ACCA2014 edition:3 location:Ghent date:23 May 2014
Belgian judges have unprecedented (procedural and other) means to thwart the legislative and executive policies they consider problematic and, doing so, ‘to protect people from bad law’. However, efforts are being intensified in order to maintain a specific, but outdated image of the judge and her or his prerogatives. This paradoxical situation not only begs the question of the judges’ accountability, of the impact of their ideology, and of the adequacy of the procedure(s) by which they are being selected and appointed. It also raises the issue as to whether we aren’t to steer towards a judge-centered (i.e. common-law-like) take on administering justice, especially given the multi-moralization and fragmentation of our society. In this short presentation, it will be contended that our predominant approach has probably had its best time and that facilitating some necessary but highly dreaded risk-taking, is becoming most urgent. Further intensifying an already generally deplored density of rules, as an exponent of predominant risk aversion, will render impossible the seemingly ever more needed (judicial) leadership. Reinvigorating judicial freedom of conscience and a focus on virtue ethics therefore appear to be crucial steps towards improving our judiciary’s (well-conceived) self-confidence, its correlated trustworthiness and, hence, public trust in our men and women on the bench.