The Room at the Top: Separate Opinions in the Grand Chambers of the ECHR (1998-2006)

Author:Fred J. Bruinsma
Position:Professor of Law and Society at Utrecht University.
Pages:32-43
SUMMARY

A quantitative and qualitative analysis of the separate opinions in the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (n=106, from November 1998 until September 2006) reveals the following patterns: a) judges elected in respect of the new member States of Central and Eastern Europe deliver significantly less separate opinions than judges elected in respect of the old member States; b)... (see full summary)

 
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32 ANCILLAIURIS(anci.ch)2008:32Article
Summary1
Aquantitativeandqualitativeanalysisoftheseparateopinionsin
theGrandChamberoftheEuropeanCourtofHumanRights
(n=106,fromNovember1998untilSeptember2006)revealsthe
followingpatterns:(a)judgeselectedinrespectofthenewmem
berStatesofCentralandEasternEuropedeliversignificantlyless
separateopinionsthanjudgeselectedinrespectoftheoldmember
States;(b)nationalbiasinthesensethatthejudgestakeamore
benevolentpositionwhentheirhomecountryistherespondent
Statedoesinfactoccur,andmoresoamongadhocjudgesthan
amongelectedjudges;and(c)thelawyerstatesmansperspective
seemstoprevailinthemajorityjudgmentwhilehumanrightsac
tivismfindsanoutletinseparateopinions.Interviewswith(19)
judgesenrichthesedatawithinsightsintothesocialandinstitu
tionalcontextofjudicialdecisionmakingintheGrandChamber.
*
Despitethefactweallcomefromdifferentcountrieswearein
thesamediscourse,andweenjoyit.Someofusswimbetteror
fasterthanothersbutitisthesamewaterwearein.Formu
latedfromanegativepointofview:thereisalmostnomisun
derstanding.YouwalkintotheGrandChamberandyoudo
exactlythesamethingyoudidathome,nowwithcolleagues
fromothercountriesbutatthesamelevelofcommunication
betweenprofessionals.Itshowsthatthejudgingprocessisnot
nationbound;itiscrossculturalandithasitsownautono
my.
AJudgeoftheECHR
Introduction
TheEuropeanCourtofHumanRightswassetupin
StrasbourgbythememberStatesoftheCouncilofEurope
in1959inordertodealwithallegedviolationsofthe1950
EuropeanConventiononHumanRights.MemberStates
areobligedtoacceptthejurisdictionoftheCourtandindi
vidualshavetherighttobringtheircasetotheCourtafter
alldomesticremedieshavebeenexhausted(Articles34and
35oftheConvention).PursuanttoProtocol11,theCourt
becameasingleandpermanentcourtinNovember1998.
Thenumberofjudgesisequaltothenumberofmember
1FredJ.BruinsmaisProfessorofLawandSocietyatUtrechtUni
versity.Ashorterversionofthisarticle wasfirstpublishedin
RechtderWerkelijkheid2/28(2007),724.
States(Article20).Article23oftheConventionprovidesfor
asixyeartermofofficewiththepossibilityofreelection.
ForthejudgestheworkingunitoftheCourtconsistsofthe
Chamberscomposedofsevenjudges,whoarerecruited
fromSections.2Casesthatraiseseriousinterpretationprob
lemsaredecidedinanadhocGrandChamberof17judges.
WhereastheSectionsmeetonceaweektheaveragejudge
isonlyonceinawhileinvolvedintheGrandChamber.The
GrandChamberismoreinterestingandmorerelevant,
however,asthecriticalmassfordeliberationsinsmall
Chambersisinsufficientbecauseofcaseloadpressure.The
enlargementoftheCourt(24oldmemberStatesofthe
CouncilofEuropebeforethecollapseoftheIronCurtain,
and20newmemberStatesin2006)3justifiesspeakingin
theplural,i.e.GrandChambers,ascomplexprocedural
rulesdecidetheadhoccompositionoftheGrandChamber,
“havingdueregardtotheneedforageographicallybal
ancedcompositionreflectingthedifferentlegalsystems
amongtheContractingParties”(RulesofCourt24§2sube).
ItisagrowingconcernoftheCourthowtoguaranteecon
sistentcaselawwithfiveSectionsandadhocGrandCham
bers.
Theresearchquestions,theresearchsiteandthe
methodsused
Article45§2oftheConventionreadsasfollows:“Ifa
judgmentdoesnotrepresent,inwholeorinpart,theunan
imousopinionofthejudges,anyjudgeshallbeentitledto
deliveraseparateopinion.”Rule74§2oftheRulesofCourt
specifies:“Anyjudgewhohastakenpartintheconsider
ationofthecaseshallbeentitledtoannextothejudgment
eitheraseparateopinion,concurringwithordissenting
fromthatjudgment,orabarestatementofdissent.”This
provisionmakesitpossibletocomposeprofilesofindivid
2“ThecompositionoftheSectionsshallbegeographicallyandgen
derbalancedandshallreflectthedifferentlegalsystemsamong
theContractingParties”(Rule25§2).Sectionsarereshuffledonce
everythreeyears.
3TheoldmemberStates(OMS)are:Andorra,Austria,Belgium,
Cyprus,Denmark,Finland,France,Germany,Greece,Iceland,Ire
land,Italy,Liechtenstein,Luxembourg,Malta,theNetherlands,
Norway,Portugal,SanMarino,Spain,Sweden,Switzerland,Tur
key,andtheUnitedKingdom.ThenewmemberStates(NMS)are:
Albania,Armenia,Azerbaijan,BosniaHerzegovina,Bulgaria,
Croatia,theCzechRepublic,Estonia,Georgia,Hungary,Latvia,
Lithuania,Macedonia,Moldova,Poland,Romania,Russia,Slova
kia,Slovenia,andUkraine.
TheRoomattheTop : SeparateOpinionsintheGrandChambersoftheECHR(19982006)
FredJ.Bruinsma

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