Russian Law Journal

Advanced search

Mixed Blessing of Judicial Specialisation: the Devil is in the Detail

Full Text:


This article discusses from a critical perspective the issue of judicial specialisation. While accepting the assessment that judicial specialisation is a growing trend in a number of contemporary states, the author sets forth different perspectives and viewpoints on judicial specialisation which clearly show that the excessive enthusiasm should be subdued and that any attempt to specialise judges, court structures and procedures should be carefully balanced against the possible negative impact specialisation could have, both at the general level, and at the level of concrete gains related to administration of justice. The starting point of the analysis is the presentation of multiple forms that judicial specialisation can have. Aspects that are distinguished are judicial specialisation in narrow sense (jurisdictional specialisation) and broader sense (internal, personal and procedural specialisation). Based on the data of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), it is concluded that there is no coherent or consistent approach to judicial and jurisdictional specialisation in Europe, both in respect to the level of specialisation, and in respect to the forms of specialisation. A discussion of the Opinion no. 15 of the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) shows that the viewpoint of judges and their professional organisations is also sceptical on certain aspects of specialisation, and that specialisation is considered to be potentially harmful for the unity of judicial profession and its main professional and ethical foundations. From the perspective of judicial administration, as demonstrated on the examples of international expert assistance to judiciaries of the Netherlands and Croatia, judicial specialisation is attractive, but often for wrong reasons. There is so far little comparative research on judicial specialisation, and the methodology of assessing its concrete benefits and detriments is not developed. Most importantly, the excessive specialisation may have negative impact on the fundamental values of contemporary judicial systems. Therefore, judicial specialisation should be approached with extreme caution, always assessing its implementation from various angles and in the light of all possible side effects that it may have to good administration of justice and core judicial goals and values.

About the Author

Alan Uzelac
University of Zagreb
Full Professor, Head of the Department of Civil Procedure, University of Zagreb, Member of the State Judicial Council of the Republic of Croatia (14 Marshal Tito sq., Zagreb, 10000, Croatia)


1. Baum, Lawrence. Probing the Effects of Judicial Specialization, 58(7) Duke Law Journal 1667 (2009), available at <> (accessed Sep. 27, 2014).

2. Baum, Lawrence. Specializing the Courts (University of Chicago Press 2011).

3. Consultative Council of European Judges (CCEJ), Opinion (2012) No. 15 on the Specialisation of Judges, paras. 4, 7–26, 32, 36, 42–43, 53–55, 67 Doc. CCJE(2012)4 (Nov. 13, 2012), at <> (accessed Sep. 27, 2014).

4. European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), European judicial systems. Edition 2008 (data 2006): Efficiency and quality of justice 75–77 (Council of Europe 2008), available at <> (accessed Sep. 27, 2014).

5. European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), Territorial jurisdiction 9, 20, 32, 35–36 Doc. CEPEJ(2003)18(D3) (Dec. 5, 2003).

6. Goals of Civil Justice and Civil Procedure in Contemporary Judicial Systems (= 34 Ius Gentium: omparative Perspectives on Law and Justice) (Alan Uzelac, ed.) (Springer 2014).

7. Langbroek, Philip M., & Fabri, Marco. Internal Case Assignment: Comparative Analysis, in The Right Judge for Each Case: A Study of Case Assignment and RUSSIAN LAW JOURNAL Volume II (2014) Issue 4 164

8. Impartiality in Six European Judiciaries (= 57 Ius Commune Europaeum) 18, 22 (Philip M. Langbroek & Marco Fabri, eds.) (Intersentia 2007).

9. Mańko, Rafał. Survival of the Socialist Legal Tradition? A Polish Perspective, 4(2)

10. Comparative Law Review 1 (2013), available at <> (accessed Sep. 27, 2014).

11. Pregled aktivnosti na reorganizaciji pravosudnog sustava [A Survey of Activities on the Reorganization of the Judicial System] – Reorganizacija pravosudnog sustava i racionalizacija mreže pravosudnih tijela u Republici Hrvatskoj, Ministarstvo pravosuđa Republike Hrvatske [Croatian Ministry of Justice] (July 28, 2014), <> (accessed Sep. 27, 2014).

12. Shapiro, Martin M. The Supreme Court and Administrative Agencies 53 (Free Press 1968).

13. Uzelac, Alan. Survival of the Third Legal Tradition?, 49(2d) Supreme Court Law Review 377 (2010), available at <> (accessed Sep. 27, 2014).

14. Манько Р. Выжила ли социалистическая правовая традиция? Взгляд из Польши // Вестник гржданского права. 2014. Т. 14. № 2. С. 238–266 [Mańko R. Vyzhila li sotsialisticheskaya pravovaya traditsiya? Vzglyad iz Pol’shi // Vestnik grazhdanskogo prava. 2014. T. 14. No. 2. S. 238–266 [14(2) Civil Law Review 238–66 (2014)]].

For citation:

Uzelac A. Mixed Blessing of Judicial Specialisation: the Devil is in the Detail. Russian Law Journal. 2014;2(4):146-164.

Views: 1971

ISSN 2309-8678 (Print)
ISSN 2312-3605 (Online)