PhD defence: Inside European Judicial Networks – A qualitative study of judges’ cross-border interactions and the role of networks from a judicial culture perspective


This thesis examines a possible contribution to a European judicial culture through interaction among judges at the European level. In particular, it looks at how European judicial networks as ‘sites of interaction’ might contribute to a so-called European judicial culture. It aims to better understand how such transnational bodies might enable community growth and foster connections and shared values among judges – such as witnessed by the Thousand Robes March in Poland. In light of current pressures on rule of law and judicial independence in Europe, networks could play a role in entrenching rule of law values.

This research moves beyond a normative view of a 'European judicial culture', to how transnational networks might contribute to this aim in practice. It brings a more nuanced, socio-legal and theoretical consideration of one way in which such a transnational culture could develop. This is achieved primarily through the embeddedness of the researcher in the networks during prolonged fieldwork (including 17 multi-day observations of networks) and subsequent in-depth elite interviews with 31 network participants (including among others judges from the highest courts across Europe and (former) network Presidents).

In an exploratory manner, this thesis examines two sub-questions related to what judicial networks do in practice, namely, what happens within them (including their internal dialogues, processes, aims and values), and what happens, if anything, outside and between them? In doing so, this study examines the judicial networking phenomenon more closely to shed light on how such transnational bodies at the European level operate and how they might enable knowledge or community growth, as is suggested to be the case by European institutions. It looks more closely at cross-border interactions among judges to better understand the possibility for connections and shared values, which in recent years have come visibly to the fore in developments such as the Thousand Robes March.

Through empirical insights, this book presents a transnational characterization of European judicial networks. It makes two central claims. First, that despite networks having different processes (‘network praxes’), they show commonalities in their transnational character. Such characterization reveals the ways in which transnational networks might differ from their national counterparts in facilitating judge-to-judge exchanges and highlights the peculiarities of cross-border exchanges found across the network cases. Second, networks have distinguishable roles in how they might advance increased alignment or links between judiciaries or even a ‘European judicial culture’.

Four identified ‘roles’ show the capacity of networks to impact the judicial community, be it either internally through exchange and collaboration or externally through broader outreach. These four roles – Information Collectors, Facilitators, Translators and Allies – developed through thematic analysis are outlined alongside corresponding constraints that judicial networks face in carrying out these roles. In addition, a typography is presented of the engagement of the individual judge in networks in which the archetypes of Contributor, Receiver, Diffuser and Disruptor come to the fore, highlighting the first three as the 'ideal' participation of a judge according to network aims.

The scholarly contribution of this work is two-fold: it adds empirical depth to what is known about judicial networking activities, and it develops the theoretical conceptualization of transnational judicial networks in their capacity to foster connection across judiciaries.

Start date and time
End date and time
Academiegebouw, Domplein 29, Utrecht (en online via deze link)
PhD candidate
E.E. Jackson
Inside European Judicial Networks. A qualitative study of judges’ cross-border interactions and the role of networks from a judicial culture perspective
PhD supervisor(s)
prof. mr. dr. E. Mak
dr. mr. M.A. Simon Thomas