, | ,

A Global Judicial News Report: November 2021


Judicature International (2021-22) | An online-only publication
United Nations Flags


Judicial independence threatened

A report by the United Nation’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has raised concerns about judicial independence in the country. The report cites temporary contracts for judges and prosecutors; the fact that justices “have been vilified and intimidated” for resisting political pressure; and the enactment since 1999 of “at least a dozen new laws and resolutions” as adversely affecting Venezuelan judicial independence.


Executive-judicial branch conflicts

The Brazilian Supreme Court has suspended rules promulgated by President Jair Bolsonaro that sought to block social media companies from taking down misleading posts.  Bolsanaro has made various unsubstantiated claims on social media platforms, including questioning election outcomes and publishing Coronavirus misinformation, that had been removed from social media platforms. He has also criticized the Supreme Court for imprisoning his supporters, even though they had been found to have engaged in “funding or inciting violence or anti-democratic acts.”

United States 

When to recuse?

Should a North Carolina Supreme Court justice recuse himself from a case brought against members of the state legislature because his son is the State Senate President Pro Tempore and a named defendant in a case? Scholars and the media are debating the question with regard to a case asserting the legislature exceeded its powers. Duke Law Professor Thomas Metzloff told the Raleigh News & Observer that even though the motion for recusal has “potential merit,” recusal for every case involving the state’s legislature would be too disruptive. Duke Law Professor James Coleman, however, argues that the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct requires the Senator’s son to recuse himself to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Meanwhile, in separate news, the Wall Street Journal published a report showing that 131 federal judges “failed to recuse themselves from 685 lawsuits from 2010 to 2018 involving companies in which they or their family held shares.”


Terrorism or politically motivated prosecution?

A court in Rwanda has convicted Paul Rusesabagina of terrorism for his involvement with a rebel group that engaged in a deadly attack. Rusesabagina was depicted in the movie “Hotel Rwanda” as having saved a number of people from genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he managed. Living in exile in the United States and active in the opposition party in Rwanda, he was tricked into boarding a flight to Rwanda that he thought was going to the neighboring country of Burundi. His family asserts that the prosecution and conviction were politically motivated.


Innovating legal services technology

Citing the growing use of ITLS during the pandemic, especially e-filings and judicial hearings via videoconference, the Law Society of Ontario has announced the establishment of a “Regulatory Sandbox for Innovative Technological Legal Services.” The initiative will allow ITLS providers a safe harbor for operating, provided they comply with existing reporting and regulatory requirements, as standards for competent and ethical ITLS begin to be developed.

South Africa & the United States

Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law

Justice Dikgang Moseneke, former Deputy Chief Justice of the South Africa Constitutional Court, and Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and a native of South Africa, were honored during a virtual ceremony in June as the 2020 and 2021 recipients of the Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law. The ceremony highlighted their judicial careers and included a conversation between the two justices about the importance of the rule of law, human rights in their respective countries, and how their different experiences growing up under apartheid informed their jurisprudence. “When we talk about the rule of law we often talk about the higher, larger context, the super-structure of the democratic arrangements in a society,” said Moseneke during the program. “But in the many years that I’ve been counsel and then a judge, there are so many disputes of people, of neighbors or spouses, of children. And ask anybody who has been in courts, those disputes require the law to step in and to restore the equilibrium that is brought on by an invasion of rights or perceived invasion of rights. And over the years I’ve built a certain level of sensitivity over the fact that the law serves a purpose much more than the big and powerful in society.”