PUBLISHED:March 07, 2016

Special Issue on The Variable Authority of International Courts by Alter, Helfer & Madsen now available

The Variable Authority of International Courts

The peer-reviewed journal Law and Contemporary Problems has just published a 314-page special issue edited by Karen Alter, Laurence Helfer and Mikael Rask Madsen. This long-term project, launched at iCourts and involving numerous staff and close collaborators of the Centre, realizes iCourts’ ambition to build theory by comparing the real-world experiences of different international courts (ICs).

The special issue offers the first ever systematic empirical exploration of the authority of the ten most active ICs. Each of the articles, authored by leading scholars in law, political science and sociology, analyzes how IC authority varies over time, by issue area, and within and across member countries.  The contributors apply the framework developed by the co-editors in the introductory article, “How Context Shapes the Authority of International Courts.”  The key question addressed in the special issue is how to explain the wide variation in the de facto authority of ICs.  Specifically, which contextual factors lead some ICs to become active and prominent judicial bodies that cast a rule-of-law shadow beyond the courtroom, while others remain moribund or legally and politically sidelined?  

Reference: “The Variable Authority of International Courts”, Law and Contemporary Problems, Volume 79, 2016, no. 1, edited by Karen J. Alter, Laurence R. Helfer & Mikael Rask Madsen

The entire symposium is available as open-access at