.

256 Jose E. Alvarez, Rush to Closure: Lessons of the Tadic Judgment, 96 Mich. L. Rev. 2031, 2034 (1998).

257 Jain, supra note 3, at 1173.

258 Mark A. Drumbl, Memorializing Dissent: Justice Pal in Tokyo, 114 AJIL Unbound 111 (2020).

259 Jain, supra note 3.

260 A.V. Ganesan, The Appellate Body in Its Formative Years: A Personal Perspective, in A History of Law and Lawyers in the GATT/WTO: The Development of the Rule of Law in the Multilateral Trading System 517, 531 (Gabrielle Marceau ed., 2015).

261 Alberto Alvarez-Jimenez, The WTO Appellate Body's Decision-Making Process: A Perfect Model For International Adjudication?, 12 J. Int'l Econ. L. 289, 317 (2009).

262 Meredith Kolsky Lewis, Dissent as Dialectic: Horizontal and Vertical Disagreement in WTO Dispute Settlement, 48 Stan J. Int'l L. 1 (2012).

263 James Flett, Collective Intelligence and the Possibility of Dissent: Anonymous Individual Opinions in WTO Jurisprudence, 13 J. Int'l Econ. L. 287, 287, 310 (2010).

264 Dunoff & Pollack, Judicial Trilemma, supra note 117, at 267–68.

265 Most of these courts were created with jurisdiction over economic and monetary issues, although in a number of cases their jurisdiction has been extended (by the member states or by the judges themselves) to include other issues, most notably human rights. Gathii, supra note 53, at 6.

266 Karen J. Alter, The Global Spread of European Style International Courts, 35 W. Eur. Pol. 135, 139 (2012) (identifying eleven ECJ copies: the Benelux Court, the Andean Tribunal of Justice (ATJ), the Central American Court of Justice, the European Free Trade Area Court, the West African Economic and Monetary Union, the Common Market for East African States, the Central African Monetary Community, the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal).

267 We note that the Court of the Economic Community of the Commonwealth of Independent States authorizes judges to submit private dissents to the president of the court.

268 Alter, Global Spread, supra note 266, at 136.

269 Alter and Helfer, supra note 48.

270 James Thuo Gathii, Mission Creep or a Search for Relevance: The East African Court of Justice's Human Rights Strategy, 24 Duke J. Comp. & Int'l L. 249, 252 (2013).

271 Id. at 268–71; see also Karen J. Alter, James T. Gathii & Laurence R. Helfer, Backlash Against International Courts in West, East and Southern Africa: Causes and Consequences, 27 Eur. J. Int'l L. 293 (2016).

272 Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, Art. 35 (1999), at This provision was present from the Court's creation and not part of the substantial revision of the Court's statute in the backlash of 2006. To date, scholars have not explained the decision of EAC countries to allow dissent, contrary to practice at other regional integration courts as well as the EACJ's defunct predecessor, the Court of Appeal of East Africa, which had not allowed dissent.

273 See, e.g., Manariyo Desire v. the Attorney General of the Republic of Burundi, Appeal No. 1 of 2017 (Nov. 29, 2018) (diss. op., Ringera &y Kiryabwire, JJ. ad hoc), available at; Attorney General of the Republic of Burundi and the Secretary General of the East African Community v. Hon. Fred Mukasa Mbidde, Appeal No. 02 of 2019 (diss. op., Nkurunziza, V.P), available at

274 But see Caroline Nalule, Defining the Scope of Free Movement of Citizens in the East African Community: The East African Court of Justice and Its Interpretive Approach, 62 J. African L. 1, 22 (2018) (noting provision on dissent and speculating that “The fact that the EACJ has not exploited this provision could be an indicator of its strategy or legal diplomacy, rather than the adoption of a hard and fast approach to treaty interpretation.”).

275 Salvatore Caserta, International Courts in Latin America and the Caribbean: Foundations and authority 181–84, 195 (2020).

276 Id. at 200.

277 Id. at 247.

278 Luis Diez Canseco Núñez, Symposium: Transplanting International Courts – An Andean Tribunal Judge's Perspective, Opinio Juris (May 15, 2018), at

279 Mike Campbell (Pvt) Ltd. & 78 Others v. Zimbabwe, 02/07_JUD_DO1 (diss. op. on costs, Pillay, J.).

280 Mike Campbell (Pvt) Ltd. & 78 Others v. Zimbabwe, 02/07_JUD_DO2 (diss. op., Tshosa, J.)

281 A manual search of SADC Tribunal judgments on the Worldcourts database returned twenty-three judgments and rulings; only the 2008 Campbell decision makes any reference to a dissent. Worldcourts Database, at

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