ZiF Workshop

Efficiency, quality and legitimacy of employing judicial assistants in courts globally

Date: 19 – 20 October 2020
Convenors: Anne Sanders (Bielefeld, GER), Nina Holvast (Rotterdam, NED)

When deciding cases, judges exercise considerable power. In a society governed by the rule of law, a judicial decision is considered binding and legitimate as each judge was selected and appointed according to certain rules and procedures. The importance of the selection of legitimate judges presupposes that making decisions is the responsibility of those judges alone. However, judicial decisions should also resolve concrete legal problems and limited budget is available to achieve these goals. Efficiency and effectiveness of adjudication are therefore also important aims of judicial organisations. At many courts, in many legal systems, judges are supported in the adjudicative process by assistants (also referred to as law clerks), whom can help improve court efficiency. At the same time, the assistants are often also employed to support processes to improve the quality of adjudication. These double reasons for employing assistants and the growing appointment of assistants at many courts, also international courts, reveal the importance to consider the role, influence and the legitimacy of assistants. At the same time, research indicates that the public is not aware of the important role of judicial assistants, calling into question their legitimacy in the adjudicative process.

Until recently, little was known about the role of judicial assistants. Furthermore, the legitimacy of their involvement in adjudication was rarely discussed, especially outside of the US.

The workshop will concern with:

  • Exchange knowledge and research methods among an extended group of participants from across the world,
  • to build a network for future (comparative) research cooperation,
  • to build a network for future research grant cooperation,
  • to define and then start a first joint research project which shall cumulate in a book.
We have invited several new researchers of whom the research focusses on additional jurisdictions and whom bring new theoretic and methodological perspectives to the discussion. This project will include research on judicial assistants in Israel and South Africa as well as on the judicial assistants of prosecutors. Moreover, questions of quality, efficiency and court organisation shall be discussed with the insights of law and economics and theoretical sociology.

This project is a follow-up workshop to a ZiF workshop in August 2019 "The Role and Legitimacy of Judicial Assistants in European Legal Systems".

Please direct questions concerning the organisation of the workshop to Trixi Valentin at the Conference Office. Questions regarding scientific content and contributions should be directed to the organizers.


Tel: +49 521 106-2769
Fax: +49 521 106-152769
E-Mail: trixi.valentin@uni-bielefeld.de