Criticising the courts: from ‘foreign’ judges to ‘dinosaur’ judges

Court criticism often boils down to clashes between the principles of democracy and the rule of law, but severe criticism may challenge judicial authority and threaten the rule of law. And yet, certain types of criticism are more acceptable than others. This paper argues that collective criticism represents a more acceptable type of condemnation. Here the focus is on disapproval of the ultimate judgement or decision of the court, rather than on the court’s individual members or personal attributes. Collective criticism can push courts to take wider democratic issues into consideration. Such disapproval may even enhance the rule of law, as it brings into a sharper focus the delicate issues surrounding the operation of democracy. Under individual criticism, judgements can be pinned on one or two justices, rather than on the decision of the institution. Further, individual criticism often involves malice against the personal characteristics of judges, thus threatening the rule of law.