“Justice not only needs to be done; it needs to be seen to be done.” This research project investigates how courts have responded to changes in the public sphere in their communication and outreach practices.
In our traditional understanding, a Court primarily communicates through its judgments. Yet, it must be assumed that judgments of apex courts, due to their highly specialized language and extensive length, are only read by a minority of legal specialists. This is even more pronounced for supranational courts, which are far removed, both geographically and substantively, from the everyday life of most people. Instead, the general public relies on media reports, for which journalists, again due to the textual characteristics of those decisions and a high-paced media routine, generally rely on press releases or other media outputs that were produced by the courts. This does not mean that journalists do not consult the full text of the decision; however, their first reading experience is already framed through a press release, a press briefing, an interview or official speech, or a social media tweet.
Nowadays, courts not only publish press releases, but also run live streams, hold press briefings, have professional spokespeople craft media statements, and run social media accounts. The multi-faceted mode of court communication opens new channels for courts to relate to the public and to respond directly to other judicial or political actors. A growing number of courts adopt social media activities or visualization projects, focussig on individual story-telling in videos or animations. It is the hope that those new communication strategies can create diffuse support for the court among the general public as well as key stakeholders.
This research project employs a multi-method approach to understand changes in court communication over the last decade. It includes insights from socio-legal studies, corpus linguistics, and visual studies. Focussing on a number of case studies, from domestic apex courts such as the German Bundesverfassungsgericht to the Court of Justice of the European Union or international courts such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, this project wants to maps and critically evaluate the actors, instruments, and strategies of court communicaiton in the 21st century.
In 2023, the CJEU case study was financially supported by a re:constitution fellowship.