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Article
On the Linguistic Design of Multinational Courts — The French Capture
International Journal of Constitutional Law (2016)
  • Mathilde Cohen
Abstract
This Article discusses the importance of language in the institutional design of European and international courts, which I refer to as “linguistic design.” What is at stake in the choice a court’s official or working language? Picking a language has far-reaching consequences on a court’s composition and internal organizational culture, possibly going as far as influencing the substantive law produced. This is the case because language choices impact the screening of the staff and the manufacture of judicial opinions. Linguistic design imposes costs on non-native speakers forced to use a second (or third) language and confers a set of advantages on native speakers. It has profound implications on judgments as it imports a set of writing conventions that live on even as the institution becomes more cosmopolitan. Using the example of French at the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, and the International Court of Justice, I argue that granting French the status of official language has led French lawyers and French judicial culture to disproportionately influence the courts’ inner workings. This is what I call the “French capture.”

Language, international courts, International Court of Justice, Court of Justice of the European Union, European Court of Human Rights, French law and culture, internal organization, judicial selection, clerks
Keywords
  • courts,
  • language,
  • clerks,
  • european courts,
  • international court of justice,
  • court of justice of the european union,
  • european court of human rights,
  • french,
  • linguistic design
Disciplines
Publication Date
Summer 2016
DOI
10.1093/icon/mow023
Citation Information
Mathilde Cohen. "On the Linguistic Design of Multinational Courts — The French Capture" International Journal of Constitutional Law Vol. 14 Iss. 2 (2016) p. 498 - 517
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mathilde_cohen/17/