Renouncing Power, Resisting Change: Judges, Path Dependence, and European Integration

Tommaso Pavone, Politics

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 12:00pm
LAPA Conference Room, 348 Wallace Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

RSVP appreciated: click here

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Abstract: "This seminar revisits one of the most influential theories of how the European Union (EU) has been constructed through law. In this view, known as the "judicial empowerment thesis," domestic judges of first instance - historically subordinated and denied judicial review powers - enthusiastically embraced European law to dismantle state laws and supreme court decisions with which they disagreed. In contrast, I claim that lower court judges usually resist participating in the process of European integration. What is more, they are least open to Europeanizing change precisely where it stands to empower them most. Why? Leveraging over 350 semi-structured interviews with lawyers and judges conducted over nearly two years of fieldwork in Italy, France, and Germany, I first trace how everyday work in lower courts engenders a 'consciousness of path dependence' disfavoring creative engagements with novel legal fields. I then explain how within hierarchical judiciaries a powerful institutional culture of control that shuns rebellious bottom-up campaigns for change can become so entrenched as to render these efforts inconceivable. These results flip the empirical conclusions of the judicial empowerment thesis on their head: The emancipatory potential of change via European law is hardly felt by most lower court judges, and rather than overturning domestic judicial politics, European integration usually reinforces these politics." 

Tommaso Pavone

Tom Pavone is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. His research probes the ways that judges and lawyers reconfigure social and political relations - by constructing transnational polities, transforming local practices, and brokering fields of knowledge - across time and space, particularly in the European Union. This agenda - funded by the National Science Foundation's Law and Social Sciences Program, the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, and the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) - leverages qualitative interviewing, comparative historical analysis, geographic information systems (GIS) technology, and process-tracing methods. Tom's research has been published or is forthcoming in World Politics, the Journal of Law and Courts, the Journal of European Public Policy, Constitutional Studies, an edited volume on case study research, and in Italian law reviews. He holds an M.A. degree in Politics from Princeton University (2015), an M.A. degree in social sciences from the University of Chicago (2012), and a B.A. degree in public policy from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (2010).