Renewing a Court: Consequences for Judicial Decision Making and Identity

Over the course of the next five years, no less than 9 out of 12 judges on the Belgian Constitutional Court will have to be replaced because of mandatory retirement. As it stands, the law provides that half of the judges are former politicians, who, theoretically, need not even be lawyers. Of the other half, some are judges, some academics. So, many of the appointees will be new to the job of judging altogether. A renewal of this magnitude gives cause for deeper questions of court identity. How will it impact on the institutional memory of the Court and its decision making protocols? The Belgian Court is relatively young; a new generation of judges may bring along its own perspectives on the responsibilities and idiosyncrasies of constitutional adjudication. As only one hypothesis, it seems that the law clerks, who are highly-specialised career staff, will have a particular role in socializing the new judges in their role, thereby undoubtedly influencing the direction of the Court.