Universiteit Leiden

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Institutions for Conflict Resolution (COI)

About COI

How can the judiciary best respond to the expectations placed on it to resolve societal problems? What is the function of the courtroom as an arena for societal change?

Legal proceedings are often time-consuming, costly and stressful. Accessible out-of-court dispute resolution can sometimes offer a good alternative, but having access to reliable and efficient judicial proceedings remains equally important.  

In recent years, courts have increasingly become something of a ‘society fixer’ where the general public and civil-society organisations turn to make their case when they feel other institutions are failing. Controversial issues that have come before the Dutch courts have included climate protection and Sinterklaas’ stereotype helper Black Pete, while the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled on national budgets following the 2007 financial crisis.

Expectations of what the courts can achieve are high, sometimes perhaps too high. There is a risk that in the general public’s perception, fundamental principles of law (such as independence and impartiality of judges) are coming under pressure. 

COI@Leiden research focuses on two themes: sustainable justice and the courtroom as a social arena.

Sustainable justice

With regard to sustainable justice, we aim to answer the following research questions:

  • How can the judiciary optimally deal with the expectations regarding its problem-solving capacities, and what are the consequences of this for access to justice and legal protection for the parties involved?
  • What other forms of legal and extralegal dispute resolution are being employed, how do these differ from classical procedures, and to what extent are solutions being realized for the problems underlying these disputes?

Courts as an arena for societal change

We focus on the following research questions related to courts as an arena for societal change:

  • What processes lead to socially charged issues that are still a topic of political and societal debates coming before the courts?
  • How do judges contribute to solving societal problems and how does this impact judges’ legitimacy?
  • How does the way procedures are set up affect citizens’ possibilities for litigation, and should these procedures be adjusted to strengthen the courts’ function as an arena for societal change?
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