European judicial cultures

VIDI research project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) 2016-2023

Effective legal protection in the European Union requires cooperation between judges on the basis of shared professional values, legal rules and concepts, and working methods. This research investigates to what extent the judicial cultures in EU member states can and should converge into a shared ‘European judicial culture’.

Research team
Project leader: Prof. Elaine Mak
PhD candidates: Niels Graaf MA LLM (co-supervisor dr. Jacobien van Dorp), Erin Jackson BA LLM (co-supervisor dr. Marc Simon Thomas)
Student assistant: Taco Brinkman

Institutional context
Montaigne Centre for Rule of Law and Administration of Justice, Utrecht University
Strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies, Utrecht University
Ius Commune Research School (coordinated by Maastricht University)

Project design
The research consists of four subprojects. Subprojects 1 (Mak), 2 (Graaf) and 3 (Jackson) analyse the alignment of judicial cultures in the EU from a descriptive and explanatory perspective. This research is structured around three identified dimensions of judicial culture and addresses salient aspects: 1) the ethical dimension, focusing on professional values and standards for judges in the EU; 2) the legal dimension, focusing on judicial role perceptions in the interpretation of legal rules and concepts for European cases; and 3) the institutional dimension, focusing on transnational cooperation between judges in Europe through judicial networks. Each subproject draws conclusions regarding the content and development of a ‘European judicial culture’ in the examined dimension. Subproject 4 (Mak) provides a separate follow-up study, integrating the outcomes of the previous projects in a constitutional-theoretical normative analysis from the perspective of the ‘rule of law’ principle. Together, the four subprojects provide an answer to the central research question: Is it possible to develop a shared judicial culture between EU member states, taking into account its content, process of development and compatibility with the normative objective of guaranteeing the ‘rule of law’ in Europe?

Research outcomes so far

Key publication
E. Mak, N. Graaf & E. Jackson, ‘The Framework for Judicial Cooperation in the European Union: Unpacking the Ethical, Legal and Institutional Dimensions of "Judicial Culture"’ [2018] Utrecht Journal of International and European Law 34(1), p. 24-44

Other publications
- E. Mak, ‘Researching judicial ethical codes, or: how to eat a mille-feuille?’ [2018] International Journal for Court Administration 9(3), p. 55-66
- E. Mak, ‘Judicial Self Government in the Netherlands: Demarcating Autonomy’ [2018] German Law Journal 19(7), p. 1801-1838 (country report for the ERC starting grant project JUDIARCH, led by dr. D. Kosar at Masaryk Univerity, Brno)
- E. Mak, guest editor of the special issue ‘Transnational Legal Unity Under Pressure: A Contextual Analysis of the European Union’ [2018] Utrecht Journal of International and European Law 34(1)
- N. Graaf, ‘De Federalist Papers in de Duitse rechtscultuur - Van federaal voorbeeld naar bijsluiter van het Bundesverfassungsgericht’, in De Federalist Papers - Bakermat van het moderne constitutionalisme (pp. 264-284) (Brussels, 2018).
- E. Mak, The T-shaped Lawyer and Beyond: Rethinking Legal Professionalism and Legal Education for Contemporary Societies (inaugural lecture Utrecht University; Eleven International Publishing, The Hague, 2017)

- National seminars (outside of Utrecht): Amsterdam VU (2016), Leiden (2019), Amsterdam UvA (2019)
- International seminars: Antwerp (2017), London QMUL (2017), Hong Kong HKU (2017), London QMUL (2018), Bergen (2018), Pescara (2019)
- International conferences: ICON-S conference Copenhagen (2017), LSA conference Toronto (2018), IVR conference Lucerne (2019)

Organised conferences and seminars
- Netherlands Association for Philosophy of Law (VWR) spring conference ‘Rechterlijke onafhankelijkheid in het samenspel van constitutionele beginselen’, held at Utrecht University and University of Amsterdam, 6-7 June 2019 (convenors prof. E. Mak, prof. A.R. Mackor & dr. I. van Domselaar)
- Seminar Methodology assessment ENCJ report on independence & accountability of the judiciary, held at Utrecht University, 12-13 April 2018 (convenors prof. E. Bauw, prof. P. Langbroek & prof. E. Mak)
- Montaigne Centre Ph.D./post-doc workshop on research in comparative constitutional law with prof. Ran Hirschl (University of Toronto), held at Utrecht University, 15 March 2018 (convenor prof. E. Mak)

Public outreach
- N. Graaf, ‘Why German Law Libraries Are Not Neutral and Why We Should Care’, blogpost for LawLog, the blog of the Center for Global Constitutionalism (WZB) in Berlin, July 2019
- E. Mak, ‘Media en de onafhankelijke rechterlijke macht’, participation in a panel discussion organised by the Amsterdam Centre on the Legal Professions, Amsterdam, 7 June 2019 (convenor dr. I. van Domselaar)
- E. Mak, ‘Five Questions with Elaine Mak’, interview by prof. R. Albert for I-CONnect, the blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law, 14 Feb 2019
- E. Mak & N. Graaf, ‘In Polen leeft het communistische verleden voort’, NRC Handelsblad, 2 Aug 2017
- E. Mak, ‘Elaine Mak fileert T-shaped lawyer’, interview by P. Louwerse for Mr. magazine for legal professionals (online), 19 June 2017

Other ongoing projects

(with dr. Laura Henderson) Interdisciplinary research project on professional ethical judgment for global challenges, funded by the Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe) 2019-2021

Member of the Stream Legitimacy at the Strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies at Utrecht University (IOS) Nov 2017-

Previous projects

VENI research project on highest courts and globalisation, funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) 2008-2011

PhD research project on judicial organisation and New Public Management in the Netherlands, France and Germany 2004-2008