Professor Carlo Guarnieri delivered the 2014 Annual Lecture in Law and Society at Wolfson College yesterday, outlining a wide-ranging account of the changing role of the judge in the twentieth century throughout Europe and beyond.
Professor Guarnieri, Professor of Political and Social Science from the University of Bologna, argued that in the first half of the twentieth century the political classes exerted too much influence on the civil law judge, but that more recent reforms to strengthen judicial independence may have served to undermine the judge’s role as an impartial arbiter of the law.
The establishment created following European integration such as the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Venice Commission, had, he argued, encouraged new forms of judicial creativity and activism and greatly added to the complexity of the judge’s role: “The judge is now working in a labyrinth of legal norms”.
Besides navigating this complex new legal framework of constitutional courts, judicial councils, and supranational institutions, the civil law judge in the second half of the twentieth century has been subject to increasing demands of judicial efficiency, requiring them to adopt new, managerial roles in the administration of justice.
Professor Guarnieri demonstrated that the growing power of the judge and their diminished deference to the political classes had not affected their popular support. He identified a trend of increasing trust in judiciaries across Europe, in combination with a growing disaffection with and decline in trust of politicians. Widening his frame of reference, he concluded by suggesting that this new Euro-legalism could lead to something of a convergence between the civil law judge and their common law counterpart, and to a more American style of ‘adversarial legalism’.
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