Why the personalisation of the judicial role is a risky business

by Lorenzo Piccoli

My colleague Ronan wrote an article for The Irish Times explaining the differences in the approach to sensitive cases between the US and the Irish supreme courts. Legally, the two courts have very similar powers; in practice, however, they act very differently. Unlike her Irish counterpart, the US Court allows for dissenting opinions that sometimes openly doubt the legitimacy of rulings; also, and relatedly, US judges tend to write eloquent and catchy opinions; and as a third feature and a consequence of the former, they also become public figures, achieving celebrity for their vehement opinions. Ronan reflects on how these features might represent a distortion of the crucial function that a court serves in a liberal democracy by showing how these differences played into the different procedures to decide over the issue of gay marriage in the two countries. This is something very closely related to a post I published a few months ago.